Cafe Roval: ⭐️⭐️ 1/2 (Good)
Like an aging diva who knows how to present her best side, Café Roval requires diners to walk down a narrow, stone side path to enter through a lush garden with a waterfall and rock-rimmed pond.
Except for Sunday brunch, the restaurant in Miami’s Upper East Side opens only in the forgiving light of evenings.
The 120-seat, one-room dining room, overlooking the backyard oasis, is a 1923 historic pump house that once delivered water to Morningside and then-Lemon City. Built from oolitic limestone, the house is covered in vines and twinkling lights.
If we could eat with our eyes, this would be a five-star restaurant.
But Mark Soyka — the pioneering restaurateur who bestowed us with News Cafe in an undiscovered, decrepit South Beach in 1988 and Van Dyke Cafe on a deserted Lincoln Road in 1994 — is better known for his keen sense of place, not plates. He has spent his career in Miami turning historic structures into charming eating spaces, providing community in up-and-coming neighborhoods.
Café Roval’s one-page menu is divided simply into starters, main dishes and side vegetables. Twelve appetizers range from seasonal oysters and Royal Siberian Osetra caviar to salads and a cheese board. A yellowfin tuna crudo with flat bread is a fine beginning, dressed with salty-tart ponzu dressing, red onions and capers then topped with baby greens. A crowning speckled quail egg still in the miniscule, half-opened shell can be poured over the top as a silky, buttery sauce. Another reliable starter: firm and chilled wild tiger shrimp, three to a plate and served with cocktail sauce and Meyer lemon zest aioli.
Café Roval deserves attention because she has good history and bones. Out of respect and fascination, we’ll return — we just hope it doesn’t rain.