Blue Piano: Anthony Bourdain Would Love This Place

There isn't a shred of pretentiousness in the air at the The Blue Piano, in Buena Vista, just north of the Design District. If you're into hype and scene, this place isn't for you. But if you enjoy wines, manageable portions of crafted dishes with comfortable prices to match, and live music, then come as you are.

A wall of wine bins is set behind the bar; there are eight stools in front. Eight tables are inside, pushed against plush banquettes. And there's seating outside. Nothing fancy.

Former Miami New Times Short Order contributor, Aniece Meinhold, was at first a consultant. Then she bought into a managing partnership. Handed the reigns, with partner and chef, Cesar Zapata-Diaz - former chef de patie at The Setai and Four Seasons and executive sous chef of Karu & Y - they renovated the space, added a kitchen, and created a diverse menu that makes the original, cold-only tapas menu a thing of the past.

Meinhold has a strong food and beverage operations background, as well as a passion for discovering wines. If you share this passion, try a table-side wine tasting ($15 per person) on Wednesday nights, at any time of the night.

The charcuterie platter ($15) is a chef's choice of pate & salumi. Ours included homemade duck & pork country style paté, Hudson Valley peppercorn studded duck salami, and artisan herb crusted pork salami from Berkeley, CA. The plate is always served with toast, organic fig jam, confit wild mushrooms, and spicy Dijon mustard.

The menu isn't set up with traditional lists of appetizers, salads, entrees, etc., so let loose and order what looks good - the buffalo style chicharrones ($9) were a slow-cooked chunks of pork belly fried crisp, crackly, and covered in a spicy buffalo sauce. They are served with pickled carrots and celery and served with a gorgonzola dolce dipping sauce. This dish paired excellently with a glass of Domainde de la Quilla Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire, Fr, 2009 ($9).

Also a special, the roasted asparagus ($10) included a fried egg over the crisp asparagus, with tasso vinaigrette and caramelized lemon. This dish, with its savory components, paired well with Llopart, Rosé Brut, Penedes, Esp, 2007 ($11).

This is a place Anthony Bourdain would love. Try the 2am huevos ($8.25), which come with crostini, English farm house white cheddar, truffle oil, and thyme leaves as a garnish. The only complaint is that the dish isn't big enough. Paired well with Chateau Musar, Jeune Blanc, Bekaa Valley, Leb, 2008 ($12).

Whimsical specials such as the "Lilo & Stitch" ($7) appear on the menu in one to two week intervals. This particular, Hawaiian-inspired special consists of baby back riblets (marinated in sweet chili, pineapple, and spices), seared SPAM, and caramelized pineapple. Another savory dish that found solace with a sweet rose; Domaine de l'Oratoire, Bandol Rosé, Bandol, Fr, 2009 ($10).

The Mc Luvvin' ($8) -- thank God it's not a one-week special - was so good it brought tears to my eyes (or it might have been all the wine). This sandwich, on an English muffin, included Spanish chistorra sausage (richer/higher in fat than the normal chorizo) and chicharrón with a fried quail egg and chipotle cream. The wine of choice was Little James Basket Press, Cotes du Rhone, Rhone Valley, Fr, NV ($9).

The chester cheetah ($8) is a piping hot fontina/edam/cheddar/burrata mac 'n' cheese blended into a rich béchamel sauce, finished in the oven with a cheetos crumb topping and extra cheetos for crunch. It is sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves as well. The Vinademoya, Mencia, Bierzo, Esp, 2005 ($9) paired beautifully with it.

We finished with Fromage... Queso...Cheeez (pick 3 for $15). Piave - IT, cow - similar to parmesan, but from the Veneto rather than Emilia-Romagna. Milk is sweeter, texture is hard and grainy; Piano Haze Goat Cheez - USA, goat, homemade - Chef Zapata-Diaz uses Vermont Creamery goat cheese and blends it with fresh herbs, chili flakes, and fennel seeds; Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue - USA, cow - this is the first smoked blue cheese in the market, made in Oregon. The cheese plate was paired with Jorge Ordonez, Moscatel #1, Malaga, Esp ($8) and was also sipped with dessert.

Dessert consisted of cherry bourbon brioche bread pudding ($14) made with Maker's Mark bourbon, cherries, bittersweet chocolate chips, and brioche bread. The custard is a cream & half 'n half base. The ice cream includes foie gras torchon and truffles, and is made in-house. The dessert is a spectacular contrast of sweet and savory. The Blue Piano is an ideal music lounge and wine bar that combines culinary and aesthetic ingredients magnificently: sweet and savory, comfortable and unpretentious, eclectic and fun.

Live music begins nightly at 10pm, but the jazz and blues playing beforehand is swinging and conjures up a good time. The Blue Piano is open Monday through Wednesday from 6 p.m. to midnight and Thursday through Saturday from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.

There is ample parking on the street and in the lot next door, which is shared with Teresita Market. You'll need a ticket to display in your window if you park there, which you can get from the staff at The Blue Piano when you arrive.

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