For those of you who have not heard, Miami ended up being more than sandy beaches, restaurants, and shops. Saturday night, Dan popped the question on our balcony overlooking the ocean, and I said “yes!” Our original dinner plans would have left us celebrating the elation of engagement at Mercadito Midtown; however, due to some Yelp-ing on the beach early in the afternoon, we decided to nix our reservation there because of some very poor reviews. The replacement restaurant we chose caught our attention due to its rave, and I mean RAVE, reviews on Yelp. Since we couldn’t get a reservation for OLA Saturday night, we eagerly confirmed for Sunday night and allowed our anticipation to build throughout the following 24 hours. Dear OLA, you were well worth the wait.
OLA is the golden child of Chef Douglas Rodriguez who famously categorizes his cuisine as “Nuevo Latino” and is the recipient of many prestigious culinary awards and the owner and brains behind the flavors of several praise-worthy restaurants. Beware, OLA could be a game-changer for those of you who express unwavering loyalty to your one favorite foodie spot. I’ll be honest, my loyalty to Frontera Grill had been unshakable since high school until experiencing OLA. Don’t worry, Frontera, it would take many more OLA rendevous for your #1 spot in my foodie heart to truly be in question.
Beyond the swanky serenity created by OLA’s elaborate, yet understated, decor, there is a palpable vibe of energetic anticipation for the culinary adventures to come. Dan and I most certainly fed off of this vibe and decided to relinquish the majority of the decision-making control to our waiter. I should preface my food reviews by saying that, like a spawn of Freudian theory, I reverted back to my pesco-vegetarian days for the evening as I wanted to fully experience the offerings of the menu.
Our meal began with the Fire and Ice ceviche: cobia marinated in sour orange with Thai chiles, cilantro, and jalapeno served over saia pear granita. The name of this ceviche comes from the unique pairing of spicy Thai chiles with the cool saia pear granita which causes your tongue to rapidly cycle through hot and cold sensations. The ceviche was bright and fiery while maintaining a delicate balance of flavor, and each of the ingredients played an important role in enhancing and supporting the flavor palate as a whole. This dish will quite easily take hold of a piece of any devout ceviche lover’s heart.
Next up in our OLA-rrific dining experience was the Lobster Empanada which is created by filling squid ink dough with Maine lobster and butter. The result is the most mysterious looking and best tasting empanada I have ever encountered. Bordered by smears of avocado and salsa rosa, the jet black empanada sits beckoning its first indulger to break through its pastry-like crust. Feeling brave, I cut into the empanada and plated portions for Dan and I. At first bite, the crust was light and crisp but evolved into richer, more complex flavors as I continued to chew, and the filling… oh, the filling. There are no words to describe the decadence of the lobster filling; it is buttery, richly savory, and blissful. This dish is a must-have if you make it to OLA.
At this point in the meal I was fairly certain I had maxed-out my taste buds and that nothing else could top the two prior indulgences; however, I was very wrong. Our waiter suggested the filet mignon for Dan’s main and the Pionono for mine. The Pionono (how fun is that word?!) is a sweet plantain roulade stuffed with green and yellow zucchini, spinach, piquillo peppers, and parmesan cheese. The pillow-like roulades come nestled on stripes of black bean sauce and oregano-infused oil and are nearly as impressive in presentation as they are in flavor. The Pionono was creamy, slightly spicy, and altogether delicious. Vegetarians and meat-lovers will share in their love for this satisfying dish.
Last, but never least, was dessert. Loosening the decorative tie around the waist of my dress, I decided that there was still room, albeit minimal, for dessert. Dan and I decided that we could rally our appetites for the Deconstructed Key Lime Pie and ordered accordingly. Again, the presentation was unique and photo-worthy (although, my photo is definitely not contest-worthy — my apologies). More importantly, the flavors and textures of this dessert were out of this world. The key lime custard was dense and packed full of bright citrus flavor, the toasted meringue was light and exceptionally creamy, and the vanilla bean ice cream served as a cool accompaniment to the richness of the dessert. This was the perfect way to finish out our culinary adventures at OLA Miami.
On a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate OLA a 9.5. Dan considers it the best meal of his life, to date, and it is certainly up there for me — battling between every meal I’ve had at Frontera, Tra Vigne (2008), and dinner in Beringer’s Black Room (2004) for the number one spot. Bottom line: get yourself to OLA.