It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to food, but one new restaurant in Miami has me ecstatic. I am celebrating the arrival of the legendary Chef Carlos Garcia, and his 3-month-old restaurant (as of this writing) Obra Kitchen Table in the Jade Building at 1331 Brickell Avenue.
Chef Garcia is no slouch, but has an excellent pedigree, with cooking stints at the famed El Bulli, El Celler Can Roca, and Mugaritz in Spain, before opening his own restaurant Alto, in Venezuela in 2007. He has been on the Worlds 50 Best Latin Restaurant list from 2013-2016. With all the unrest and uncertainty in Venezuela, he has decided to open his first stateside establishment in Miami. His restaurant is directly across from La Petit Maison on the ground floor of the Jade Building in Brickell, overlooking the water and palm trees.
It is housed in a modern 3,015 square foot space where the focal point is the 25 seat wrap around bar – the best seats in the house – where you can see the chefs in action, at the Josper grill where the chefs give heat and char to dishes, or where they are creating dramatic desserts. The walls are done in a mint green subway tile, with black and white artwork of native Venezuelan people as well as video art. The restaurant seats about 70 inside and an additional 18 outside. Plans are for a long chefs table near the entrance across from the bar. This concept is different for the chef. He is used to cooking in fine dining establishments. This space is young, casual, unpretentious and reasonably priced. But the caliber of the food still has a flawless harmony of dynamic flavors. The chefs food has an unexpected mix of unique flavors, creating modern South American and Latin dishes.
We were honoured to not only have Chef Garcia cooking in the house when we were there, but to also personally serve us almost every dish. I can tell you that this talented giant of a man (literally and figuratively) was humble and most gracious. We left our meal in his creative hands and we were not disappointed. While we waited for his magic I ordered one of their signature cocktails. I prefer a sweet drink and was pleased with my choice of a Guanatini, with Grey Goose, St. Germaine, burned guanabana and lychee. There are a dozen signature cocktails as well as mocktails, beer, sangria and wines.
Our first course was a cobia tiradito, with pineapple, rum, leche de tigre, sofrito paste and crispy kale. These flavors all tied together so well. Next up was a kale, Brussels sprout and green asparagus salad, hidden beneath thinly sliced watermelon radish. One of Obra’s signature dishes was next, thinly cut crispy shoestring fries, topped with a fried egg and sea urchin. You toss it all together for a bite of harmonious ying and yang. One of my favourite dishes is from the Miami Spice menu, a fresh mozzarella with a creamy and bursting with flavor, black bean sauce with avocado and coconut, and then topped with a perfect arepa. Another signature dish was the octopus carbonara, a different take on the Italian specialty, which I still prefer. We had the catch of the day, a cobia, with roasted sunchokes in a salsa verde, which was excellent. But for me the highlight was a fall off the bone, tender and tasty lamb in a coconut and curry sauce served on a corn pancake. This dish had so many wonderful components and I could have honestly licked the plate if no one was looking. For dessert, which was prepared directly in front of us, we delighted in the toxic chocolate creation, which comprised of a chocolate sponge cake, chocolate ice cream, passion fruit gel, Malden salt, and burnt white chocolate served inside a crisp thin cookie tube. And then if that weren’t enough, I had the best quesillo of my life. Each bite consisted of a thick, creamy custard, with a subtle essence of rum, on top of a butter cookie, with caramel sauce with whipped cream and caramel whipped cream, with burned white chocolate crumble. Our server Mariana checked on us after every course to see what we thought of every bite. GM Hosman Bolboa runs a tight ship and was very hospitable.
After 9pm they turn up the music, and the place was packed even during the usual slow months of summer. The restaurant is open for lunch Monday to Friday, and is a bargain, and for dinner Monday to Saturday. They have a happy hour Monday to Friday from 4 pm till 8.
My meal was a gastronomic feast, that was creative, ambitious, innovative and yet unpretentious, approachable and casual. Considering the pedigree of the chef, the food was moderately priced. Like Massimo Bottura, Chef Carlos has a foundation which helps to feed hungry children. He has dubbed his cuisine “cucina sabrosa”, which means delicious, enjoyable food prepared with recognizable, local ingredients, presented in the most unpretentious and creative way. I couldn’t agree more.