Bulla, the hip and casual Spanish gastrobar in Coral Gables serving traditional tapas with a twist (huevos estrellados toss organic eggs with house-made potato chips, serrano ham, potato foam, and truffle oil), has plans to open ten additional concepts within the next two years. At least that was the takeaway from a media tasting last Thursday, when New Times was introduced to recently appointed chef Diego Solano.
To get a true grip on Spanish fare, Solano took an eight-week trip to the motherland, where he immersed himself in the tapas culture, and returned full of ideas to spice up the menu.
Some new items, which New Times sampled, include braised short-rib montaditos crowned with tomato marmalade, guindilla and shishito peppers, and melted tetilla cheese. "We braise the short rib for four and a half hours, and it takes a few hours for the tomato marmalade, so it's a lot of work for a small bite," he says. But the payoff is rich and delicious.
Another exciting new item is the endive, fruit, and crab salad, which hasn't even been added to the lunch menu yet. "We literally just came up with it, so let us know your thoughts because it's still being worked." The combination of the bitter, crunchy endive; tender, fresh crabmeat; sweet diced peach, mango, and kiwi; and tart raspberry vinaigrette was near perfect. You can order the summer salad beginning next week.
But perhaps the most exciting introduction last night wasn't a dish but chef Miguel Gomez, who'll head Centurion Group's newest concept, Pisco y Nazca. Set to open in August next to Blue Martini at Palms at Town & Country in Kendall, the ceviche gastrobar (as it's being billed) will aim to do for Peruvian food what Bulla has done for Spanish grub. Think lots of pisco (hence the name) and ceviches in a fun, lively, and welcoming environment. Celano Design Studio (responsible for projects like STK, LIV, Bagatelle, and Bulla) has been tasked with bringing the concept to life.
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Gomez, a native of Peru, got his education in Peruvian cooking from none other than its forefather, Gaston Acurio. Before landing in the Magic City, Gomez was executive chef at La Mar in San Francisco. He's come onboard with Centurion to open a series of Pisco y Nazca locations (a downtown Doral outpost is planned for 2016).
Seems like the Peruvian trend is here to stay.