Miami Spice

Miami Spice 2017: Matador Room Doesn't Hold Back

Charred octopus on Matador Room's Miami Spice menu.
Charred octopus on Matador Room's Miami Spice menu. Courtesy of Matador Room
click to enlarge Charred octopus on Matador Room's Miami Spice menu. - COURTESY OF MATADOR ROOM
Charred octopus on Matador Room's Miami Spice menu.
Courtesy of Matador Room
The good news is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Matador Room at the Miami Beach Edition is participating in Miami Spice. The bad news is its $39 three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu isn't offered on Fridays or Saturdays. Regardless, the light and bright Spice menu is the perfect antidote for the Miami summer doldrums. Matador's Top Chef-winning toque Jeremy Ford may no longer be running the kitchen, but rest assured Jean-Georges' current team won't let you down.

Sit in the glamorous dining room or the leafy outdoor terrace that's a nod to the Tropicana nightclub in Havana and begin with one of the Latin-inspired eatery's famous cocktails. Two new $12 libations have been added to the menu for Spice, including the Lighten Up made with Ketel One vodka, Moët & Chandon brut champagne, cassis liquor, and lime.
click to enlarge Heart of palm salad. - PHOTO BY VALERIA NEKHIM LEASE
Heart of palm salad.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
New Times was invited to sample the Spice menu. For first courses, choose among sweet pea guacamole paired alongside warm and crunchy tortillas; a heart of palm salad; or maitake mushrooms with goat cheese. We couldn't get enough of the heart of palm salad featuring heirloom tomatoes, avocado, and a zesty coconut oregano dressing. The maitake mushrooms are decidedly more filling paired with creamy goat cheese and a slightly spicy Fresno pepper vinaigrette. What's more, the mushrooms themselves have a rich, meat-like quality.

For main courses, one option is the charred octopus, a mainstay at Matador Room. The mollusk is braised for six hours to give it that delicate taste, then tossed in a lime vinaigrette. It's served with paprika-dusted potatoes and placed atop a creamy paprika emulsion. It's a well-constructed dish that allows each lovely flavor to shine through.
Arroz con pollo. - BILLWISSERPHOTO.COM
Arroz con pollo.
Another signature entrée on the Spice menu is the arroz con pollo. The jasmine rice resembles a creamy risotto in taste and texture, while brined dark and white chicken meat are flash fried and submerged in a broth of kombu (edible kelp) and rosemary before being placed in the oven. Lemon zest, black pepper, and crackling slices of lightly salted chicken skin make JG's twist on the Latin classic a bona fide winner. Simply squeeze some lemon over it and dig in. Come with a party of three so you can try the third main-course option: a mushroom and three-cheese pizza crowned with a farm-fresh egg.
click to enlarge Warm Valrhona chocolate cake. - PHOTO BY VALERIA NEKHIM LEASE
Warm Valrhona chocolate cake.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
Desserts include a warm Valrhona chocolate cake, a coconut panna cotta with raspberry sorbet, and a tres leches cake with glazed cherries. You have to like dessert to reap the full benefits of a Miami Spice menu, and Matador Room's selection definitely caters to those with a sweet tooth.

Matador Room. 2901 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-257-4600; Miami Spice dinner menu is available Sunday through Thursday.
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Valeria Nekhim was born in the Ukraine and raised in Montreal. She has lived in Manhattan and Miami. Her favorite part of food writing is learning the stories of chefs and restaurateurs.