Monday, February 15, 2010

Miami Beach Talula - Tapas with Style and Bold Taste!

Talula offers bold tastes in a warm friendly atmosphere on Miami Beach, and has done well for years.

I visited with a party of ten, and after sharing over a dozen appetizers, wines, mains and desserts, we can't wait to come back!
While there's no valet parking, there's limited parking next door, and more within a block or two. Enter, and the bar's on the left, dining room on the right, with kitchen behind the dining room and a large covered outdoor area straight ahead, past the bar, that'll seat a large banquet. Walls are yellow and dark brick, lighting is comfortably low, and chairs are comfortable.

Oscar, our server was very attentive during our meal, suggesting top appetizers, and not steering us to pricey wines. We had two winners, the $34 Brownstone Merlot, and the ~42 Pavillion Merlot (or was it a Cab?). There's lots of apps, or tapas, and we sampled many of them.

My three favorites were the duck rillette Monte Cristo, a delight with lightly seasoned duck in a crisp shell ($8), and the braised beef tongue with dried cherries, Parmigiano Reggiano, spinach and smoked bacon (13) (below), and the grilled foie gras with caramelized fruit, candied walnuts and red chile syrup for $18. The $14 tuna tartar with Serrano chiles, crispy rice and trout roe is good, but not that unusual.

The tender, succulent marinated beef skewers are tops at $6, and the spicy grilled shrimp merit two orders! The garlic and white wine steamed little neck clams is a good portion in a cup for $7. The $14 cork braised octopus is tender, not rubbery, and the daily rissoto is always said to be worthwhile. The calamari salad was gobbled up.
The ceviche with a lime-soy-ginger root and chilis on avocado, with tobiko on the side is a little too strong for my Peruvian-schooled ceviche tastes. Still, where do you get good ceviche for $8?

I flipped over my prime aged spinalis steak for $42, rare as ordered. You can have your mild filet mignons for $36; I like the ribeye cut the best, and the ribeye's narrow "cap" is the long flat spinalis, bursting with taste and generously marbled. Talula seasons it lightly, sears it and serves the prime aged spinalis rib steak with a fried onion ring. This is the king of steaks for those who like generous marbling and taste, and it's a large portion!

The marinated black angus skirt steak ($24) was praised. There's a 7 course tasting menu that's $78 and with wines is $140-I may go for the former on my next visit.

Sides are reasonably priced .My favoite was the roasted brussels sprouts with smoked Tasso ham (6), followed by the sauteed mushrooms with herbs and white truffle oil (6). You can't go wrong with the Maples roasted sweet potatoes (5) or the garlic sauteed broccoli rabe (6).

Dessert is strong, with a very good creme brulee or apple crumble favored.

This is one of the best meals I've had on the Beach in a long time, and my table of ten had to be pried away to go off to see the boats of the Boat Show. I'd rank Talula a tiny bit above Michy's for its warmth and cuisine, as Michy's can be a bit noisy and cramped. Michy's has a wider, more cosmopolitan variety of similarly quite tasty food, so you'll have enjoyable food at either top spot. We ate at Scarpetta the next night, with its glitzier setting and pricier yet tasty foods, and you'll definitely get better service and bang for your buck at Talula.

Talula, 210 23rd Street, Miami Beach, (305) 672-0778

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