An overwhelming joy hides in a wide bowl of crushed ice adorned with an ounce of caviar, three of the vivid red Spanish shrimp called carabineros, buttery slices of hamachi lounging in rosewater, and sweet, slightly briny sea scallops spritzed with lime and fresh coconut milk.
Such delights don't come cheap, but at Fiola Miami (1500 San Ignacio Ave., Coral Gables; 305-912-2639; fiolamiami.com), plenty of the $200 platters circulate around a bustling dining room before finding their places on white tablecloths surrounded by men and women wearing tailored suits and blinding jewelry. A table at the month-old restaurant from James Beard Award-winning and Michelin-starred Washington, D.C. chef
Even on a recent Wednesday night, the muted space, whose focal point is a glass-walled wine room with bottles climbing no less than 20 feet into the air, was full past 10 p.m. From that drinkable encyclopedia of vintages, a well-dressed sommelier poured a cascade of wine for each of the seven, perfectly timed courses that emerged from Trabocchi's spotless copper kitchen while the stoic, 44-year-old chef watched like a lion hiding in high brush.
Unfortunately, not every guest is guaranteed to receive such an experience at Fiola. Spirits scion Facundo Bacardi is Trabocchi's partner, and the pair has invested heavily in this space and its sizable staff. They also put considerable effort into identifying members of the food media, so all of that extravagant seafood and wine appeared without request and didn't make it onto the bill. That being said, from the apparent experiences of surrounding tables over the course of two nights, it seems Trabocchi's waitstaff and kitchen are dedicated to the kind of precision cooking and service achieved by the growing group of truly excellent restaurants that have taken root in Miami over the past five to ten years.
Fiola is among a group of Michelin-starred restaurants that recently arrived here. In January, New York City's Sushi Azabu opened on Ocean Drive. In August, Thomas Keller, one the most influential American chefs of the past generation, opened the Surf Club Restaurant in a historic property of the same name attached to a glittering glass Four Seasons.
Trabocchi was born in Osimo on Italy's Adriatic coast. His father was a farmer in a town that straddled the sea and the mountains, and his large, food-obsessed family knew Trabocchi wanted to cook from the time he was a teenager. After culinary school, an opportunity arose to take over one of his mentor's restaurants in Moscow. Later he a became a kind of roving chef for Bice, a high-end chain of Italian restaurants worldwide with at least three locations in South Florida. In 1995, he became the chef for one of its Washington, D.C. locations, at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. A decade and a half later,
Since then, he's gone on to open a fleet of restaurants equally adored by critics, well-heeled diners, and D.C. powerbrokers. Trabocchi recently made news when he had to hire security after a group of activists charged Texas Sen. Ted Cruz while he was dining with his wife. The former Republican presidential candidate was forced to hide in the kitchen while police were called to clear out protestors.
Meanwhile, the original Fiola's Michelin star has been a kind of catnip for Miami's masters of the universe, and for good reason
A bevy of house-made
As with many places around town these days,
Alongside many of the raw preparations is the extravagant-sounding oysters and caviar ($24), which comes in a gold-accented teacup and is topped with a slice of crisp Sardinian bread. It's an indispensable
The kitchen quickly recovers with the bison tartare ($24). Lean, flavorful cubes of ruby-red meat with pickles, mint, shallots, and parsley arrive on a disk of stained wood dashed with swoops of Parmesan cream,
Most of the proteins here are offered à la carte in steakhouse fashion and range from a pound of wood-grilled wild calamari ($30) to a two-pound salt-crusted branzino ($90) or a tender, well-marbled 12-ounce portion of "
Though most tables are forced to decide which of the half-dozen desserts to order, Trabocchi saved the need for any debate and simply had managers bring out the whole lot. The worthiest among them was the milk chocolate hazelnut Gianduiotto ($13). The gold-covered orb encases a cloudlike cream of light, sweet cream rich with the flavor of slightly bitter chocolate and hazelnuts.
Despite the occasional
Throughout the years, many big-name chefs have swept into town with much fanfare only to sweep themselves out a few months later. Fiola doesn't seem to be that kind of place. Given Trabocchi's background, his latest should grow into the kind of place that helps bolster the local dining community and turns out special-forces-caliber cooks who go on to make their own mark.