Spaniards are night owls. They spend their evenings exploring their neighborhoods, meeting friends for drinks and a bite, before moving on as a group to the next bar and the next bar and the next... And the world has taken notice.
Tapas, or small plates meant to be shared, have become part of the American culture and in Miami restaurant concepts that stray from organized affairs and push an array of dishes served family style are becoming the norm. But special notice must be paid to the real tapas restaurants. The one serving the style of cuisine that paved the way for the rest of the world to shrink plates down in size and multiply in quantities. Here are Miami’s best Spanish tapas restaurants.
Wonderful things for the waistline and palate can happen when a tapas restaurant lacks a fryer. NIU Kitchen is proof of that. The literal hole in the wall at the epicenter of downtown might not be fancy, but its got a sense of charm and individuality you likely won’t find anywhere else in the city. Take the cold tomato soup (not to be confused with a gazpacho), decorated with a scoop of Dijon mustard ice cream and Manchego pesto. Or the eggs: poached eggs submerged beneath truffled potato foam with slivers of jamon Iberico and shavings of black truffle. If it sounds like a bizarre take on huevos rotos, that’s cause it is. Like everything else on the menu at NIU, it’s oozing with eccentricity and flavor.
Think of Rosa like your overly caring mom that is concerned whether you’re eating enough (and well) every time you visit her. That’s exactly the relationship between the loyal customers who’ve been going to this strip mall gem for almost a decade. Everything is cooked with love and the prices are fair, with almost all tapas clocking in at under $10. Whether you go with boquerones en vinagre, callos a la Madrilèna, or morcilla frita, don’t expect to eat anything that doesn’t emanate from true Spanish home cooking.
A Spanish gastrobar in the heart of Coral Gables, Bulla (true to its name) has been causing a ruckus since it opened in the former Por Fin space. Young professionals flock to the exposed bar for pitchers of sangria and to cheer on their favorite futbol team. But sit at a table and grab a menu, which pulls out all the Spanish stops. From embutido platters laden with soft pork sausage from Mallorca seasoned with paprika and cheeses from the Basque country to cazuelas sizzling with gambas, garlic and guindilla peppers, Bulla’s tapas succeed on every level.
The food at Barceloneta speaks for itself, although not in traditional Castilian dialect. It’s a deviation from authentic Spanish fare and that’s perfectly fine because it means succulent langoustines are grilled in garlic, sherry and a tantalizing chocolate, saffron and mashed roasted almond sauce. Chorizo a la sidra sounds old-fashioned, until you realize apples and blue cheese in the blistering casserole. But perhaps the one tapa that shouldn’t go unordered here is the pulpo a fiera. Tender octopus tentacles are hidden beneath fingerling potato foam enriched by chorizo and a piquillo pepper emulsion. Barceloneta proffers Spanish tapas like you’ve never had them before.
Think of dining at The Bazaar like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. James Beard award winning and celebrity chef Jose Andres drags you into his culinary wonderland where if given the chance, you’d remain for there for eating eternity. From the shell-encrusted chandelier to the Iberico ham croquetas, which come served in a glass sneaker, The Bazaar oozes with whimsy. Flavors extend far beyond Spain’s roots and explore far off parts of the world: Singapore, Japan, and Latin America. Sure, you’ll have the best little sandwich Cubano, Swiss foam is injected in airbread and topped with housemade pickles Iberico pork meat, you’ve ever had and not had. But you’ll also have authentic gazpacho and patatas bravas that crackle on the outside and are pureed at the center.