Downtown Miami is a bonanza for the culinarily curious and budget-conscious. Sure, getting there — and especially parking —can be a pain for those of us who don’t work in the area or have some other reason for going. And I’ve got a good one: Martini 28. Despite the name, there are no cocktails here. And the 28? It’s a personal thing between the ambitious young owners, Martin and Charo Villacorta, a husband-wife team from Lima who are as hospitable a couple as I’ve met in all my years of dining out.
The menu changes daily, with some 100 dishes in rotation. While not every one is exceptional, the enthusiastic service and amazingly low prices are. My tab for a satisfying and delicious three-course lunch ($32 with tax and tip) was less than I’d paid for a single subpar entrée at a South Beach steakhouse. You can order ala carte, but the $9.99 prix-fixe lunch with a dozen choices is the way to go. At dinner — for now served only twice a week — the price is only $2 more.
Ambience: 2-year-old Martini 28 is tucked inside a retail ghost town called “The Village.” Here, tucked into what feels like an ancient European courtyard, is a surprisingly modern spot with seating inside and out. The dining room is lined with cozy white vinyl booths and lighted with low-slung drum chandeliers. Sparkly black tables are flecked in gold, and the ceiling is painted matte black. The music ranges from opera to You Make Me Feel Brand New.
- A fresh Caesar-esque bowl of chopped Romaine with a kicky dressing
- Richm delicious corn chowder & creamy broccoli soup full of fresh vegetables
- A tender lobster skewer – bite-size chunks well seasoned with crunchy squares of red pepper
- Roasted yellow baby potatoes with bits of fresh scallion.
- Martini mahi with shrimp in a subtly tangy and sweet orange sauce – fish is tender and fresh, and the steamed vegetables are perfect in their clean simplicity
- Cheese flan – a thin slice of spongy but dense sweet custard drenched in caramelized sugar syrupLucuma mousse
- A drinks menu that works just fine with the fare – ice cold sodas, including neon yellow Inka cola, fresh juices, sparkling waters, beers and six wines
What Didn’t Work
- Lomo saltado
- Bland & gritty yuca huancaina