Table 8, the chic-Los Angeles import tucked into the Hotel De Soleil at the north tip of Ocean Drive, isn't too coy on its Miami Spice preview page about why you should pay a visit: the chef, Govind Armstrong, is "famous", the ambience is "trendy", and the "celebrity fan-base" includes "Ryan Seacrest, musicians Nas and Kelis, Bobby Flay and Adrian Grenie," the write-up gushes. Um, what about the food, guys?
Even if the restaurant's publicist is a little more concerned with celebrity sightings than taste, Table 8's food spoke for itself on a visit this weekend. Though Short Order is on record with some concerns about whether Table 8's Miami Spice menu was skimping on the good stuff, this weekend's options more than justified the $36 cost for three courses.
For an appetizer, my date and I chose the roasted mushroom soup and a hearts of romaine salad, passing on a warm boucheron that sounded a bit toasty after a 20 minute walk through hurricane-season humidity. The soup was earthy and thick with crunchy toasted farro and sweet peas, and, although the hearts of romaine was basically a de-constructed Caesar salad -- with cubes of grana padano cheese and a single thin garlic crouton -- it was fun to eat and refreshing.
For entrees, we went with spiced gulf shrimp served on a bed of bel paese cheese grits, and a preserved lemon risotto dish. The former was the clear winner, with four juicy shrimp nestled in a creamy plate of rich grits and a heap of steamed collard greens and ham hocks. But the risotto was also good - the lemon tang played nicely off a generous strain of rich parmesan cheese.
A delicious if predictable course of warm chocolate cake and cool panna cotta rounded out our meal. The cake was molten in the middle and spiked with a star anise cream that didn't taste much different than a good homemade whipped cream, and the panna cotta was livened up with blueberry compote, lemon zest and almonds.
Only an insipid best-of-the-'90s soundtrack -- does it really help the chic-factor to have TLC's "Creep" blaring through the meal? -- hurt an otherwise well-designed ambience, with glowing red floorboard lighting, floating shelves staggered with candles and white curtains draped across recessed booths.
All told, it was worth the trek down Ocean Drive -- even without a Ryan Seacrest sighting.
-- Tim Elfrink
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