My visit to Tamarina, a new restaurant on Brickell Avenue in Downtown Miami, began with a glass of Prosecco and a warm greeting. To say that it continued pleasantly would be a massive understatement. From the ambiance to the food to the service and lush surroundings, the restaurant’s attention to every little detail made my meal amazing.
Tamarina opened recently in the space formerly occupied by Lippi. The same owners have introduced Tamarina, a restaurant that focuses on seafood with a coastal Italian flair, while offering prices that are quite reasonable for most budgets. The physical transformation from Lippi to Tamarina has resulted in a space that is welcoming and expansive, yet intimate. From the floor to the high ceilings, you are ensconced in muted grays accented by deep plums. Care has been taken by the designers to create separate spaces through the use of curtains, room dividers and lighting. This makes the restaurant versatile enough for anything from a very intimate romantic dinner, a great start for a night out on the town with friends - or for a very large party.
But, let’s talk about the food. Since I will eat anything from the sea, especially when served either raw or very lightly kissed by flame, I was intrigued to try it all. I started with a small selection of raw oysters, and it was clear the oyster choices were carefully selected as they were presented not only with notation of their place of origin, but also with a distinct flavor profile. If you just like to go out and slurp raw oysters, you will be in for an education. If you know about raw oysters, you will be in for a treat! This is one of their specialties, and my plump sweet bites went perfectly with my glass of Prosecco. They were a great way to start a meal.
Next, my companion and I shared several items from the Crudo Bar menu which features crudo, carpaccio and tartare presentations. We tried the Tiger Prawn Carpaccio, and although it’s very hard to choose, I can say this was my favorite and not to be missed. The carpaccio was literally paper thin, artfully arranged on a plate and accented with fresh tomato, sea salt and olive oil, all with a very light hand. For a dish so simple, the taste was out of this world. It produced a very lush mouth feel that was somehow also clean at the same time. Not an easy feat!
The salmon tartare, while not my personal favorite as salmon is a fish I prefer at least a little cooked, pleased my companion so well that it was eaten completely. The diced pieces of raw salmon were presented in a cylindrical molded shape and combined with cucumber, capers and lemon. The dish was bright and exquisitely fresh tasting. I know saying it tasted “fresh” is overused – but imagine a salmon that tastes like it literally just came out of the sea.
We also tried the Wahoo Crudo. The lovely little wahoo medallions were prepared with a tiny amount of ever so slightly wilted spinach strips and a tiny piece of curled lemon rind. When put whole in your mouth, the combination of savory spinach and ZAP of citrus were a creative and welcome complement to the fish. As a long-time South Florida resident, Wahoo is a fish I’ve eaten my whole life, so I was pleased to see it included here and so expertly prepared.
We moved on to try some appetizers and also sample a wine. The Locations Corse Vermentino from Corsica was a great choice. This very light white wine provided a crisp, subtly fruity and very drinkable accompaniment to our seafood meal. The grilled octopus (Polpo) was our first appetizer. I do really enjoy octopus, and this dish did not disappoint. Let me just say first – great job! – to the chef on this one. It is hard to get octopus to be so perfectly charred on the outside, yet still tender on the inside. It was served on a bed of simple fingerling potatoes so the spotlight remained on the octopus. High recommendations on this dish! Our other appetizer was the spinach and ricotta ravioli with sage butter sauce. This would not normally be a dish that would stand out, but again, Taramina showed how extraordinary they are. The server explained to me that they employ a person just to make fresh pasta every day, and this person clearly spared no attention to detail on this ravioli. The filling included just the right amount of ricotta cheese combined with fresh curly spinach that was again just barely wilted. A light emulsification of butter sauce scented with fresh sage finished the presentation – delicious!
As an entrée, we tried the Chilean Sea Bass. Now, I know a lot of restaurants serve this dish and for around the same price - and it has become in some ways a bit passé. But, I can tell you that the version at Taramina was unique enough for me to recommend it highly. One of the ways they make the dish stand out is by the inclusion of a little bit of skin that they char perfectly – not black – but just on the brink. So in that bite you have three taste treats: first you get the super crispiness of the skin, then the burst of flavorful fat that lies just beneath and then the tender piping hot fish. This is something most restaurants trim off – and it’s a missed opportunity if you ask me. The other creative contribution is the inclusion of salmoriglio, a typical Italian condiment made of lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano and parsley – with salt and pepper. Does that list of ingredients look familiar to you? If so, you might be thinking of chimichurri, which is quite common in Miami, and you would not be wrong in noticing the similarity. But, the salmoriglio has a much more subtle flavor that really elevates the dish, while staying true to the Italian flavors.
For dessert, we tried the Tiramisu, presented in the traditional “bombe” style. This perfectly round icing-covered cake was surrounded by sour cherries and coffee gelees - and sat on a crunchy chocolate cookie crumb base – topped with a tiny strip of edible gold leaf. Cutting into the bombe revealed the layers of deliciously soaked cake, each separated by more icing. It was a truly beautiful presentation, as lovely to the eye as the palate. And because we could not resist, we also tried the Key Lime Cheesecake, artfully presented with dehydrated raspberries and small dollops of Chantilly cream, mango puree, and vanilla foam. The citrusy lightness of the cheesecake was delicious, especially when tried in individual bites with the various accoutrements – each providing its own flavor accent.
All in all, I’d highly recommend this restaurant, especially for seafood lovers. The prime location, inventive cuisine and moderate prices mean Miamians have no excuse not to include it in their list of go to places for dinner or a business lunch. And it’s definitely special enough to make the trip from areas outside of Miami. One thing I want to mention is - don’t stay away if you’re not a fan of seafood. The menu is ripe with steaks, chicken, lamb and veal – so there are plenty of choices for you. But, I’d also add if you’re not a fan of seafood, maybe give it a try here. There is probably no place better to introduce you to how palate-pleasing and satisfying delights from the sea can really be.
600 Brickell Ave
Miami, FL 33131
By Contributor Writer Margie Schneider