3 stars for Taperia Raca's fresh take on classic tapas in Miami

 

Second restaurant from Eating House's Giorgio Rapicavoli is a standout in Miami's MiMo district.

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By Evan S. Benn | ebenn@MiamiHerald.com

In a town stuffed with bacon-wrapped dates, the albaricoques con tocino (bacon-wrapped apricots) at Taperia Raca are a revelation. 

Plump, bite-size pieces of the fruit and Idiazabal cheese are hugged in tight rolls of crisp bacon and skewered, four to an order. The apricots and drizzled honey provide a sweet contrast to the cheese and bacon. 

Like many dishes at Taperia Raca, which Eating House chef-owner Giorgio Rapicavoli opened this spring in Miami’s MiMo district, the albaricoques provide a fresh take on classic tapas. 

The simple delight of pan con tomate, tomato-rubbed bread, is elevated by thick-cut toast topped with a generous layer of grated tomato flesh, flaky sea salt and Spanish olive oil. 

The first thing you notice is textures, how the crunchy, chewy bread plays off the soft, pillowy tomato. Then the salt kicks in, acting like a megaphone to amplify the flavors of acid and sugar and salt and fat. 

Taperia’s gazpacho, too, hits all the same pleasure receptors. 

Rapicavoli buzzes local tomatoes and olive oil into an impossibly smooth consistency that you’d swear contains cream (it does not). Sharp sherry vinegar cuts through the delicate richness, and small croutons and diced cucumbers give some needed crunch. This outstanding version reminds me very much of the gazpacho at Doral’s Bon Picat, which is equally delicious. 

Though there is some indoor seating that overlooks the kitchen action, Taperia’s dog- and kid-friendly patio feels like the better place to spread out with tapas and drinks and to bob your head to reggae music. 

To that end, the atmosphere is what you make of it: Rumbling Biscayne Boulevard traffic causes a din, and the neighboring car wash isn’t exactly a scenic view. (Pro tip: The car wash lets Taperia customers park in its lot for free after business hours.) 

Servers are efficient, knowledgeable of the menu — including daily blackboard specials — and helpful with suggestions of what not to miss (order two to three plates per person). My only real service nit is that diners aren’t given fresh side plates during the meal — not fun when you’re encouraged to share multiple dishes, family-style. 

Rapicavoli helped deliver dishes to tables on all of my visits. Although he also works the line at Eating House in Coral Gables, Rapicavoli has been putting in more time at Taperia since the departure this month of his opening chef de cuisine, Ryan Harrison.

The kitchen change-up may have been to blame for inconsistency between review meals of Taperia’s staple dishes like patatas bravas and marinated octopus. The potatoes came with an off-putting, too-sweet sauce that tasted more like marinara than anything wild, and the pulpo had spent so much time in acid that it turned to mush.

The fact that both dishes had returned to proper form on a return visit speaks well for Taperia’s future success under Rapicavoli’s closer watch.

Daily dessert options tend to skew closer to Eating House’s brand of upgraded munchies than anything found at a Spanish tapas joint. I certainly wasn’t angry over a peach cobbler-bread pudding affair served in a hot skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

A little reggae. Icy sangria. Food that tastes familiar yet new, uncomplicated yet thoroughly enjoyable. Taperia Raca is a Miami tapas bar that distinguishes itself like an apricot in a field of dates. 

Critics dine anonymously at the Miami Herald's expense. Follow @MiamiHeraldFood on Twitter.

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