Friday, February 27, 2009

Miami restaurant review: Sra Martinez

Michelle Bernstein is one of the best known chefs in Miami, so on our recent trip, we were eager to try out one of her restaurants. Michy's has been around longer, but it was Sra. Martinez, her new tapas restaurant, that caught our eye. We'd heard that's where she's focusing her attention these days, so we figured we might as well get the best of her cooking. Alas neither of her restaurants is in Sobe, so if you're heading down there, be prepared for $20 one-way taxi fare.

Sra Martinez is located in the increasingly hip Design District, surrounded by cutting edge galleries and home decor stores. We were too late to go into any of them, but it seems like a very cool area. Without a reservation, we were seated at the tapas bar, which suited us just fine, although it was a bit cramped and hard for four people to talk along a single side. I've heard Michy's has a strange decor, but Sra Martinez was exactly what I'd expect of a hip Spanish design district spot - low lighting, dark woods and a cool vibe.

Service was prompt and helpful, if not a little overenthusiastic in the amount of detail provided. We heard all about how they make special ice for cocktails - with the perfect water, in the perfect doesn't-water-down-your-drink-shape. One cocktail promised ham-infused Kentucky Bourbon, which of course the boyfriend couldn't resist. I took a quick sip and found that I really could taste the smoky ham flavor, which pared nicely with the bourbon. Not my cup of tea but very interesting indeed. I tried a pisco sour which proved too sweet for me. Not really there fault, though, it's just that I seem to repeatedly forget that I don't really like pisco sours.

Every single dish we tried was delicious. They aren't cheap, priced at about $8-15 a plate, but they were sized well enough that I didn't feel ripped off. The fig/proscuitto/manchengo croquetas were gooey, flavorful and addictive. The fig provided a pleasingly sweet counterpoint to the rich meat and cheese.

As promised by our waiter, the sweetbreads were of the creamy variety, rather than the chewy kind we find at most restaurants. Still not as good as Casa Mono in NY (we're always trying to find a proxy for their to-die-for version), but still better than I've had anywhere else. Bacon wrapped dates with blue cheese and marcona almonds were just as tasty as you'd expect. How can you go wrong when combining four delicious things that see to be made for each other? Again, these were the kind of thing I could mindlessly pop into my mouth while drinking all night, but sadly, our four or so were gone in no time.

We also tried a nightly special, mackerel cooked a la plancha served over a salad of fresh tomatoes that our waiter swore were picked that very day from their own garden. The mackerel was good but the real star were the tomatoes. So bright and brimming with sweet juices - the kind we normally only get in summer. A true treat after so many dreary tomato free months. For dessert we enjoyed a banana bread pudding, good but not particularly memorable. Highlights for me were definitely the more savory, traditional Spanish dishes.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sra Martinez and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Miami. In a town where everything tends to be overpriced, I felt like at $100 bucks or so including tip that we'd had a really lovely night out without being gouged.

Pros: hip decor, delicious Spanish tapas with global influences, creative cocktails
Cons: not cheap but not super expensive, somewhat cramped seating

Sra Martinez
4000 NE Second Ave.
Miami, FL

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