South Florida fans of rich Spanish cuisine no longer have to travel to Europe to satisfy their cravings.
In downtown Miami, Pairings by Tomas Cuadrado is beginning to attract a regular crowd of serious eaters looking to experience the Iberian country's varied gastronomy.
A chef and sommelier from Barcelona, Cuadrado says he teamed up with sous-chef Claudio Bueno of Madrid to break the mold of the typical stateside Spanish restaurant that serves tapas, paella, and maybe a multitude of other cuisines, such as Cuban, Portuguese, Dominican, and South American.
His cooking, Cuadrado says, is faithfully Spanish: rich, simple, and honest. The hearty offerings of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Asturias, and other regions are captured in dishes that are clean, bright, and precise, where single ingredients shine through — especially in the nine-course tasting menu, whose dishes are paired with a different selection of beer or wine.
"You eat well anywhere in Spain without too much technique. It's more about good water, good pans, a good wood stove," Cuadrado says.
Open since January, the 50-seat dining room is low-key yet attractive, with modern chandeliers and a back wall festooned with newspaper articles tracing Cuadrado's career. In the open kitchen, Cuadrado and Bueno, both veterans of Xixón, prepare tapas such as scorpion fish pâté with caviar-flavored mayo ($18) and broken eggs with Serrano ham ($14), along with appetizers such as shrimp and scallop carpaccio with smoked Vera pepper and Arbequina olive oil ($21), bread cake with caramelized onions, artichokes, and tuna vinaigrette ($15), and manchego cheese tacos filled with black Iberian pork tartare ($19).
There's no paella on the menu. Instead, Pairings offers three delicious yellow rice options: chopped cod and shrimp ($24), lobster ($24), and Iberian pork and baby vegetables ($28). Other entrée standouts are roasted Spanish rabbit with garlic ($20); lamb ribs with tomato, onion, eggplant, and green and red pepper ($34); and black squid ink fideuà with shrimp and baby squid ($28).
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Dessert highlights include a caramelized pear with red wine and homemade organic vanilla ice cream ($8.50), crema Catalana with crystallized caramel ($7.50), and chocolate truffles with shavings of red fruit ($9.50).
The wine list boasts more than 200 world selections, including Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris, Cantos No Luar Albariño, Black Rhino Cabernet Sauvignon, La Gitana rosé, and
Tuesday through Friday, the restaurant offers a three-course executive lunch with a glass of wine for $35 and hosts a happy hour with half-priced wine. The Pairings menu is 15 percent off Wednesday.
Pairings by Tomas Cuadrado. 900 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-475-1811; pairings restaurant.com. Tuesday through Thursday noon to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon to 11 p.m.