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Mandolin Agean Bistro Needs Some Fine-Tuning; Talavera's Mass Mexican Appeal

[Photos/Greg Clark, GC Visuals]
From the just baked bread to the ambience that's "a personable oasis in a faceless stretch of streets," Lee Klein is charmed by Mandolin Aegean Bistro, a "brave babe-in-the-woods." But Klein isn't tapping to his inner Keats this time, reciting verses from Ode on a Grecian Urn. While he finds it "regrettable" that most of the menu "hews to the Hellenic," the Turkish "delights" are "distinctive," including a "stunningly flavorful tomato walnut dip dotted with minced onions." That said, "not everything from the Turks impressed. Thin, dry, overgrilled sucuk, referred to as "Turkish chorizo," tasted a little like Spanish sausage but with salty undertones of beef jerky." Not everything sucuked though. "Sucuk aside, Mandolin performs straightforward cooking best, whether it be an assertively grilled whole yellowtail, whose pristine white flakes were primped with lemon and olive oil, or a sweet, tender curlicue of grilled octopus misted with the same Mediterranean lubricants." After a "rousing" chicken kebab, things went flaccid as Klein was served a "regrettably cold, mushy" orzo pilaf, a mousssaka in overbaked bechamel sauce, and expensive sandwich sans tzatziki, concluding that, "At this point, after only a couple of months in operation, Mandolin's kitchen is inconsistent." [MNT]

Victoria Pesce Elliott says Coral Gables Mexican newcomer Talavera is "charming," and "worth a visit any day for its homey Mexican cuisine, classy setting and notably sharp service." She especially likes the "crisp, hand-cut corn chips the color of pale cinnamon bark that are utterly greaseless and as authentic as can be." Salsa comes in two varieties: "incendiary green" and "mild red." Thanks to "Mexican-classics," "lesser-known rustic dishes and and a few American twists," there's "something here for purists, novices, natives and visitors, gourmets and gourmands alike. Instead of taking themselves too seriously, Talavera makes the customer experience paramount." Among VPE's faves: "Thick, chunky guacamole smashed moments before it hits the table and simply seasoned with lime juice, cilantro, onion, salt and a gentle hint of Serrano chile," "The signature hurache-a sandal-shaped wedge of grilled masa layered with black bean puree, lettuce, tomato and a protein -- pleasing with juicy red snapper and guajillo-rubbed beef," and Queso fundido, "a shallow casserole of gooey Oaxaca and Gouda cheeses with smoky chorizo crumbles, baked until glossy and charred." Not so hot, however, was "a hurache with dry and flavorless chicken," "clumsy and dense chicken tacos and "salsa fresca with pallid tomatoes." Despite that, Talavera earns three out of four stars. [Miami.com]

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

4312 Northeast 2nd Avenue, , FL 33137 (305) 749-9140 Visit Website

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