Ortanique's Web site has an "Accolades" tab. One click on it lists 23 excellence awards. Esquire Magazine named it "Best New Restaurant in America." And the eatery was placed on Zagat's Top 10 Best Restaurant List nine times. The New Times has even shown its love more than once. Our Lee Klein wrote a fairly adoring crit in 2009. He said, "If you haven't yet dined here, you should."
But should we? Granted, a fabulously-painted flamingo greets patrons with a smirk as they enter. The intricate décor whisks eaters away and leaves them yearning for a Caribbean getaway. And many menu items are tasty. Ortanique is indeed a good restaurant. Perhaps even more than good. However, is it worthy of an America's Top Tables win and an accolades tab?
The pre-dinner bread slices are often served at room temperature. They're slightly greasy and smeared with too much of the lime colored, garlic-infused spread. The tuna tartar appetizer tastes fresh and is complemented well by the bacon butter and citrus zests. Unfortunately, more guacamole is presented on the plate than tuna.
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The boniato-plantain mash is nothing more than OK. And if diners want to share one of Ortanique's worthy entrees, like the jerk chicken rigatoni pasta ($21, $27 with shrimp), the dish gets more expensive. It costs $5 extra to split the flavorful pasta that's made with sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic cloves, shiitake mushrooms and basil in a cream sauce. The restaurant's award-winning mojito could use an extra splash of rum. The weak cocktail is made with Barcardi Superior, lime, simple sugar, torn spearmint leaves and a splash of soda. These are fine, but the same ingredients as in every other mojito in town. Except the other rum drinks don't have any "Best mojito in Miami" awards to brag about.
Message to Cindy Hutson: Decorating plates with syrup zigzags is passe. Even in the Caribbean.
Ortanique on the Mile
278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables