The big review: Abokado ***

 Viva, El Diablo, Surf & Turf and Abokado Crunch. Photo: Charles Trainor Jr.

It’s surprising just how good Abokado is.

A good selection of wines includes the spicy whites that complement Asian food as well as a wide range of sakes. And a number of cocktails are tart variations on martinis, leaving the palate fresh for the flavors to come.

The menu tilts heavily toward Japanese raw fish and its South American cousins, ceviches, tiraditos and estiraditos, Abokado’s name for fish carpaccio. Tuna and hamachi ceviches and tiraditos were wonderful, but the tuna estiradito, dressed with white truffle oil, was outstanding. Another appetizer, abokado nachos, was composed of tuna, avocado, cucumber and sprouts atop crispy shiso leaves that stand in for tortilla chips. As leery as I am of deconstructed cuisine, this slightly mind-bending twist on the most commonplace of Mexican-American antojitos struck me as whimsical and, more importantly, truly tasty.

When it comes to rolls, the kitchen gave free rein to the imagination, with names like “Envy” and “Bossa Nova.” The former was a boldly Mexican combo of hamachi, cilantro, avocado and jalapeño wrapped in green soy paper. In inexpert hands, creative rolls can be cloying, but the Abokado combinations strike a pleasant balance of flavors and textures. So do rolls that include tempura shrimp, always a dicey move because nothing is worse than a greasy roll. Here, the tempura simply added crunch to soft textures like the Bossa Nova’s salmon, avocado, chipotle crema and Asian pear. Only a surf and turf roll — lobster and beef — proved disappointing: not unpleasant but a bit bland.

With Abokado’s cornucopia of sushi-inspired dishes, a diner need not venture into entree territory. Still, I felt compelled to taste them, and what struck me was the level of down-home satisfaction they delivered. Grilled beef filet was full of flavor, most likely from a marinade, and was served on a bed of mashed yuca and succotash. The pan-seared bass got a flavor boost from a ginger, lime and chile glaze, and was served on a generous portion of sushi rice. For all the delicacy of flavor, this was stick-to-your-ribs fare.

A yuzu tequila sorbet offered a light, Asian-inspired ending, but I decided to go whole-hog Latin with churros, thick and delicious, with dipping sauces of mango coulis, white chocolate and dulce de leche. Abokado is a fusion restaurant that walks a fine line between delicacy and comfort.

Abokado, Mary Brickell Village, 900 S. Miami Ave., Brickell; 305-347-3700; noon-11 p.m. Sun-Wed, noon-midnight Thurs-Sat; ceviches, tiraditos and estiraditos $10-$16; rolls $3-$18; entrees $22-$32; desserts $8-$9.

FYI: Valet parking $15. Reservations suggested. Corkage $15. AX, MC, VS, DN, DS.

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Published: 6/08


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