16 January 2008

South Beach Dinner #1: Santo

As we prepared for our Florida vacation, we decided to make reservations for the night we arrived (Saturday) and for New Year’s Eve. We figured we’d be able to find a restaurant for the night between those dates. After doing a little research, we picked Santo Restaurant. Their web site and other things we read noted that they had live music, the menu looked interesting, and the reviews about the food were good. So we made a reservation for New Year’s Eve.

A few days later, I got a call. At first, I couldn’t figure out who was calling because the caller had such a thick Spanish accent. After I understood it was Santo calling, I then learned that for New Year’s Eve, they had a fixed price menu. After a brief discussion with my wife, we decided that’s not what we wanted. But, we still were excited about eating there, so we switched the reservation to Saturday. We made an 8:30 reservation.

As we continued to talk about our plans, we began to wonder when the music would start on Saturday. My wife called to ask. “Midnight,” was the answer. No problem. We’re on vacation, and we planned to stay up late anyway listening to music. “By the way,” my wife asked, “what kind of music is it?” “Oh,” came the reply, “on Saturday nights we have a little older crowd, so it’s a mix.” Older crowd? “Yeah, late 20s to early 30s.” Oh.

Well, we’re adventuresome, so we switched our reservation to 10 p.m. so that we would already have our table when the music began.

So on Saturday when we arrived on South Beach, we took a little walk to check it out. It really looked cool.

We went back to our hotel, had a cocktail, rested up from our traveling, changed clothes and arrived for dinner at 10.There were a few diners, one big table of partiers and another smaller table of people some of whom were from Madrid.

We ordered a bottle of wine – Benvolio Pinot Grigio from Italy. We liked the wine list at Santo. It was organized into groups of $39, $49, or $59 bottles plus a selection of ‘reserve’ bottles. The Benvolio was $39. It was cool and crisp and easy on the palate. We took our time and enjoyed a glass before ordering. After all, we needed to make the dinner last until midnight.

The food at Santo lived up to our expectations. For starters, I ordered brie with tomato fondue, and my wife ordered spinach salad with arugula, caramelized onions, spicy candied walnuts, gorgonzola, apple smoked bacon, and raspberry vinaigrette. Both were very good, nicely prepared and presented and very tasty.

After finishing our starters and another glass of wine, we ordered entrées. I had red snapper served with a roasted poblano pepper and black bean corn salsa. The fish was moist and flaky. The pepper was smoky and flavorful without too much heat. The salsa was a nice relish with a wonderful blend of Latin flavors to complement the meal.

Linda had mahi-mahi with sweet potato puree and a tropical salsa. The flavors of her meal were more Caribbean and also very good.

By now it was after 11:30 and people started arriving for the music. By the time we finished our meals and a final glass of wine, nearly all of the tables were taken and the bar was standing-room only as the partiers waited to get in. It became evident that the club was in the back of the restaurant.

Finally, at a little after midnight, we paid our bill and stood up. One of the servers gestured toward the front door. We shook our heads and pointed toward the club. When the music started, sure enough, it was not a live band but a DJ spinning techno. We were the oldest people in the club by decades. We danced for about a half hour then left. As we went out the front door, there was a line of young people waiting to get in. We probably left before the others were even warmed up. But it was a fun way to begin our vacation.

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