The Dining Room

 

The Dining Room earns 3 stars for "sharp, sweet, whimsical & impossible to ignore" eats

the dining room

Victoria Pesce Elliott

It would be easy to ignore The Dining Room, a sliver of a South Beach restaurant wedged between a busy Italian trattoria and a papered-over storefront south of Fifth Street. In fact, I did for a while. The name? Hardly compelling. The chef? Never heard of him. But over the past six months, an unmistakable buzz has been humming from this spot. A reader sent a note. A friend sent a text. Even my former dentist said I’d love the place. And I do.

The menu includes some of the best Miami has to offer. Our delicately tattooed and perpetually smiling waiter explained that the owners, brothers Brian and Zachary Lieberman, “borrowed” Horacio Rivadero, the executive chef at Douglas Rodriguez’s OLA, to design the menu. “They just said put anything you want on it and he did.” The Argentine native, who has worked under the talented Rodriguez since 2003, now splits his time between OLA and this tiny gem, turning out impressive plates with pizzazz. You can see the team of four cooks hustling in the six-burner galley in a quiet choreography that works remarkably well. Dishes come out quickly, and waiters seem to have a handle on pacing a meal.

Ambience: With seven tables inside and another dozen on the crowded sidewalk, The Dining Room could charitably be called intimate. The decor isn’t much: roughly stuccoed, chocolate-brown walls, family photos, an over-sized chandelier and faux pillar candles. (Neat freaks will want to avoid the scruffy bathroom.)

What Worked

  • A basket of warm French bread rounds with ever-so-subtle whipped white-truffle butter
  • A spice jar of super-briny house-made pickles
  • A dozen perfect littleneck clams steamed in a broth of roasted grape tomatoes, slivers of trumpet mushrooms, ají limo (a Peruvian pepper) and a whiff of garlic
  • Delicious loud & boldfly flavored ceviches and tiraditos
  • Cobia ceviche with a mild citrus edge and a punch of sour grapefruit sorbet - tender white slices of fish showered in see-through sheets of red onion and pungent basil
    Fresh and well-tended salads
  • Hearty duck confit over tiny plumes of arugula
  • Slivers of gently grilled apricots with a zingy kumquat vinaigrette
  • A 19-bottle wine list, that while could use more depth and breadth, offers enough decently priced choices to satisfy most diners
  • A generous corkage policy
  • Crazy-delicious, braised-all-day pork - luxuriously juicy meat with nice crisp bits that falls into shreds with a touch of the fork and is accompanied by a green mustard sauce with real bite, vinegary radish threads and pools of white bean puree that provide welcome respite from the wonderful flavor bounces
  • A gorgeous rectangle of halibut
  • A skin-on whole branzino with lemony mashed potatoes, artichoke escabeche and a bracing hit of oregano oil
  • Sublime mashed potatoes with a gentle huff of hickory-smoked butter
  • Baked Patagonia - a fun, swooshy confection of pistachio cake and dulce de leche ice cream capped with scorched meringue and drenched in passion fruit sauce and berries
  • Elegant and deceptively simple espresso tres leches cake topped with a puff of orange foam

 

What Didn't Work

  • A grayish New York strip that came out looking more steamed than seared

 

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