Saturday, May 31, 2008

Adriana Restaurant, Surfside

Adriana is one of those places the critics really love but which I find unexciting. The place is undeniably a hit, not only with critics but with the Peruvian expats that pack the indoor and outdoor tables for both lunch and dinner. As far as neighborhood restaurants in Surfside go, Adriana is succeeding where the Food Gang failed, creating a popular stylish spot that serves cuisine more sophisticated than the crowd-pleasing Italian grub found at neighboring competitors Ragazzi and Pescecane. The place also eschews such helpful notions as having a website or posting their menus online, and it appears they are doing just fine without it. Our meal was nice, but I didn't find any culinary fireworks strong enough to warrant repeat visits.
I liked the dining room décor, mixing quirky wine-glass light fixtures with lacquered neo-Victorian chairs and tables. It is casually-elegant and, when the place is full, it feels downright urbane. Our party of four started with the Adriana appetizer sampler ($16), a mix of three starters that included yuquitas (yuca fritters stuffed with cheese), tequenos (fried wontons filled with gouda cheese, pictured above) and fried chicken nuggets which were exactly that. These three dip-worthy options came with three sauces the best of which was the Huancaína, a fiery cheese sauce made aji amarillo chili peppers. The yuca fritters were a standout - light and fluffy, impressive for fried food. The bread at Adriana is great as well, baked in house and dotted with sunflower seeds and whole grains. Our mains included the squash ravioli with sage butter – delicate al dente pillows, pleasant but not especially compelling. At $14 a fine dish.

The three-peppercorn tenderloin with a side of creamy yucca puree was declared delicious by the table and, at $22, was our most expensive dish.
We also ordered the passion fruit shrimp appetizer as a main. It was nicely presented comprising 4 shrimp assertively glazed with a spicy sweet sauce served atop mashed potatoes. An artichoke salad was underwhelming; the only interesting ingredient was the addition of large kernels of Peruvian corn, otherwise it was sliced mushrooms, pedestrian greens and your average salad ingredients. The wine list at Adriana is quite reasonable but filled with unremarkable choices and plenty of bottles under $50. We went with a Robert Mondavi chardonnay, a serviceable ten-dollar white priced at $19, which was fine. For dessert ($7 each) we tried the lucuma mousse, with a flavor reminiscent of persimmon and a nice texture.

We also had the chocolate basket, which looked like a goopy chocolatey mess but was actually quite delicious.
Thus our experience at Adriana: not very expensive, but not inexpensive; pleasant food but not surprising.

9477 Harding Ave, Surfside; 305-867-1220.

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