Vine-covered Hotel St. Michel, built in 1926 as the Sevilla, oozes Old World charm in the middle of Coral Gables, with ornately tiled floors, Belgium rugs, vaulted ceilings, a brass elevator and even the original telephone switchboard behind the front desk. But if you drive past and think the place appears dark and empty, you would be correct. The 28-room boutique hotel has long struggled to offer a dining option equal to its elegant location. The streak, unfortunately, remains unbroken.
As the first American extension of a Lima-based restaurant chain, Vivaldino, which opened late last year, gets the fundamentals right. Stray beyond that at your peril.
Ambience. Just off the lost-in-time lobby, the new Peruvian-themed Vivaldino restaurant could claim one of the most romantic settings in South Florida. French doors and big picture windows overlook Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Bebel Gilberto whispers sexy bossa nova tunes from discreet speakers. Images of glistening pink crustaceans on the front of the poster-size menu promise sea-based delights.
- Big white bowls of steaming pasta and risotto that are delivered with aplomb by a waiter in a black vest, red tie and long white apron
- A respectable seafood ceviche sampler with diced shrimp, scallops, calamari, white fish & a pepper-spiked citrus marinade
- Sashimi-thin sole tiradito, marinated in lemon and yellow hot peppers
- Lomo saltado- beef stir-fry with onions and tomatoes served over rice and french fries
What Didn’t Work
- Mushy risotto iqueño, tinted an alarmingly bright green by a mash of asparagus and artichoke,
- Powdered Parmesan cheese
- Overly sweet champagne-shallot reduction pooled at the bottom of corvina topped with crab meat and shrimp
- A sugary marsala sauce that made sirloin steak strips atop fettuccine seem more like dessert
- Desserts – New York-style cheesecake, apple pie, chocolate cake – that don’t try very hard
- Staff that was too busy to be bothered with questions about the menu
- A wine list that never materialized,
- The menu’s whited-out, handwritten-in prices