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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cipriani Downtown, Miami's Latest Swanky Spot


"I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I'm with them."
                                                            - Max Detweiler, The Sound of Music

Sitting at Cipriani Downtown, the latest glossy outpost of the famed Italian empire occupying a cavernous space in the Icon Brickell building, I couldn't help but churn the above quote in my head. Designed by Florentine architect Michele Bonan, the restaurant feels like the dining room of a glitzy cruise liner with portholes at the bar and windows that frame spectacular water views. There’s a gleaming wooden bar, sofas clad in royal blue and grand Murano glass chandeliers. The white-jacketed waiters add to the throwback vibe with plenty of tableside service. And on the third day open the place was packed. Apparently $17 for a bellini is no biggy these days.
And yes, if you're a sugar daddy with a Russian girlfriend half your age, this is definitely a place that will impress her. But good news for the rest of us that care about food -- it's actually good.
The menu here is practically identical to other Cipriani outposts with a few seasonal and local ingredients thrown in like heirloom tomatoes and fresh catch. Prices are high with most starters averaging $17 and mains $23-$39. The restaurant is famous for a few dishes so it’s best to start off with a round of Bellinis, the house drink (prosecco with peach puree) along with the crisp breadsticks and baguette that are offered. Among their noteworthy dishes: the baked tagliolini with ham and the iconic carpaccio, sliced raw beef with a mayonnaise dressing, first created by Arrigo Cipriani’s father Giuseppe in 1950. This is also the spot to try their Asian "Yotto" menu, featuring a sashimi beef with yuzu ponzu. Other starters include tuna tartar and a mozorella and heirloom tomato salad. Pastas include a risotto primavera and a homemade spincach ravioli. Mains include branzino, braised short ribs and roasted duck. Desserts keep with the over-the-top vibe with vanilla meringue cake and a pillow tiramisu.
My take: sky-high prices and an air of exclusivity shouldn’t deter you from basking in the legendary restaurant’s classic comforts.

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