Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mandolin Aegean Bistro – Tasty Mediterranean Eats in Miami’s Design District

In the hopes of escaping the polar vortex part deux, Dan and I spent the week in Southern Florida, including parts of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Boca Raton.
  I always enjoy visiting this sunny region of the country, which is always accompanied by good friends, family and lots of fun eats.

Before our visit, I reached out to Anthea, a fellow local foodie who I follow on Instagram and who’s also the founder of a vegan cookie company called Om NomNom Cookies.  She has fabulous taste, so I knew I can depend on her for some interesting foodie finds, which she delivered on.  One such recommendation, which I’ll tell you about here is Mandolin Aegean Bistro, tucked away in Miami’s chic Design District.

Given my love for Astoria and Mediterranean food in general, I was excited to learn about this Greek/Turkish restaurant and that it was mostly mezze based.  The best part was the beautiful outdoor garden, which was adorned with low trees and plants, which made it feel intimate and enchanted.

We sat at a cozy table in the corner, which gave us a great vantage point for people watching, proving to be fruitful in this trendy Miami atmosphere.  Aside from the beautiful outdoors, the indoor dining room is lovely too, and I can see it being really romantic in the evening – a great place to come to with your special someone.

Excited about all the different mezze on the menu, we chose to share a few of them and then also took a shared approach for our entrees.  I like that we let the veggies and cheese be the star of the show, with a few opportunities for protein as well.

Turkish Sampler – Unlike the traditional Greek sampler, which often includes tzatziki, melitzanosalata or taramosalata, this one was decked with hummus, tomato walnut dip and fava bean puree.  The latter looked like guacamole, but had a mild and earthy quality to it, which was delicious.  The other winner was the tomato walnut spread – a Turkish version of Italian Bruschetta if you will (but a lot crunchier).

Saganaki Cheese – I adore this melty yet still firm cheese, which is mild in flavor and goes well with pita or the grilled bread they served at Mandolin.  A few generous spritzes of lemon brought it further to life by giving it some zing.

Moussaka – My mother-in-law, Vicki and I shared this Greek comfort food classic, which consisted of sliced eggplant and ground pork, layered with a thick tomato based sauce and a generous layer of béchamel on top.  It’s great to see that the Moussaka is made to order here, as our waitress informed us that it takes about 25 minutes, which was just fine by us, and in the end, we weren’t disappointed.

Classic Gyro Sandwich – A purist when it comes to Greek food, Dan was eager to try this classic gyro sandwich.  He fell in love instantly with the thin sliced lamb, the creamy tzatziki and the perfectly grilled pita.  I had a bite and loved it, noticing that all the right flavors were there and in just the right proportion.

Service and Cost:
As soon as we walked up to Mandolin, we were welcomed by the hospitable staff and sat down immediately.  Although we were very much tucked away in a cozy corner, we never felt abandoned and noticed the close eye the staff kept on everyone.  The wait staff is young and energetic, and suits the overall clientele here well.

Costs are moderate, especially for a trendy part of Miami, with the aforementioned lunch setting us back just $65 for three people, including tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

Mandolin Aegean Bistro – 4312 NE 2nd Avenue, Miami FL 33137

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