I hope everyone had a good holiday and is ready to start 2014! Unfortunately, the Northeast US is about to get hit with a big, cold, wet blanket (of snow), so I thought I'd throw it back a bit (I really did just realize this qualifies as a #tbt, or Throwback Thursday for those who don't understand hashspeak) to a food review of a trip I took to Miami a few years ago, in the hopes it'll warm you all up. Consider it my gift to you for the new year.
I have only been to Miami once (actually twice, but the first time was on a cruise ship which doesn’t really count), so I am completely unfamiliar with the food scene of the city. However, if Tarpon Bend is any indication, the place is doing just fine. You would imagine that being situated so close to the water would afford it some fantastic weather and seafood, and you would be absolutely correct.
Visiting in March is a fantastic way to remove one’s self from the frigid cold of the Northeast, as Miami was a balmy 80°F with nary a cloud in the sky. I was in town for the day and a local friend took me down to Coral Gables to show me around. We found Tarpon Bend with all of its doors and windows wide open to let the great weather and good vibes into the restaurant. Tarpon Bend is situated on Miracle Mile, which has more in common with the fancier shopping districts outside of Los Angeles than it does anywhere in the New York-metro area. Being surrounded by palm trees and warm (not to mention clean) air help lend to the feeling that this would be a nice place to retire to.
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon, so the place was pretty low-key, though I have read in updates since my visit that it can get pretty hopping with live music and great happy hours. Naturally, in such a pleasant setting, I had to go with something fresh, so I opted for a mojito and we split the smoked fish dip, which they described as “in-house smoked Atlantic King Mackerel with sesame flatbread” (it’s really more like sesame crackers). The mojito was clean and strong, but not overpoweringly so.
The smoked fish dip was certainly more than met the eye. The mackerel was fresh (well, as fresh as smoked fish can get), well-seasoned, and just downright tasty. It’s served in this neat little rubber-sealed glass jar with the sesame crackers and some carrot and celery sticks. I was initially a bit nervous because it was topped with some strong-looking red onion, but one bite allayed my fears. The texture of the dip was balanced out by the crunchiness of the crackers with a little zing provided by the lemon. Paired with my mojito, and I was one happy camper. It is a little embarrassing to say, but I think I found myself scraping the bottom of that little jar for the last bits of the dip as we finished up.
I think the overarching theme of Tarpon Bend is the balance it brings to everything. From the deep wood paneling of the fixtures and the clean display of its bar, to the flavors of the food, it seems pretty clear to me that everyone associated is well-versed in moderation and it shows. The only thing not in moderation was how much I enjoyed the food and the setting, but I can hardly argue against that.