Is this new Asian fusion inspired restaurant at 210 23rd Street Miami’s next celebrity hot spot, or will it be this location’s next casualty? This address on 23rd Street has gone through many incarnations. Some great, and some dreadful. It has also endured an unfortunate fire in the past. But the space has always been a great one to work with, encompassing and indoor and outdoor garden. This time the Mandrake has opened and may just be the most interesting, dark, sexy and “fantasy like” setting yet. A red flag for me – is it is the same team behind Kiki on the River and the chef from Chotto Matte and Blue Ribbon Sushi. Both those places, although beautifully appointed, and in the case of Chotto Matte, very theatrical, had subpar food. But both those places hosted everyone from athletes to tv personalities and rock stars.

At Mandrake you enter through oversized turquoise doors with antique door knockers. There was no hostess at the stand and I had to go wandering around looking for someone to seat me. An apology would have been nice. Inside, this 5,000 square foot space dazzles. The first room features a lounge and sushi bar, where a gold, life-size sculpture of a gorilla sits. There are neon signs everywhere, and bathrooms hidden behind a lovely mural. I can see a catastrophe happening with only two stalls and numerous guests. To get to the main dining room, you walk beneath faux cherry blossoms and pass through velvet roped off drapery. With flowered Christian Lacroix chairs, a lovely bar, complete with an overhead chandelier and a large faux rhino head on the far wall with neon lights that say “me so horny” – it is all very fun and kitsch. Asian vases and lamps adorn the walls, velvet banquets, and lots of greenery as well as a beautifully painted mural on one wall. Lastly, a lovely, romantic, lush, outdoor garden with candelabras on each table and a faux Japanese style garden in the back.

The menu features hot and cold small plates. I tried the sake nashi, a salmon and Asian pear roll covered in truffle salt. I would have preferred truffle oil instead of the overwhelming salt taste. The shrimp and scallop wontons, steamed in a chili broth, were not good. The wrappers were not that tender and the sauce was sour tasting. I left the majority in my bowl, and they never bothered to ask me if something was wrong when they whisked them away. From the sushi/maki section, I tried the Mandrake roll, with crab, salmon, hamachi, and bluefin tuna in a jalapeño sauce. The roll was adequate but nothing to write home about. The menu also features a handful of nigiri and sashimi, two entrées, and three “sharing is caring” plates that includes a whole fish tempura, 32 ounces tomahawk ribeye and a dry aged steak with chimichurri sauce. They also have a couple of sides. They only offer two desserts, so you think they would put in some effort, but one was a green tea ice cream and the other was an awful mochi, with a tough, grainy wrapper and barely distinguishable flavours.

There is a nice selection of sakes by the glass or bottle, Japanese beers, and clever craft cocktails.
Considering there was lots of staff, I wondered why I was left waiting much of the time. Then they have the nerve to add a 22% service charge to the bill, and a space for additional tip! Really?!

This spot is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. If you are looking for a fantasy-themed restaurant then look no further.

Happy dining,
Shanea

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