Gold & Pepper has opened on the corner of 1st and Washington in South Beach. The cozy, 37-seat eatery is touting wholesome, fresh, Italian fare with a twist: everything is covered in 23 karat gold. When we say everything, we mean ever-y-thing: shavings of gold floated in our Prosecco, sheets of gold topped our ravioli, gold dust enveloped every dish.
While most restaurants let their food shine, Gold & Pepper is taking it to the next level. The gilded dishes shine when presented, but one bite reveals the flavors fall flat.
Their version of eggplant parmesan with cuore di bue tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil pesto looked stunning but lacked flavor. The pesto tasted primarily of oil and the texture of the dish was simply soft.
The ricotta and spinach ravioli was made in-house and topped with goat butter. While rich butter flavor is always delicious, the spinach was nowhere to be tasted and the texture of the pasta was again too soft.
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This dish was originally described as lamb in tuna sauce. Another server described it as veal. We're guessing it's veal, based on the classic Italian dish veal tonnato but it's only just a guess because the tuna overwhelmed any flavor from the meat. The meat itself was thin, yet tough -- as though it had been sitting in acid too long. The sauce was definitively tuna-flavored, but lacked any of the creamy feel and taste of a classic tonnato.
Helmed by classically trained chefs and hailed as wholesome Italian, Gold & Pepper's first showing was nothing like we expected. Yes, the dishes lacked texture and flavor, but the staff and chefs were nothing but warm and welcoming. We hope they can step beyond the gimmick and concentrate on the cuisine. Until then, Gold & Pepper's dishes are only worth their weight in gold leaf paper.