Large marquee letters behind the bar at 33 Kitchen (3195 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 786-899-0336) spell out "sed," which means "thirst" in Spanish. Although this Coconut Grove eatery indeed serves craft beers and boutique wines, the Asian-influenced Peruvian fare is the main reason to dine here.
The man behind the food is Chilean-born chef Sebastian Fernandez. He worked at the Coral Reef Yacht Club for 14 years before leaving to open 33 Kitchen with his Peruvian wife, Leslie Ames. The restaurant's name is a nod to the Grove's zip code, as well as the number of vertebrae in the human spine. It's also Fernandez's favorite number. Husband and wife have also had fun with the décor, filling the small space with playful touches such as a vintage bicycle mounted on the wall, orange metal chairs, and Mason jar pendant lights.
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The menu is divided into hot and cold tapas, each with about a dozen options. From the cold section, a salad of roasted beets with blue cheese, candied walnuts, and oranges ($13) isn't novel, but it's delicious. Even better is the causa limena ($13), a signature Peruvian potato dish made here with purple mashed potatoes, seared tuna, and microgreens. The final touch is a coating of creamy and spicy ají amarillo sauce, which the chef makes from scratch. It's utterly delectable and beautifully ties in all the elements.
Seared tuna makes another appearance in a dish featuring silky soba noodles, avocado, scallions, miso, and crushed peanuts in a peanut sauce ($16). The chef clearly has a knack for sauces, and this straightforward, Asian-leaning tapa is another winner.
From the hot section, grilled octopus with an olive cream sauce and bonito chips ($14) is perfectly crisp and tender. Another ideal item to share is the chaufa, Peruvian-style fried rice that you can order as is or with the addition of chicken, shrimp, or beef ($13 to $18). It tastes much like Chinese fried rice, but a bit moister. A less inspired hot tapa is the salmon bites fried in tempura batter.
For dessert, there's a delightful bread pudding ($9). It's not quintessentially Peruvian, but neither is 33 Kitchen. It is, however, a great addition to Miami's dining scene. It's also an intimate neighborhood spot with outstanding service.