2.5 stars for Love is Blind in Coral Gables

 

Dolores/Lolita team takes fun formula to Coral Gables

love_blind

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Quirky name, sexy décor, cool soundtrack, fun bar scene, affordable menu and adorable servers. That’s what made successes of Carlos Galan and JC Chamizo’s Brickell area hot spots, Dolores But You can Call Me Lolita and Crazy About You. The Spanish restaurateurs bring the same fun formula to Coral Gables with Love Is Blind.

The mostly male servers, outfitted in suspenders and bow-ties, are young and charming, if sometimes a bit clueless. But what they lack in experience they more than make up for in personality. “Have you been here before?,” they ask. If not, expect a quick explanation of how the menu works. At both lunch and dinner, customers choose entrees from three price categories, with appetizers included gratis. Spanish speakers will have an easier time, but all are made to feel welcome.

A budget wine list includes lots of imported bottles and by-the-glass options that start at just $4. The cocktail crowd congregates at the bar, where it gets quite lively (and loud) after dark. The menu generally plays it safe with salads, calamari, spring rolls, pizzas, roast chicken, short ribs and a few simple seafood dishes.

Ambience: With an eye-popping setting that juxtaposes old and new to gorgeous effect, Love is worth a visit, though not necessarily for the food. Cathedral-high ceilings glow above hundreds of dripping candles, and the bar sparkles beneath modern chandeliers. Stone walls are stenciled with thought-provoking sayings (“Love is not something you look for … Love is something you become”), the open kitchen bustles, and the tables (except for a kindergarten-size set in the corner) are comfortably spaced for romantic conversation.

What Worked

  • Lovely juevos rotos - two fried eggs served in a cast iron skillet over crispy cubes potatoes and draped with two perfectly fresh-cut sheets of velvety jamon Iberico
  • Deliciously hot, crisp and salty Croquettes with only a hint of jamon but plenty of melty cheese and a breading that is a bit
    thick
  • Uniformly well-handled pizzas with pliable, thin and gently scorched crusts and well-balanced toppings
  • Stunningly seasoned, picture-perfect chicken paillard piled high with crunchy confetti of yellow squash and zucchini
  • A tasty veal churrasco accented with a side of moros y cristianos as well as a sweet plantain mash
  • The American Dream dessert - a plate as big as a pizza box and a basket that includes an old-fashioned soda-shop scooper of creamy vanilla ice cream, a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup, a shaker of cocoa, sliced strawberries a swirl of what tastes just like Cool Whip and a big fat brownie loaded with chocolate chips. It comes with instructions on how to eat the dessert and how to write a life-changing message.

 

What Didn't Work

  • An “I can’t believe it’s not pasta” linguini made with endless strings of tender zucchini that's tossed in a tangy tomato-vodka sauce but dragged down by too much gloppy mozzarella
  • Charcoal-black french fries that apparently had been left in the fryer for several rounds before landing haphazardly on our plate
    Fresh salads that can get weary from carrying a heavy load of balsamic dressing
  • A pedestrian salmon fillet that lacked zest

 

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