First Bites

Cantina La Veinte in Brickell: A Shared Mexican Meal (Photos)

Driving through Philippe Starck's columned entrance at the Icon makes you feel as if you're in the Flintstones. Well, prepare to go from the Stone Age to the Roaring Twenties as you make your way back to Cantina La Veinte, Miami's newest high-end Mexican restaurant.

This is the Cinbersol Group's first U.S. concept. The group is no stranger to opening restaurants -- it has more than 30 in Mexico. And you won't just find tacos at this place.

See also: Cantina La Veinte: High-End Mexican Restaurant Opens Next Monday in Brickell

Upon walking into the majestic restaurant, you'll immediately be swept away by its grand design, which is a marriage of Mexican folklore and The Great Gatsby. It's been open only a couple of weeks, and every seat at the bar is taken and then some. The dining room is equally full. Seems like Miami really wants high-end Mexican fare.

The focal point is the open kitchen, which lets you get in on the action by watching tortas being made by hand. There is no cocktail menu, but servers offer margaritas, beer, and various other drinks. I asked for a mango margarita, but that's not an option. So I went for the passionfruit alternative. Drinks range from $10 to $20. La Cantina also has a bar downstairs and will offer two-for-one well drinks and beer during happy hour beginning Monday, August 25, from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

As far as food, there are plenty of options and categories. There's even a Mexican market on the first floor, where the terrace is open from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. and boasts salads, sandwiches, and other Mexican delights.

Every Mexican meal should begin with some good guacamole ($10). Cantina's version delivers in taste and spice, but there were a lot of cilantro stems.

Ceviche de camaron roca will set you back $19. It's rock shrimp ceviche in a smoked lime-cilantro-tamarind-mezcal sauce.

Everything on Cantina's menu is meant to be shared, from the seafood appetizers and smaller plates to the larger mains and tortas. The dobladitas de jaiba suave ($21) features soft-shell crab between flour tortillas ready to dip in jalapeño sauce in shot glasses.

The fideos secos were my favorite dish of the night, as well as the least expensive at $9. Thin noodles are cooked in a tomato-chipotle sauce and topped with goat cheese.

If the juxtaposition of sweet and salty is your thing, order the morita-stuffed chiles ($12). The fried chilies are filled with goat cheese and a sugar-cane reduction.

Cantina lets you make your own tacos. I tried the chamorro -- pork shank confit with cilantro, chilies, and onion ($24). These came plain and simple. If you want some tomatillo or habanero sauce, just ask your server. Other varieties include grilled bone marrow, octopus carnita, and beef tongue.

Anywhere you sit, you'll be distracted by the many trinkets throughout Cantina. The Mexican locations sell all of the art that's on display, but that's not the case here. Still, they make for interesting decorative statements.

Mexican tres leches ($11).

If you think the food is expensive, be sure to bring cash for the valet. Because of the lack of parking, you're forced to have someone else stash your car. It will cost you $11 for two hours (the average mealtime for dinner) or $7 for one hour. For just the price of valet parking, you can get a taco platter at Mi Rinconcito Mexicano. Perhaps valet should be comped for a high-end Mexican place that doesn't offer a parking alternative. Welcome to Brickell.

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Carla Torres found her inner gourmand voice while writing for Miami New Times in 2012. She has also worked with Travel & Leisure and Ocean Drive. She balances passions for wine, sweets, yoga, and kayaking.

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