A txoko is a secret gastronomical society. Typically found in Spain, MGT brought the txoko experience to Miami. In theory, the idea of an underground feast, cooked by an amazing chef at a hidden location, sounds perfect. Where this txoko failed, however, lay in its execution. We walked in to a beautiful building, with chiffon curtains encompassing the dark, wooden bar. We arrived an hour early to grab some shwanky cocktails and anticipated that the drink menu would boast creative and different items from a typical bar list. Wrong. I had patron silver on the rocks with a splash of lime, and Stef ordered a Riesling. Additionally, the secret society promised us tapas to take part in before our meal. However, the tapas were no where to be found. Those, apparently, were some VERY secret tapas. But, what the bar lacked in creativity, it made up for in half-naked, beaded women walking through the bar to the restroom. Apparantly there was a photo shoot going on upstairs, Stef and I quickly learned as we walked into the ladies room and got an eye full of the half-naked beaded women (now, fully naked).
Before we left the bar area, Shari and I pinky-sweared each other that we would eat whatever was put on our plate. Girls, as you probably know, take their pinky-swears very seriously. This meant that I had to eat anything green and from the sea, and that Shari would have to eat whatever meat they threw our way. Thank goodness we made this promise, because…
at 9:00, we were finally seated, and at 9:30, we received the first course. Ahi tuna three ways served on a banana leaf: tartar on a garlic cracker, sashimi on brown rice with a drop of sweetened, condensed milk, and a tuna roll with cream cheese. The waiter initially informed us that it was a tuna roll with goat cheese, but he was wrong. It was cream cheese. Que original. Stef, a raw fish virgin, nervously picked at the tartar, but was soon happily munching away. I was very proud of my little pseudo-pescetarian. Her favorite was the sashimi, while I really liked the tartar. None of the 3 were overly impressive, unique, or tasty, but they weren’t fishy or mealy, and therefore, we feasted.
Stef and I live for pouring over menus before we visit restaurants. At a txoko, however, the menu remains a surprise throughout the meal. And this evening, in particular, the menu remained a surprise even after we ate the dish. The waiters never explained what we were eating and incessantly pushed bottles of over-priced wine in hopes of getting us so vino-ed up we wouldn’t notice their lack of knowledge. We asked for a bottle of Pinot Grigio, but we were brought out a bottle of warm Rose. Oh well, it was crisp and refreshing anyways.
Snapper rollatini topped with Enokitake mushrooms, on a bed of faux-otto (undercooked rice with a hint of coconut curry sauce). There were also some brown crispy pieces floating amidst the gristle, which may have been crispy pieces of kale. Earlier in the day, Sean asked if we needed to take a boat to get to this secret dining experience. At this point in the meal, I’m pretty sure the 3 of us wished we had a boat to whisk us away from the gristly entree. The three of us being Stef, the snapper, and myself. Poor snapper.
The shining beacon of gastronomy was the baby rack of lamb, accompanied by a tzatiki sauce and cipollini opinion, . They were meaty, tender, perfectly seasoned and delicious. I instructed Shari that the best part of the lamb is the bone marrow, and she honored our pinky swear. The only issue with this dish was the temperature - it wasn’t hot enough, and the onion was basically cold. However, it was the shining star of the evening. The sauce was tangy and creamy, and was a nice contrast to the roasted potatoes that came with the meal as well.
During the meal, I jokingly kept asking our waiter what was for dessert, to which he coyly shrugged his shoulders and repeated “I don’t know, you will be surprised.” Only after the fact did we realize he literally had no idea what he was serving us. What we got, however, was a microscopic slice of tiramesu, plated on melted chocolate mousse and chocolate curls right out of The Joy of Cooking- 1998 edition. Forget the mousse, the plate really needed a magnifying glass and reading light, under which we could determine the best way to rotate the plate so the tiny cake wouldn’t disappear from our vision at the wrong angle.
Although the food was not what we expected, it should be reiterated that the ambiance was beautiful. Everyone around us seemed to be having a lovely time (except this one woman who literally kept giving her date the stink-eye – I didn’t see them exchange one word throughout the entire meal – sucks for him) and all of the tables were full. However, in order for the txoco to live up to what it should’ve been, it’s imperative for the waiters to be well-versed in what they were serving to paying patrons. By the way, the four-course meal is $35/person, not including wine.
Take note, the menu from the previous weeks txoko read: watermelon gazpacho, serrano ham croquetas, miso marinated sea bass, cinnamon short ribs and homemade mini doughnuts with “leche condensada”. This menu sounds absolutely delicious, a creative culinary feast. Clearly, TXOKO could be a hit or miss depending upon the week/chef brought in. Should we give it another try?
-Stef & Shar
UPDATE: I wrote a nice, yet critical, email to the Txoko manager, who promptly called me, apologized, and offered an open invitation to come back, gratis. We understand that all new restaurants have kinks and typically the management will appreciate constructive feedback. -Shari