After closing its Lincoln Road location in spring of 2014, long-standing South Beach restaurant TiramesU reopened at 101 Washington Ave. recently. A family from Treviso, Italy first opened the eatery on Ocean Drive in 1988, and now the 2015 version is putting a modern twist on its traditional decor and fare.
The new 75-seat space is a made-over version of the usual Italian atmosphere, but it adds a contemporary vibe that’s still warm and intimate. A quartz bar wraps around the dining room and serves crafty, Italian-inspired cocktails made with trendy ingredients like basil and jalapeno. Only the window treatments feature the brand’s signature blue shade, since the beige walls and white-washed wooden tables are meant to mimic the sands of Italy’s coast. The subtle design is elegant without being pretentious and keeps the focus on the colorful dishes.
In the updated menu, executive chef Fabrizio Pintus highlights a variety of regions, from the Mediterranean to the northern Alps. They’re familiar flavors with a splash of local influence and contemporary techniques that take the classics to the next level.
The first appetizer is a must-have on any modern-Italian menu: burrata ($16). The creamy ball of goodness oozes into a warm bed of pappa al pomodoro, a stew-like tomato mixture. The tomatoes are so dark and rich that their combination with the soaked mozzarella creates an almost pizza-like flavor — and we mean that in the best way possible.
Another antipasto option is the pulpo ($14), which features two tentacles on a platform of potatoes and a loose take on salsa verde. The tentacles were juicy with no trace of toughness, but the dish could have packed a little more punch, especially in the potatoes.
The real star of TiramesU is its homemade pasta, made fresh every day with elevating ingredients like kale and bone marrow jus that usher the cuisine into the 21st century.
The gnocchi ($16) maintains that ideal, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, but here it’s reimagined with blue potatoes and a slight sweetness in a smooth arugula sauce. Bright, briny pops of flavor from anchovies, olives, and capers offer a welcomed relief from the richness for a craveable combo that’s borderline addicting.
In the main entrees, chef Pintus puts his signature spin on a wide range of proteins. The blue potatoes make another appearance in a mash alongside Australian lamb chops ($32), and smokey eggplant adds depth to the beef tenderloin ($38). The branzino ($28) featured two delicate filets on a saffron cauliflower puree and charred asparagus. The crispy skin and subtle seasoning let this Mediterranean seabass have its moment, but, again, the flavor of the puree and the veggies could have been amped up.
When it comes to dessert, it’s pretty much essential to opt for the restaurant’s namesake. And TiramesU doesn’t disappoint, offering multiple versions of the traditional tiramisu, as well as a sampling trio. The trio ($10) breaks the age-old boundaries of liqueur, espresso, and mascarpone and instead dresses lady fingers in creamy concoctions of berries, chocolate, and hot peppers. The chocolate-pepper version is the real standout, sporting the perfect spice level that lingers without overpowering.
For the slightly more adventurous, the sgroppino ($8) is a must-try dish you won’t find anywhere else. If you can get past its black hue, the frozen slushy-like blend of limoncello, prosecco, and squid ink sorbet will end your indulgent meal on a refreshing note.
The new TiramesU is off to an exciting start with beautiful plating and an imaginative menu, but some of the dishes could use a little more kick. Still, the chef’s respect for the subtleties of each ingredient and preserving the authentic cuisine is more than evident. If TiramesU revs up the flavor, the Italian staples would really shine — and give Miami’s Italian food scene a big boost