Short of Rick Bayless opening up shop in Miami, Talavera enters the local restaurant scene to fill a much needed void, authentic Mexican cuisine. In the capable hands of Mexican-born Executive Chef/Owner (and Chile Master, as far as we're concerned) Oscar Del Rivero, Owner Eduardo Durazo, and Partner Martin Moreno, all of Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar and LATAM Grill in Coconut Grove, Talavera may have this fraught niche's frown turned upside down.
A great way to start your journey is lunch. Baked and without a touch of oil, cracker-like fresh corn masa tortillas arrive to the table with smooth and creamy salsas, one mild red and one hot green. It's no surprise they are killer, since Jaguar excels in this area, and the green one was our favorite. If you're not a fan of the piquant, be sure to have a tall glass handy of the restaurant's special filtered water if you go green; it's also free of charge and comes in an environmentally-conscious glass carafe -- nice touch.
Talavera does not take its location for granted and has fashioned office crowd-appealing $12 lunch specials from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., including 14 items off of its regular menu and four "Mix & Match" options where a cup of soup comes with
either a half salad, torta, chicken tacos, or quesadilla. Try any of these five dishes for an introduction:
Grilled Chicken Huarache ($12 special; $18 dinner portion): Huarache is a special of the
Mexican countryside. Hand-made fresh corn masa is shaped like a sandal
(where it gets its name) and piled high with grilled chicken that gets
a rub down "a la talla" (a mild guajillo chile powder), black bean
puree, lettuce, salsa verde, and goat cheese.
Tacos de Chilorio ($12 special; $15 dinner portion): Described as Sinaloa's famous dish, roasted pulled pork meets ancho and guajillo chiles, vinegar, cumin, oregano and coriander seeds.
Quesadilla La Marquesa ($12 special; $14 dinner portion): With a side of guacamole, large corn torillas are stuffed with poblano chile, fresh corn, zucchini and epazote, and melting Oaxaca cheese.
($12 special; $14 dinner portion): Little rolls of shredded chicken are pan fried, making for crisp, dunkable sticks. Take a dip in guacamole and sour cream, and definitely ask for more red and green salsa for the table, too.
Torta de Atun ($12 special; $16 dinner portion): Yum, this seared tuna "torta", made rare per request, isn't what we'd call genuine Mexican fare, but it hits the spot for a flavorful, satisfying sandwich. Inside pressed Cuban bread, a nod to Miami's reigning Latino culture, the fish receives pats of achiote from Yacatan and gets cozy with pickeled red onion, tomato, avocado, and black bean puree. Superbly thin home-fried potato chips and spicy pickled vegetables, like a giardiniera, accompany.
Set against a warm orange, blue, and white color palette, the
restaurant has an inviting, informal vibe that immediately endears. We
had heard that the eponymous Talavera pottery would be on display, and
it is, but in an understated fashion sporadically placed throughout the
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dining room and splashed as a mural on the back wall. It's a smart
move since it is also for sale on the menu ($25 - $3,500), and we're not keen to dine in a ceramics showroom.
We will definitely be back, this time for dinner, to sample other parts of the menu, like "La Marisqueria" (seafood including ceviches and tostadas), "Los Moles" (three varieties), and "Fresh Fish & Seafood" (daily catches).
2299 Ponce de Leon
Coral Gables, FL 33134