Restaurant these days have to make their mark to stand out. What better way than to name yourself after your neighborhood. The District Miami opened Monday in the Buena Vista neighborhood adjacent to the Design District. The first thing you notice upon entering is that the coasters and plating boards are branded with a stamp of the name. Last night the new restaurant held private friends & family tasting. Short Order was invited to sample the pan-American menu offerings.
Right next to the beloved corner deli, Buena Vista, lies a romantic-looking paved patio. Glass windows call for you to look into the dimly lit, urban-meets-industrial restaurant. When you enter, the lighting and exposed brick catch your attention right away, as does the artfully curated ceiling that's been hand painted by local artist Juan Rozas. The place is intimate hipster yet posh.
The menu is divided into five parts -- antojos, around the table, supper, accompaniments and sweets. A quaint bar offers bar bites priced from $6-15, and a happy hour menu will be featured daily from 5 to 7 p.m. (even on weekends). Last night's menu featured limited choices, but we got a pretty good taste of what the District is all about.
Get your lobster on with some lobster tacos -- aji amarillo escabeche, pickled cabbage, and crispy shallots. The bad boys go for $18 and there's a tuna alternative that's in the form of a tartare with togarashi pepper, scallions, avocado, yuzu mayo and toasted sesame seeds ($14).
New England scallops crudo sits on a bed of salsa verde with sweet corn, aleppo pepper and micro herbs ($12). While these weren't my favorite, I'm biased against raw scallops. I'd much rather have opted for the Colorado lamb tartare (had it been available) with toasted pine nuts, mustard oil shallots, capers and like any proper tartare, a quail egg ($14).
The Boxer ($15) packs a punch with grilled cast iron pork belly, some white beech mushrooms and coupled with larragon puree and a frisee radish salad. Fatty and hearty at all once.The lighter alternative, octopus, is iron-cast and served on a bed of quinoa, for all you health nuts.
In case you're real hungry you'll want to get some supper in you. We tried the Caribbean cobia in a blue potato and goat cheese fondue and a hearts of palm escabeche ($26). A whole chicken in aji de gallina sauce with fingerling potatoes, okra, and turnips ($22) was the less exciting option. On the bright side, they got some Afro-Cuban pork shoulder that's been slow roasted beside a creole salad ($22). The District Miami is eclectic.
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Dessert is not to be missed. Consider cutting back on one of the other offerings to ensure you have room for some black magic -- a semi-sweet chocolate mousse with homemade marshmallows, chocolate ganache, a sweet potato bean drizzle, all cut by a pistachio cookie. Somehow I no longer miss thin mints, that much.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha