Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Restaurant Review: Baleen, Coconut Grove - Miami Spice Edition

Baleen, located on a private island named Grove Isle in Coconut Grove, was my second stop for this year's Miami Spice month. Having dined there on a regular night, I knew what to expect - stunning decor, serene views of the bay and downtown, and delicious food.

I met up with the rest of my party of 7 and the hostess brought us to a nice, long table outside. Right off the bat, my friends commented that "this place is sweet!" When I made the reservation I let them know we'd be doing Miami Spice so they had the menus ready along with a wine list. We ordered a great wine, 2003 Truchard Pinot Noir, which was reasonably marked up 50% at $60. I had the thai lobster bisque for my appetizer and man was it good. The broth was a traditional bisque with an added twist of coconut milk, sake, and jasmine that really reminded me of tom kha gai, which is one of my favorite thai dishes. Add in a fat piece of lobster tail and this dish had it all.

For my entree, I thought about the short ribs but I didnt want that hearty of a dish. Some in my party had that dish and said it was really tasty but very filling. I went with the wild king salmon, mostly because it came with a three potato black bean hash, corn nage, and chipotle cream that sounded awesome. The salmon was good but it was slightly overcooked, not enough that it was too dry, but I like my salmon more of a medium rare. The hash had a nice sweetness to it due to the sweet potatoes and, although I thought it was a separate item, the corn nage was mixed in with the hash which added a nice fresh flavor. I wish that the dish contained more of the chipotle cream as the amount on the plate was about the size of a quarter and only added flavor to a few bites.

I opted for the apple tart for dessert and I did not care for it at all. Im not a dessert person really, but I dont need to be in order to point out that this dish missed the mark. First off, it was not warm as advertised and the pastry was really dry. The almonds totally overpowered the dish to the point that I think someone may have overdosed it with almond extract. The ice cream could have saved the dish, but the portion was minuscule.

The overall dining experience could have gone better. I was really disappointed in the fact that it took about an hour to get our appetizers, then another 30-45 minutes before the entrees arrived. During this time, we consumed 3 bottles of wine and it gave some of us the impression that it was intended to boost the tab at the end of the night. We had an 830p reservation and finished dinner at 1130p which was unreasonably long. I thought the food could have been better as well. The appetizers were great, the entree was good but not great, and the dessert was two thumbs down. If I hadnt been there before Id have questioned ever going back, but I know they can do better and Baleen is just a great atmosphere to dine in. So, grab a date and head over to Baleen to give it a try yourself. If the food falters, at least you will have a nice evening under the stars overlooking the bay that will definitely end with a goodnight smooch, guaranteed. ;)

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