The Dining Room recently opened in the small space south of Fifth Street, where La Locanda used to be before moving next door. Over the years, a few different restaurants have been in this location, each serving the neighborhood well by offering ethnic fare (usually French), in an informal setting, and at affordable prices. The Dining Room's appetizers start ;at $11. Its "little plates" (including ceviche, tiradito, soup and such) run $9 to $12. Five of seven main courses are $26 to $33 -- interestingly, the least expensive entree, roast organic chicken ($21), contains one of the most expensive ingredients (morel mushrooms). Desserts, excepting ice cream and sorbet, are $9.
Granted, the menu contains a few upscale ingredients (chanterelle and trumpet mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, Serrano ham, and foie gras sherry sauce, to name most). In fact, many items sound appealing, from vanilla butternut squash soup with green apple and celery sprouts ($9), to confit duck salad with arugula, grilled apricots, lima beans, and kumquat vinaigrette ($12). Helming the kitchen at this "modern bistro" is chef Horacio Rivadero from OLA -- who, according to Eater Miami, "is pulling double duty in both kitchens."
But back to pricing: A restaurant rule of thumb is that you start off with your prices a bit lower than you'll ultimately like them to be. If and when diners begin lining up at your door to get in, no one will blame you for charging a bit more. But if your prices turn off customers from the start, lowering them is always taken as a sign of desperation -- along with the implication that you were previously ripping your patrons off.
In the case of The Dining Room, high pricing seemingly contradicts the very nature of a neighborhood "bistro" -- the locale, while just off Fifth Street and home to China Grill, is nonetheless considered more residential than tourist territory.
An exception to starting out with elevated pricing is if a name chef with strong following is involved, but in fact The Dining Room, if indeed sharing Rivadero with OLA, is employing half of a no-name chef.
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I haven't dined at The Dining Room, so it's possible the quality of cooking, service, and overall experience is well worth the price. I'm skeptical, if for no other reason than it being so new, but even if it is really good -- there are too many other cool, more affordable joints to hang in these days that are really good as well. And if $15 apps and $30 entrees are your thing, there's always db Bistro Moderne, Palme d'Or, Nobu, any steak house...
The Dining Room
413 Washington Ave., Miami Beach