"The Village" has to be one of the coolest spots to dine in downtown Miami. The minimall of restaurants is located across the street from the Miami Tower, and features courtyard dining at some very worthy eateries. Martini 28 is one. Thai Angel was another, but it is now out of business. The unworthy Habibi Mediterranean Grill, run by extremely unpleasant people, has mercifully closed too -- and since about five months ago, in its' place is the wonderful Pier 94 Ceviche Bar.
The couple who run Pier 94 are warm and welcoming, and the dining room has been spruced up quite nicely. Diners are started with a complimentary plate of chifles, or fried plantain chips, with a green piquant dip made from celery, cilantro, and jalapeño. We sampled a few dishes and dessert, and each one tasted just fine. The ceviche -- this is, remember, a ceviche bar -- was excellent.
The menu is divvied into numerous sections. Appetizers include potato or yucca a la huancaína and a couple of seafoods ($5.94 to $8.94). There are likewise causas, or potatoes blended with yellow aji and choice of chicken, shrimp, crab or octopus ($6.94 to $8.94); "fusions" -- one of chipotle pepper and "pimientos maroneados" in creamy Peruvian ceviche, and olivo cremoso, described as olive sauce over fish ceviche ($10.94 each); and fish entrees prepared in three different ways ($10.94 to $13.94).
There's more, including specialties such as lomo saltado with a 9-ounce tenderloin steak, seco de res (Peruvian-style beef stew), linguini with pesto and a skirt steak on top (seriously), and aji de Gallina ($7.94 to $11.94). Chaufa, the Chinese-Peruvian fried rice dish, is also on hand with chicken, seafood, or steak as the stir-fry options ($9.94 to $12.94). And don't forget the four types of ceviche, which we'll get to soon enough ($9.94 to $11.94).
Steak chaufa and aji de Gallina were the dishes we sampled. The former brought sections of skirt steak wok-fried with rice, red peppers, scallions, pieces of freshly scrambled eggs, and a tasty dose of soy sauce and other seasonings. The Gallina featured shreds of chicken with boiled disks of potatoes, both bathed in creamy yellow aji pepper sauce; a scoop of rice comes alongside.
The "Pier Classic" ceviche brought a mound of lime-macerated sea bass capped with red onions. On the side is a soft hunk of sweet potato accented with cloves, a pile of dried corn kernels, and the large white Peruvian corn kernels flavored with anise. Great ceviche.
Lima's French influence is evident in the popularity of bavarois, an elegant dessert made from egg whites, sugar, gelatin and usually the lucuma fruit. It's meringue-like in lightness, and bathed in caramel sauce. The dessert is so airy that without the sauce, one could eat a whole lot of this cake before feeling full. But I think the main point is that it's very tasty.
The couple who own the place is sweet; they serve the food with pride, and clearly care about providing the best dining experience possible. You might want to check it out (they deliver, too).
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94 SE First. St., Miami