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Sra.Martinez, you complete me

January 22, 2011

And before I go any further into 2011 territory, please allow me to share one of the memorable meals of 2010. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to end 2010, than by discovering Sra.Martinez in Miami.

On a Wednesday night, we took a 30 minute cab ride from our beach hotel to the Design District. Unfortunately, most of the shops and galleries had closed, so we did some window browsing before our reservation.

Sra. Martinez is the tapas-inspired restaurant from Chef Michelle Bernstein (famed Miami Chef and former Top Chef guest Judge). It is on the corner of NE 40th and NE 2nd Ave. I only mention the configurations, because, strangely, they are possible.

The restaurant is housed in a beautiful restored former Post Office building.

photo : Miami Design District dot net

It was quiet that night, with the exception of a vibrant corner table of fabulously dressed women. They were exchanging Holiday gifts and having a merry good time (in a non-quiet type of way). Our server that evening was delightful. To prevent any of that ‘you’re ordering too much food, says the waiter’ we informed our good server that ‘we’ll be ordering a lot of food’. He completely understood in that way non-Eastern Europeans do.

We started with Prosecco and the Pan con Tomate with sardines.

Pan con Tomate with Sardines

To my absolute delight, Bone Marrow was on the menu. What sounded like a strange pairing with apple salad, apple butter and the marrow, turned out to be more luscious and decadent than I imagined. Crisp tart green apples paired with the rich, silky marrow was a lesson in pleasured contrast. Loved it. Really successful.

Bone Marrow with apple salad and apple butter

Yet another view of the Bone Marrow.

I’ve checked the menu a few times since our visit in December. It appears Bone Marrow is a set menu item with changing components as dreamed up by the talented Chef Berenice de Araujo. I am confident that her latest Bone Marrow dish with Schwarma Spice, Sumac Pickled Onions, and Tomato Marmalade is just as amazing.

Next we ordered the Egg yolk Carpaccio. Sounded intriguing enough. Turns out it is more than intriguing. More than interesting. And just down. right. phenomenal. It is also one of their most popular dishes on the menu. After just one bite, you can certainly taste why. This was a ‘moaning with pleasure’ dish.

Egg Yolk Carpaccio, Sweet Shrimp, crispy Potatoes.

Because they can. Just outstanding.

To end, we ordered the Paella. It was important to my dining companion that we try it. He has recently become quite skilled at making a consistently gorgeous tasting Paella (so he’s a little obsessed with the Paella of others). Sra. Martinez does their Paella in a different way. But as it is, most places do. Everyone has their own style.

Sra. Martinez’s version of a Paella.

Components are cooked separately and then brought together at the end, and plated in harmonious clusters.

On the left-hand side: a generous portion of Calamari, followed by Mussels, roast Chicken (crispy and juicy), local Prawns, and below are the succulent grains of moist Bamba rice.

By mid-meal we were raving to our server about how much we were enjoying the food. And soon after we were paid a visit by the General Manager Jorge who wanted to thank us for coming and find out whether we were slightly crazy. Let it be known that Jorge is just a class act. Genuinely fabulous. We told him where we were from and we went on to rave to him about how incredible the food at Sra. Martinez is. Somehow it came up that I had lived and worked in Houston. Turns out the Chef at Sra. Martinez had also worked in Houston. Jorge brings out of the kitchen Chef Berenice de Araujo. We praise her, bow to her feet and beg for more food. Just kidding. We do praise her, though, and let her know she is a damn super. star. She is every bit gracious and every bit humble. We exchange contact info and she told us that if we needed any restaurant recommendations to let her know.

A few days letter she recommended we try Pubbelly, a new gastro pub in South Beach. Great recommendation. She also mentioned she has some new menu items she is testing, and might we be interested in trying them. Well does a bear shit in the woods? (Actually, a bear shits everywhere, but never mind.) Needless to say we decided to spend our last night in Miami eating at Sra. Martinez. Can’t imagine any other place I’d rather be (now) that night.

To start, we ordered the Egg Yolk Carpaccio (yes, again). Just to be sure it was every bit as amazing as it was the first time.

Please believe me when I tell you it was. This combination of potatoes and eggs is just mindblowing. Pleasantly tangled beneath the crisp potatoes are whole pieces of shrimp. They lend an unexpected sweet, smoky saltiness to the dish. You are left crying for more. On both occasions, I used the table bread (also incredible) to soak up the last bits of egg yolk. Because I can.

Next, Chef sent out a Pan con Tomate with Jamon Serrano. Sure, I’ve had Pan Con Tomate before. We had it on the last visit. But this one somehow supersedes any Pan con Tomate before it. It was truly like no other I have ever tasted. The super thin slices of luscious Jamon Serrano also helped complete this dish along with the L’ Estornell drizzle.

Pan con Tomate with Jamon

Then there was the risotto.

Squid Ink Risotto with Calamari, Chimichurri and Aioli

Only problem here was that the portion was too small. This risotto was everything right in the world.

Now ready for more,

Chef then sent out four more new dishes for us to try. Yes, four. I think.

Foie with Strawberry preserves and pancake

You can never go wrong with Foie paired with fruit. I’d like to think this could be a breakfast of champs. Bacon would have sent this over the edge.

Moussaka

Fuzzy picture of a delightful dish. Chef Berenice’s version of a Moussaka. Would love this again and think it should go on the menu.

The next dish is a favorite. I do mean favorite. Bacon-wrapped anything helps. But really just refined flavors, clean (tasting), and beautifully presented. We couldn’t stop talking about this dish. Just very memorable. I hope she will find room for this on the menu, or include a seasonal variation of it.

Bacon wrapped Rabbit, Panisse, Carrot-Cumin sauce

Another ‘ooh and ahh’ dish was this sashimi of fluke. Again, simple and un complicated flavors. Just highly memorable.

Fluke, crispy Asparagus, Citrus, Olive oil, Micro greens

After the entire meal, we decided to order only one dessert. I’m a Churros kind of gal, so Churros it was. Churros to me, is Paella to him. I had to give them a go.

Churros with Spiced Chocolate sauce

I mustered several bites before giving up. The leftovers served as necessary nostalgia on the early morning plane ride back. We rolled out of Sra. astoundingly satisfied and sad to be leaving Miami. Delicately placed in a cab by Jorge, we plotted and schemed about how fast we could get back for another phenomenal dinner…

Currently still plotting and scheming on that..

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