Wish, Rinconcito el Chele, Go-Go and Vizcaya: Date With Seattle Man

Love Bites is a regular column on Short Order. Find other installments here.

​Dear Dating Fairy,

Three wishes: First I'd like you to find me a foodie guy who lives in my area code. Heck, let's narrow it down to Miami. Secondly, I'd like a man who can afford a meal. The last one who took me out got a gorgeous dinner at Wish for free and still couldn't manage to leave a tip. More on that in a moment. And my last request is for you to provide me with someone who looks like a handsome celebrity, cooks like a champ, and is eager to hand over the keys to his brand-spanking new Ferrari. [The way I see it, if you can finally deliver upon the first two requests then the latter should be a piece of cake.]

Now I know these sound like strange requests, but I still held hope they would be granted when, a few months ago, I awaited an oil change at a car dealership. There I met a charming couple and, discovering they were new to town, I offered them my contact information in case they needed restaurant recommendations. Days later, we were already ranking local Indian restaurants via e-mail and unearthing which lamb vindaloo was the tangiest. Then they offered to fix me up with a guy who sounded like a great catch: tall, single, professional, and available. Granted, he lived not one or two but three time zones away, but one never knows right? [Wrong. One knows. She just didn't trust her instinct and got a little desperate for a different flavor. Sigh.]

Sir Seattle and I e-mailed, chatted on the phone, and texted for months until he finally decided to check me out in the flesh. I picked him up at the airport around 7 a.m. There was no spark. Give it time, I thought. We pulled out of the garage at MIA and I paid for parking ($3), justifying in my mind that he's suffering from fatigue and didn't think quickly enough to offer. He requested Cuban eats for breakfast, so we stopped off at El Rinconcito el Chele for a greasy meal of croquettes, scrambled eggs, Cuban toast, and café con leche. He paid the $15 bill. Then I took him to Vizcaya for a tour. We waited by the ticket window and his wallet was not forthcoming, so I paid $25 for admission for two. At this point, he was caffeinated properly so I wondered why his reflexes weren't quicker. Then we stopped at Go-Go on Miami Beach, my favorite little spot for a light, quickie lunch, and plowed through three empanadas: steak and mushroom, chicken pot pie, and dulce de leche with blackberries. He graciously shelled out the $8. Now the tally was $28 out of my pocket and $23 out of his. I felt a little less unsettled, but still curious--what's going to happen at dinner?

Now before you accuse me of being some gold digger, I want to remind you that a) this was a first date and, therefore, he was in the position of wooer and b) I didn't exactly take the guy directly to Bal Harbour. I chauffeured him around, made his reservation at the beautiful Palms Hotel on South Beach at a significant discount, and made sure our activities and dining adventures were reasonable. But I did start to doubt why I had secured at table for 7 p.m. at Wish, arguably one of Miami's most romantic and pricey restaurants. I guess I just thought it would give him a good impression of what our city can offer and, truth be known, it's one of the few restaurants I can enjoy on the beach because of its clandestine location.

Do you know of that place? Wish is a small eatery found in The Hotel's garden, off 8th Street and Collins. About two dozen umbrella tables take up the entire patio, all radiating from a gurgling, mosaic fountain. The decorators were smart to play with light, offering it to diners via LED-lit menus and glowing plastic cubes in the cocktails. Unlike my nightmare experience at Quinn's, this secluded spot is immune to street vendors, vagrants, and scantily clad hookers.

We giggled over the glowing menu while sharing a neon-lit purple Manhattan, made with Maker's Mark, muddled grapes, and sweet vermouth. He ordered a la carte, opting for the hamachi sashimi with pineapple and crispy cardamom couscous ($21), an heirloom tomato salad with feta ($15), and--per my recommendation--the sweet and salty pan-seared diver scallops with pancetta and maple syrup ($38). I remembered enjoying these when Chef Marco Ferraro had just come aboard and I sensed that, though the chef was undoubtedly slaving away at Wynwood Kitchen that night, his crew could probably be trusted with a repeat performance. I went for the $45 prix fixe menu, including a savory bacon-wrapped and chorizo-stuffed date selection, vinegary grilled mackerel escabeche, and warm persimmon pudding. For the record, I thought the combination of the three choices was a bit wacky, and the pomegranate sorbet that came with the cake-like "pudding" did not make for a successful pairing, but each item individually held its own.

Undoubtedly tipped off by one of my buddies in public relations, the manager came over to the table to meet "that girl who does the dating column for New Times" and graciously insisted that our entire meal would be on the house. I did my best to argue--especially since I wanted to see how this unpredictable payer would perform when the check arrived--but the staffer wasn't having it. 

"What's the proper thing to do then?" my date inquired after the manager left. "Do we just leave a tip and pay for the drink?"

"Right," I responded. I estimated the bill would've been around $130, so leaving $40 would be generous, but deserved. He argued that $50 seemed more fair and reached for his wallet. Then he pulled out a $10 bill and announced, "This is all I have."

Boiling inside, I pulled out two twenties and put them on the table. What kind of moron travels from across the country with only a few dollars to his name? Aside from that, what about giving the manager a credit card to run a few bucks on it? Or maybe asking for an ATM?

Though it pained me to do so, I dropped the hammer via phone the next morning. "Uh, I just don't think there's a spark between us and suppose it's best if you investigate Miami on your own," I said, feeling nauseous for not being entirely honest. The truth was, I simply couldn't financially afford three more days of entertaining this loser.

But we had one more meeting, just before his flight. I schlepped over to his hotel yet again and brought him to Le Bouchon du Grove for a previously scheduled breakfast with the couple who fixed us up. I wanted to tell her what this doofus was all about, but instead I just shoved a crepe into my mouth and let her gush on and on about what a cute couple we made. Then the bill arrived. The lady pulled out her credit card and I, of course, reached for mine.

"Oh Riki, no!" Seattle exclaimed, acting as if the mere thought of me reaching for my wallet was a travesty. "I've got it."

To his credit, he paid for my breakfast. And, as we departed the restaurant, he also handed me $40 to compensate for what I shelled out at Wish. But the damage was done.

So you see, Dating Fairy, my requests are justifiable. Well, at least the first two. And I'm willing to bend on the third if you supply a good guy soon. I'm afraid I might go broke, otherwise.

Wish/Long-Distance Dating Rating

Food: 4/5
Hip Factor: 4/5
Ambiance: 5/5
Cost: 3/5
Date: 1
Overall: 3.5

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