Miami Spice: Deal or No Deal? Coconut Grove

In Parts 1, 2 (Asian), 3 (steak houses), 4 (hotels), and 5 (Coral Gables, posted this morning), we perused Miami Spice deals from various participating restaurants and put in our two cents as to whether the deal was worth taking advantage of.

Next up: Coconut Grove. Our perspective begins with the estimate that a Miami Spice dinner, after tax, tip, and nonalcoholic beverage, costs about $50. So the judgment is based upon this: Should a $50 dinner, in this specific restaurant, be considered a bargain?

(Note: If you want to see the actual menus, or at least those that have been made public thus far, head here.)

Keep going for a look at Bizcaya, Gibraltar, Ideas, and the Chart House (Coconut Grove doesn't seem to be a heavy participant this year). Deals? No deals?...


Here's an

example of a menu that doesn't offer many luxe ingredients but shows generosity through creativity and upscale garnishes. First course

is golden gazpacho with shrimp; steamed littleneck clams with

prosciutto; or organic spinach and arugula salad. Mains are swordfish

salad; roasted organic chicken breast with potato croquette, heirloom

carrots, and leeks; sweetwater trout with lemon pine quinoa; and

char-grilled petite filet with a fricassee of onion, mushrooms, bacon, and fingerling potatoes. Fancy takes on ricotta cheesecake, key lime

pie, and panna cotta are dessert picks. Throw in gorgeous bayside

vistas and the fact that Gibraltar is normally very expensive and,

well, you've got a deal. Except Fridays and Saturdays.

Ideas Restaurant
There's a limited

choice of two dishes in each category, starting with either asparagus

stew with duck foie gras and poached egg, or octopus carpaccio. Tuna

fillet over vegetable noodles is one entrée selection, braised pork

cheeks with carrot and onion purée the other. Desserts sound decent: chocolate soufflé with dulce de leche ice cream, or crème

caramel in red fruit soup. Because the menu offers unique selections that represent a solid savings over Ideas' usual upper-end prices, I

give this a go. Barely.


Bizcaya at the Ritz-Carlton

is one of the more appealing menus to make our no-deal list. Meaning

swordfish crudo prepared ceviche-style with shaved fennel, celery

hears, avocado, and orange would likely be a delicious starter. Soup and

pear-spinach salad are the other choices. And a main course of halibut

over black lentils with lobster foam and truffle-shaved asparagus salad

sounds like a tasty dish, as does pork tenderloin over saffron

risotto. Pasta pomodoro isn't the most exciting third selection, and

dessert is "choice of warm crêpe soufflé maracuya." The offer is available

nightly. Bottom line: For 50 bucks, we want more than halibut, pork,

or pasta on our plate -- especially from a high-end hotel that doesn't

depend on restaurant income the same way a privately owned

establishment (such as Ideas) does.

The Chart House

and gentlemen, we have a new frontrunner for worst Miami Spice menu.

We'll start with the trio of main course choices: miso salmon, shrimp

fresca, and braised short rib. There is no choice whatsoever when it

comes to the starter (a chopped salad) or dessert (mud pie). Oh, and

this deal is deemed so exceptional by the owners that they can't seem

to bring themselves to offer it on weekends. We say to the Cheap House:

Mud in your eye!