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img_2190Tunu and Yona Puri have teamed up with restaurateur Arjun Waney, co-founder of world-renowned hotspots Zuma, Coya, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club in London, to open Tamarina, a new restaurant and bar, in the space where they first opened Lippi at 600 Brickell Avenue in Miami.

The imposing bar is still there, less cathedral-like, and the dining room has lost the somber, more formal look of its predecessor, Lippi. The affluent contemporary look sports new furniture and lighting and a private room swathed in flowing white curtains which separate it from the main dining room. The Crudo Bar is still there but it has lost its Asian slant to a more Mediterranean style.  Outside, part of the wraparound terrace has been rebuilt into an al fresco Champagne Bar where millennials can flock in after work and feast on oysters and bubbly.

 Our meal began with Oysters ($3 to $3.50 ea) of which a daily selection is offered on a card describing each oyster and indicating their provenance.  

We had them all. Big and buttery, iodine-bright, briny and seaweed-flavored, clean and crisp, velvety and sexy, the different types of oysters from the two coasts of the US accompanied by two mignonette sauces, both very good are a seductive opener for a menu dubbed “coastal Italian cuisine.” Tamarina’s fare is no cutting edge dining but it is a first rate ingredient-driven menu animated by the seasons.

img_2198The Crudos ($12-$16), presented in naked simplicity, rely on the quality and freshness of the fish.  They are delicate-tasting and barely seasoned: the seabass with thyme and lemon; yellow tail snapper with a drizzle of Sicilian olive oil and balsamic; scallops with citrus juice, capers and olive oil; the gorgeous puzzle-like King Crab meat with salsa cruda, and jolted with parsimonious sprinklings of Jade, black lava or Himalayan rock salt which bring the natural taste of the fish into focus.

The service is  well-mannered and knowledgeable about the ingredients served and the wines on the well-curated list, a tribute to general manager Paul Radu, formerly of Lippi.

On the menu, trays of  frutti di mare ($29 to $87 depending on your appetite and party size) piled up with the freshest oysters, clams, shrimp, crudo and lobster, followed by carpaccio, ($14 - $17)  sweet tiger prawns with tomato, olive oil and black lava salt, or Tartares of Ahi tuna with cucumber, capers and lemon and steak tartare.

 Being Italian, the menu offers antipasti ($9 - $18) like  grilled octopus with nutty fingerling potatoes, a creamy burrata sitting on slices of heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with a spicy Sicilian olive oil, or a board of prosciutto di Parma with Parmesan cheese shavings

The menu lives up to its Italian roots with a section on Risotto and Pasta like lobster linguine, tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce, spaghetti with vongole, asparagus risotto and the freshly homemade delicate ricotta and spinach ravioli ($18) in a simple but sublime sage butter sauce.

Next come the Pesce, or fish, prepared with the same simplicity as the appetizers. From roasted lobster ($44) and Branzino from the Mediterranean for two ($34) with kale salad and braised cabbage, the big eye  tuna with shaved fennel and orange ($32) to salmon al cartoccio ($25) and my dish of Chilean seabass ($32), a firm yet tender slice of fish with a garnish of roasted vegetables, the kitchen succeeds in serving a harmony of tastes while preserving the freshness and natural taste of each ingredient.

Tamarina is located in the Brickell banking and business district and a clientele of bankers, brokers, lawyers is bound to want meat.

Prepared with the same simplicity there is Cornish hen ($25) with grilled shiitake mushrooms and roasted cipollini onions; lightly breaded Veal Milanese ($29) with arugula and cherry tomatoes; Agnello ($29) or marinated lamb chops with black quinoa; all sizes of beef: filet mignon and New York strip for two with a slew of sides ($7 - $9) including roasted potatoes with rosemary, brussels sprouts with garlic and pancetta; spinach and other steakhouse classics.

Desserts ($ 9) are a sophisticated version of homemade favorites  which consulting pastry chef Sarah Thompson, formerly of Lippi, has had a hand in creating, like the tiramisù which here is a sponge cake sphere enclosing all the moist gooeyness of mascarpone cream, chocolate, coffee and amaretto set over a bittersweet chocolate crunch;  an Italian version of Key lime torta with ricotta cheese and key lime cream;  an elevated version of the Snickers bar with peanut caramel and peanut butter mouse with chocolate brownie; the Latte Dolce, a wink to Latin American with dulce de leche gelato, passion fruit sorbetto and alfajores and large three-scoop servings of homemade gelato and sorbetti.

Tamarina, 600 Brickell Avenue, Miami  - 305-579-1888 ww.tamarinarestaurants.com is open : for Lunch: Monday through Friday 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.;  Dinner: Monday  through Saturday 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.  Lounge: 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Bar : Monday through Saturday till 1 a.m.