Buddhist Foodists

Another great Asian-influenced sauce is the sake cream that comes pooled beneath a behemoth bone-in beef tenderloin. The steak was ordered medium rare and served medium raw. The kitchen is consistent in this matter -- our tuna was similarly undercooked. Truffled mashed potatoes accompany the aged and tender steak, as do shoestring potatoes. Not to keep bickering about price, but for $32 you'd think they could've thrown in a vegetable. Must be Tantra's way of encouraging the ordering of side dishes, there being a half-dozen from which to choose. We tried two: a roasted quinoa salad, which has a nice nutty flavor that will please fans of this ancient Peruvian grain; and a wild mushroom composition that was supposed to come with the snapper but didn't. Made up mostly of shiitake mushrooms, it was wrapped and crisply baked in phyllo -- tasty, but it seems more appropriate as an appetizer than an accompaniment.

As for Tantra's sensual/aphrodisiac concept, it seems like a tenuous unifying thread. True, certain foods contain more alluring aromatic and textural qualities than others, but an aphrodisiacal meal is often just a great one accompanied by the right person and copious amounts of the right wine. Serving hijiki and oeufs brouilles in what is essentially a beautiful Indian restaurant is like offering an American steak house menu in a Chinese carryout. Tantra has the right idea with the aforementioned calamari with lentils and curry beurre blanc, and also with braised lamb shank "osso buco" style (the restaurant's quotation marks, not mine). It comes cooked to a soft consistency with a mild curry sauce, Brussels sprouts (hooray!), baby carrots that needed to be cooked a few more minutes, and creamy mascarpone mashed potatoes. These two dishes are to real Indian food as George Hamilton in a Nehru jacket is to a real Indian man, but that's all right. They're good (and good-looking), creative, and at harmony with their environment.

I can't imagine the desserts being in harmony with any environment. Lemon tart features lemon curd in a hard shell (and I'm not saying that just because after struggling to cut it with my fork the thing went skidding off my plate and across the table). Ginger cream tart consists of the same shell filled with gingerless whipped cream, blackberries, and strawberry slices. Grilled fruit tart is strike three: no custard, just a dab of apricot puree between the by-now-familiar shatterproof crust, plus a measly smattering of grilled fruit -- slice of kiwi, sliver of peach, orange section, anemic strawberry half, and two transparently thin pineapple slices. Forget the tarts and stick with the homemade sorbets, including refreshing pomegranate or amazingly uplifting lychee nut, a heavenly finish to a meal of any ethnicity.

Location Info


Tantra Restaurant & Lounge

1445 Pennsylvania Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: South Beach

If the owners of Tantra read this review, their response will likely be "Indian, shmindian," because at the moment they're packing the place every night. In many ways the restaurant's early success is well deserved. The ambiance is tough to beat, the service efficient, and it's a darn fun (and romantic) place to dine. The implication that a meal here will enhance sexual desire probably won't hurt business, either. Undercooked food, forgotten garnishes, and ill-conceived desserts are not to be taken lightly, however, particularly at these prices. Chef Michael B. Jacobs and sous chef Robert Mauro are using fresh, high-quality ingredients and pairing them with consistently good sauces. If they can work out the kitchen's kinks and perhaps rein in their multicultural menu meanderings, there's no reason the crowds won't keep coming back.

1445 Pennsylvania Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-4765. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday from 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Foie gras au poivre

Maine lobster salad

Florida Keys snapper

Lychee nut sorbet

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