Casa Juancho: Caldo Gallego, Gambas al Ajillo, and Huevos Rotos

Casa Juancho is one of Miami's oldest Spanish restaurants. The brainchild of the Valls family, the same folks behind La Carreta and Versailles, Casa Juancho looks more like an attraction than a dining establishment. There are waterfalls, water wells, low wooden ceilings, medieval lighting, and servers channeling matadors.

Casa Juancho is a tribute to la madre patria set right in the middle of Calle Ocho. Perhaps that's why it's so popular with tourists and locals alike.

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It's been nearly 15 years since I visited this restaurant often, and it seems like time has had little effect on the place. Piernas de jamón serrano still hang from the ceiling, roaming guitarists still serenade patrons with old-school Spanish tunes, and the bathrooms still have the coolest toilets in town -- they have automated plastic wrap.

Casa Juancho evokes a sense of nostalgia.

The caldo gallego tastes the same as it did when I was 7. It's a perfect marriage of white beans, collard greens, potatoes, and ham in a bowl ($7). If I could have one Spanish soup forever -- well, besides gazpacho -- this would be it.

They also serve other traditional Spanish soups, such as fabada ($12), garlic soup ($7), lentejas ($7), and sopa de pescado ($7). The mixed seafood and fish soup has shrimp, fish bits, and calamari, in addition to fennel. It's not nearly as delectable as the caldo gallego, but it will fulfill what you're looking for in a fish soup -- a sturdy fish broth and mouthfuls of shellfish.

Casa Juancho proffers two menus -- a tapas menu and a long and extensive tapas and entrées menu. Many of the tables around us were indulging in main entrées: paella valencianas, cochinillo segoviano, and zarzuelas de mariscos. However, we opted for a tapas-like dinner.

I ordered the vieiras ($14) as soon as I saw them on the menu. But when they arrived, I discovered they lacked béchamel. They were grilled simply, which isn't a bad thing. They tasted OK, but I secretly wished I had ordered my neighbors' salpicón de marisco ($12).

Our server helped us choose between clams in marinara sauce ($12) or navajas -- razor clams in garlic ($12). He suggested the clams in marinara because razor clams tend to be sandy. His advice paid off.

Along with the caldo gallego, the clams marinara were the best tapa we tasted. You'll want to drink the rest of the sauce with an empty clam shell. Don't be embarrassed -- this is a family-friendly restaurant.

Solomillo encebollado ($13) with French fries seemed like a natural choice. It's exactly what it sets out to be -- a classic dish of meat and potatoes. On the menu, there are also huevos estrellados con jamón ($20), also called huevos rotos. Fried eggs sit atop a bed of French fries and serrano chunks. You break the eggs so the yolk oozes all over the potatoes and softens them. I'll definitely order this on my next visit.

We were too full for dessert, although it was very tempting when our server brought the demonstration tray. It featured readymade arroz con leche, torrejas, flan, and a raw crema catalana begging to be torched.

Instead, on our way out we indulged in some mints -- the kind I remember having here 15 years ago.

Casa Juancho is almost the same as when it first opened, and that's a good thing.

Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha

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