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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ortanique onThe Mile

     Miami Spice... two months of the year when budget-conscious foodies in this city can sample restaurants on the higher side of the price spectrum and still pay their mortgage. Genius!
     I was nervous about this adventure because I had great expectations. The buzz on Ortanique was good and based just on that, I boldly decided to mention it in my novel-in-progress "Friends of the Bride". It was a good call. The place delivered and then some!
     If you blink, you might miss the minuscule exterior next to the Miracle Theater. Once you do find it, a large flamingo painted in bright, tropical colors greets you outside the door. From that moment on, the theme of the restaurant envelops you and the surroundings- ortaniques, a cross between sweet oranges and tangerines first discovered in Jamaica.
      From the vivid orange fruit painted on black walls, to the joyful yellow chiffon draperies that enclose certain seating areas, to the elegant china pattern featuring the peculiar fruit, there is no doubt that this is the kingdom of the ortanique, and once you enter it, I challenge you to ever forget it. A tear almost formed in my eye when we were paying the bill because I simply didn't want to leave!
     A warm shoutout to Gigi Chirolis, the restaurant manager and gracious hostess, who greeted us with a wide, welcoming smile and made us feel like VIPs. Our waiter John was also personable and attentive. It's so nice (and rare these days) to find such delightfully professional people in the food service industry. Now, let me tell you about my new best friend, Bartender Kevin. He single-handedly restored my faith that there are barkeeps out there capable of making the elusive lychee martini to my satisfaction. Kevin, you nailed it! Hubby continued on his Beers of the World tour and tried a Red Stripe Jamaican lager and gave it a thumbs up.
     The Miami Spice menu usually offers a prix fixe three-course meal. For appetizers, I ordered the ceviche and John had the broccoli cream soup. The ceviche was fresh and tangy and even the touch of spice didn't offend my sensitive palate. The soup was creamy and delicate with a surprise bit of cheese mixed into the cream that made you savor every spoonful just a little longer.
     We both ordered the pan sauteed grouper, marinated in Teriyaki and sesame oil with Ortanique orange liqueur and Bacardi Limon sauce. It came topped with steamed seasoned chayote and carrots on a citrus sweet plantain-boniato (white sweet potato) mash. The fish was meaty and sensuously touched by the sauce, but the mash was the superstar of this dish. The sweetness of the plantain, the velvet luxury of the boniato and the playfulness of the citrus, all mix in your mouth so delectably, you just have to close your eyes and experience the flavors one by one. I tried to replicate this item at home the very next week, and needless to say, much improvement is needed on my version.
      Then, it was time for dessert. We ordered the cheesecake zabayon with berries and the coconut Tres Leches. The zabayon delivered a lush creaminess with the rich flavor of cheesecake, all tempered by the freshness of the berries. The Tres Leches was a soft sponge soaked in coconut deliciousness that gushed wet and sweet in my mouth.
     I love it when a dining adventure becomes an unforgettable memory!

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