quietly opened on Miracle Mile last fall. On a busy street that seems to have a restaurant pop up weekly, it's not always easy to be the new kid on the block. Owner Sergio Catalina Bellmónt knows that fact firsthand. The restaurant was originally set up to be a bakery too, but he found himself throwing away fresh loaves and croissants at the end of the day. It has taken five months of trial and error to finally nail down what he believes to be the perfect recipe: a Spanish restaurant serving traditional tapas, killer wine, and special regional delicacies that can't be found everywhere.
Last week, the restaurant scrapped the bakery storefront and created a bar area. A projector screen, TV set, and more wine racks also are slated for the coming month. Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Bellmónt is staying true to his homeland's cooking style with authentic flavors and traditional offerings. Check out ten reasons to try Bellmónt today.
It isn't wise to comment on the food before establishing the restaurant's credibility. The owner moved from Madrid to Miami in 2004, and a photo mural pays homage to his home city. The chef has been working in Spanish restaurants most of his career, and the pastry chef is from Catalonia in Northern Spain. Nothing here comes from a can, and some of the food -- such as the octopus, ham, and suckling pig -- is imported directly from Spain.
Though "small-plate" restaurants have become mainstream, it's the Spaniards who own tapas. Bellmónt is about to roll out a full tapas menu to complement the eatery's main offerings, with dishes priced at $3 and $5. The tostas with fig and blue cheese (top) and Cantimpalo chorizo and goat cheese (bottom) are the perfect happy-hour snack or meal starter.
8. Suckling Pig
No trip to Madrid is complete without trying cochinillo, a juicy suckling pig no older than 15 days cooked whole in a wood-fired oven. Bellmónt's young pigs are sourced from a Spanish supplier from Zaragosa. Because they take four to five hours to cook, the restaurant requires 12 hours' notice if you want one. The dish costs $180 but is enough to feed four people and comes with a side of potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, and, most important, a bottle of wine. You can choose to see the whole pig when it comes out of the oven or have it portioned for you (above).
The pastry chef makes an array of ten desserts daily, including classics such as crema catalana -- a Spanish version of crème brûlée -- or decadent cakes such as the above frozen whiskey tart. Though no alcohol is in the dish, it's the essence of the drink combined with sweetness from other ingredients that makes this slice a delectable end to a meal.
Bellmónt introduced me to one of my new favorite cheeses, Miticana de Cabra, a soft and mild goat variety that pairs beautifully with sausage, ham, and piquillo peppers with capers.
You can't have a proper Spanish meal without sausage. This chorizo sausage was steeped in cider and paired with the aforementioned cheese.
All meat is certified Angus beef, and here it's served on a piping-hot volcanic rock that arrives at the table at 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat cooks while it's on the rock, so those who like their meat rare must plate it quickly. The tenderloin is soft and juicy, with absolutely no sauce needed.
3. Sangria (and Wine)
Bellmónt boasts a wide range of wines, both Spanish and otherwise. The sangria is house-made with fresh fruit. There's also Madrid's Mahou beer on tap, along with Blue Moon, Sam Adams, and Corona Light.
2. Bread and Olive Oil
Spaniards appreciate a good olive oil, and Bellmónt sampled a wide variety until he fell in love with Arbequina. It pairs dangerously well with soft French bread. Bellmónt has also experimented with baking his own bread in the wood-fired oven, and it's just as tasty as professionally made loaves.
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1. Jamón Ibérico
Nothing beats cured meat straight from the leg of a black Iberian pig specially bred to produce the highest quality of ham. There's a reason travelers try to smuggle this stuff into the country. At Bellmónt, it's freshly cut and perfect for eating solo or with bread or cheese.
Connect with Cassie Glenn on Twitter @cassieinmiami.