The Dome: Caviar and Eclectic Global Fare in an Eco-Chic Environment
Our waiter at the Dome Restaurant & Caviar Bar was well-versed in the establishment's green credentials. He let us know about the LEED Silver certification, that the bar cabinets were forged from coconut palm tree trunks, that the tabletops are compressed recycled paper (he tapped on ours a few times for effect), and that the leather banquettes, mirrored walls, and glitzy metal curtains were made from reprocessed materials. Plus the lighting is LED, the menus are paperless, and the ingredients are local, thus reducing the carbon footprint.
It's all environmentally admirable, but as the waiter spoke, I glanced around the 58-seat dining room and a certain incongruity struck: The place resembles a veritable ode to artificiality.
See also: Slide show: Closer Look: The Dome.
The sleek décor is as modern and metallic as a spaceship, with silver curtains, hanging globe lights, and a steel-dome-like construct suspended from the ceiling's center. Colorful pop art breaks up the monochromaticity, and it's a good-looking space — but not one that conjures pastoral farmlands or anything remotely natural. Neither does the excitable music. But to be fair, the ambiance is suitable for the Coral Gables crowd that crams in at later hours for vodka, cocktails, and caviar.
The eco-chic gastro-dome, opened on Miracle Mile this past January by owner Rachel Dominguez, touts Trinidadian chef Marsha Orosco and a diverse menu fused with Latin American, Cuban, and Caribbean influences.
The Dome covers an eclectic collection of foods. If nothing else, it's probably the best place in town to compose your own upstairs-downstairs-style surf 'n' turf of barbecue cheeseburger sliders and osetra caviar.
The price range flows widely as well: The trio of sliders is $12; a one-ounce serving of Russian osetra is $105.
All of this info is available on the paperless menu, also known as an iPad. Admittedly, this high-tech touch allows diners to tap any item to see a glorified photo of the dish. And sure, it saves trees (or, more accurately, maybe a branch). But is this what people who have been working on digital tablets, smartphones, and computers all day really want to deal with during their downtime? Plus, though the iPad is light and sleek compared to a laptop, it's heavy and cumbersome relative to most menus.
Don't even think of trying to take one of those tablets home: There are more domed ceiling cameras here than at Fort Knox. How natural is that?
Dinner begins with belt-buckle-size rounds of impeccably fried tostones with citrus-garlic mojito sauce. The same dip adds a glow to masa frito, or Latin-style fried pork chunks, which already burst with garlic and bright seasoning.
The pork constitutes one of four small meat plates. Skewers of beef tenderloin, Southern-fried organic chicken wings, and beef empanadas are the others — the last heated with picadillo sauce and cooled with cilantro cream.
Salads include caesar, spinach (with strawberries and pecans), and a moderately sized iceberg wedge draped in Gorgonzola dressing and bacon flakes.
Soups and small plates of seafood and caviar are available as well, which adds up to a large selection of global bites — all over the map, really, with France, Spain, and New England represented in the soup category by French onion, gazpacho, and lobster bisque. Seafood plates run the gamut from whitefish ceviche to Maryland crabcakes to scallops au poivre. The menu suggests "three to four small plates to share."
Caviar small plates are different from caviar bar selections. The former is a trio of prepared dishes — fresh cold-water oysters with traditional mignonette and caviar; smoked salmon rolls capped with the same caviar; and "abuela's yucca croquettas," plush barrels of luscious yuca purée wrapped in clean, crisp breading. Chive crema and dabs of caviar further entice the taste buds. Paddlefish is often used for these plates; other times it might be hackleback.
Eight varieties of caviar, meanwhile, are divvied into a quartet aquacultured in Russia, Uruguay, and Italy, and another foursome farmed in North America. The former group features buttery eggs from the Caspian Sea, Russian osetra, Royal Siberian osetra (from Uruguay), and kaluga — a close cousin of the esteemed beluga that is likewise borne by large sturgeon.
The caviar presentation is quite pretty, with orchids lavishing a glass tray of crème fraîche, minced shallots, "truffle scrambled eggs" (which tasted more like mashed egg yolks), toast points, and homemade blini.
Among the North American selections are white sturgeon, American paddlefish (often compared to sevruga), hackleback American sturgeon, and vegan caviar culled from kelp.
Yes, kelp: The "white sturgeon" variety mimics the size and color of Russian roe and produces a similar popping texture in the mouth. Not much real caviar taste is discernible, but it's not too seaweedy either. In fact, the flavor pleasingly elicits mellow, neutral notes of the sea that float nicely atop the garnishes. This $11-per-ounce faux caviar is plated with the same accouterments and elegance as the highest-end osetra. That's generous.
(On the other hand, I can't say I totally trust a caviar bar that refers to blini as "bellini pancakes.")
We tried three of the four entrées (two pastas are also proffered). The best of the lot was beef short ribs succulently braised and sauced with a red-wine reduction. The three fat cubes of meat were topped with a single grilled shrimp and accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes and a sauté of wild mushrooms.
A hefty square of cod fillet came capably cooked, but a guava glaze beneath pistachio-garlic crumbs burst with too much nectar flavor for the naturally sweet flakes of fish. The congri alongside was lukewarm.
A dull, sterile rendition of arroz con pollo presents a sliced, seared chicken breast draped over Spanish yellow rice and sided by sweet plantains. This dish tastes much better when bone-in pieces of poultry are cooked with the grains.
Prices are forgiving: Entrées range from $21 to $25; small plates, which are worthier, cost $9 to $15.
Vegan salmon eggs simulate caviar flavor better than the faux sturgeon eggs. The slightly salty orange sacks threaded a plate of slightly overcooked angel hair noodles barely coated in cream and topped with chopped parsley. Another version of this dish uses vegan noodles too.
For dessert, the crème caramel is as good as it gets: a serving of wobbly custard capped with light caramel glaze and candied lime zest.
Service started sharp and dropped off just as sharply. When the room gets busy, the system gets stressed, and there's a long wait for just about everything.
Still, the Dome is a reliable go-to spot for caviar, cocktails, and tasty small plates. Gables residents are happy about that. Which is only natural.
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