Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#ThankYouMiami for Bulla Gastrobar - Top Miami Spice 2015 Pick

We're only halfway through Miami Spice 2015, but we can already say with confidence that Bulla Gastrobar wins it for us this year. The shocking part is, as of two weeks ago, Bulla wasn't really on our Miami restaurant radar, much less on our Miami Spice must-try list. Alas, we are resolved that sometimes the best surprises await in the most unexpected places. In our case, because we rarely leave the Beach, the most unexpected of places was Coral Gables.

We were lured off the Beach under unfortunate circumstances: a send-off-to-San-Diego party for our buddy Lou Lozada (the incredibly talented photographer behind Vodagraph). Let the record show that under less dire circumstances we probably would have stayed at home. Nevertheless, in honor of our Lou, we did the Miami schlep to the 33146 and found ourselves on a Friday night braving the happy hour crowds at Bulla. Don't worry - we were handsomely rewarded for our troubles.

The night began with drinks at the bar, which is were Bulla scored its first points with us. The place was packed (it felt like everyone was touching at least three strangers) so, as avid believers in "personal space", we were freaking out a little bit. Luckily, the venue's designer had the foresight to make the bar an indoor/outdoor area, allowing us to informally spill out into the less packed sidewalk and make it comfortably through the 1+ hour wait for a table.

Once at our table, Bulla scored points again by offering a Miami Spice dinner menu on a Friday night. And not just any Spice menu - one with solid selections across the board and family-style portions. At the recommendation of friends, both at the table and on Twitter (thanks, @PDXerMIAmian!), we kicked it off with the Huevos "Bulla": a Jumbo egg with homemade potato chips, potato foam, and Serrano ham drizzled in truffle oil. It was unlike anything we've ever eaten. Whether you go for Miami Spice or not, you absolutely have to try it. Buyer beware: it is an extremely heavy dish that may cause nightmares. That said, once you try it you'll agree it is well worth every one.

As entrées go, we selected the Arroz Caldoso (bomba rice with clams, shrimp, chicken, red sofrito and saffron) and the Zarzuela de Mariscos (a mixed seafood stew). The portions of both were so large that we shared the Zarzuela at the restaurant and asked for the Arroz Caldoso to go. Unfortunately for all of us, the Zarzuela de Mariscos is no longer on Bulla's Spice or regular menus, but they seem to have replaced it with Pez Espada a la Plancha y Pulpo a la Plancha - two similar seafood dishes which sound equally intriguing. The Arroz Caldoso is still on both menus and is exquisite, especially as leftovers.

After so much (heavy) food, the last thing we felt like doing after our entrées was eat dessert. To be fair, we appreciate a solid dessert but our loyalties lie with savory food so we rarely leave room for dessert. Despite being full, we ordered it anyway in the name of Miami Spice. The two choices were Bulla's Torrija (Spain's version of french toast made with caramelized brioche served with turrón ice cream and drizzled with local honey) and the Arroz con Leche (rice pudding with golden raisin coulis and cinnamon). The portions were large again so we shared the Torrija there and took the Arroz con Leche home. Both were enjoyable. When you visit, we recommend that you go with whatever calls your name. Like the whole Bulla experience, regardless of what you choose, you won't be disappointed.

The indoor/outdoor area of Bulla's bar.

The Huevos "Bulla" in all their glory.

The Arroz Caldoso. Yes, those are shishito peppers and artichoke hearts.

The Zarzuela de Mariscos. Can you believe all of that was part of the Miami Spice deal?
The Torrija was a sweet end to a perfect meal.

What Miami Spice menus have you tried this year? Which one is your favorite? Why? What do you recommend getting for appetizer, entrée and dessert there? What Miami Spice menus are you dying to try next? Which dish(es) are you looking forward to there? Have you ever been to Bulla? What did you eat there? Which of their dishes did you like best? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

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