I was recently invited to check out La Mancha, a new Spanish restaurant in Downtown Miami. It is conveniently located across the street from the American Airlines Arena, and a few blocks away from the Arsht Center, so it is perfect for a pre- or post-game or theater outing. They have another location in Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville, so the restaurant itself is not a new concept, just the location.
The interior is lovely, warm and inviting, and service is friendly from the moment you arrive. But how is the food?
Well, the menu is huge, so there was only so much we could sample the first time there, but it is very good. Although they have many entree choices, from fish and seafood to steaks and chicken, and are known for their paella, somehow we managed to stay reasonably on diet. We stuck to the tapas, with the operating theory that if we ordered small things, we could try many of them. We did just that.
We started with the gambas ajillo, and I will tell you this: the portabello ajillo at Cafe Seville is about the greatest thing in the universe (think I am exaggerating? Try it. I am sure you will agree,) so this had a lot to live up to. The shrimp were served piping hot, and slightly under cooked, as they finished cooking in the hot, garlicky oil. (Diet buster #1: garlicky oil is made for being sopped up by bread.) They were delicious. We also had lamb meatballs with a blue cheese sauce. Two good sized meatballs, topped with a creamy sauce, were a highlight. I love lamb, so it is not hard to win me over with a lamb meatball, and this was no exception.
There are several salad choices, from Greek (which was being eaten at the next table and looked really good) to Caesar-style salad. We opted for the goat cheese salad with beet chips. The salad was very good, and the goat cheese was a highlight, but the beet chips were a bit soggy. Next time I might just go for the goat cheese tapa, as they were perfectly fried, crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside.
The true sign of any good Spanish restaurant is the tortilla Espana, a potato, egg and cheese concoction, often with ham. Although I would have probably preferred the vegetarian option, as I am not a lover of the pig, this one was quite good.
We were stuffed. There was no way I could eat another morsel of food. Then the flan
appeared. Flan is a traditional custard covered in caramel, and it is awesome. This version was not too sweet (read: I did not consider it a diet buster, and ate quite a lot of it,) and it really delicious. There is a woman buried in the Key West Cemetery, and on her tombstone reads World’s Best Flan Maker. I think she has some competition.
If you are in Downtown Miami, you should check out La Mancha. They are located at 900 Biscayne Boulevard, and are open for lunch and dinner daily, plus they are open late on days of Heat games. I’m already looking forward to my next visit, and next time I am trying the paella.