R House: Art and Food Fuse in Wynwood

R House opens today, January 16, in Wynwood. The restaurant/gallery comes complete with movable walls to showcase art curated by White Porch Gallery, but the emphasis is on the food.

Chef/owner Rocco Carulli knew for a long time he wanted to open a restaurant in Wynwood. "When I experienced the neighborhood and saw the vibrancy, I knew it was special. Then, when I learned Tony Goldman was behind much of the neighborhood's renaissance, that sealed the deal."

Carulli, who originally wanted to name the spot Rocco's but then realized "people might expect Italian food," spent more than a dozen summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he operated a small restaurant, and wintered in Miami Beach as a waiter. One of the restaurants he worked at was Wish, owned by Goldman. Carulli's opening a restaurant in Wynwood brings the story full circle.

It might seem strange for a chef to take off his toque and wait tables, but Carulli says the experience made him appreciate his staff more. In fact, on the evening I was invited to dine at R House, the chef refreshed my table's water and took our dessert order while our extremely competent server was helping a party of 12 on the patio.

Carulli, who is now a full-time Miami resident, is animated when talking about R House. "We're going to start infusing spirits in-house, making berry bourbon and ginger vodka. I plan on getting to the restaurant early and working hard so that when the doors open, I can put on a fresh coat and meet the diners."

The menu at R House features American fusion cuisine, with items ranging from linguine frutti di mare to a grilled skirt steak, with most entrées available in half and full portions, perfect for sharing or smaller appetites. In fact, the half portions we ordered were comparable to full-size meals at other Miami restaurants.

Duck confit spring roll with ginger-orange-plum sauce and baby greens ($14).

Tuna tartare served over a bed of avocado with crisp wontons and wasabi cream enticed even a non-seafood lover at the table ($12).

Short ribs braised with coffee and chili powder are served with scalloped potatoes and green beans ($16 half portion, $25 full portion).

Sweet pea falafel over a salad of tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta will please vegetarians ($12 half portion, $18 full portion).

The Brazilian seafood mocqueta was the standout dish of the evening. Cobia, shrimp, scallops, and vegetables were sautéed in coconut milk and served with basmati rice ($15 half portion, $24 full portion).

Banana Betty -- a ramekin of rum custard baked bananas with a gingersnap crumble -- was a decadent yet light way to end the meal ($9).

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