It's a cuisine that counts casu marzu (aka "maggot cheese") among its specialties, but Sardinian food also boasts some of the most accessible comfort food on the planet. The homey yet elegant Sardinia in Miami Beach reflects both these sensibilities well. Preparations are consciously rustic, with many appealing options for picky eaters, but the food is far from dumbed down. The menu is sometimes quietly edgy and interesting enough to lure us back.
Not surprisingly, the restaurant offers quite a few Sardinian specialties, beginning with the bread basket brought to the table at the beginning of the meal. Crisp pane carasau (Sardinian flatbread) came alongside rosemary studded focaccia and a chewy, glutinous bread with a thick, sturdy crust.
|Pane Carasau and Other Breads|
Moscardini / baby octopus with celery, black olives, and tomatoes was another lovely first course of whole, tender octopi cooked in a straightforward, but unquestionably delicious sauce, made for dipping good bread. Tomatoes and garlic had been cooked to sweetness over a length of time, with a slight kick from pungent, vegetal celery.
The animelle / veal sweetbreads with brown butter, aged pancetta, sage & brussels sprouts first course, was clearly the best dish of the night, though. Sweetbreads were juicy, melty and perfectly browned on the outside, with a just-barely-there gaminess -- everything I look for in a good sweetbreads preparation. Pancetta was gorgeously crispy, probably double fried. Fried, crispy sage and buttery Brussels sprouts offset the tender sweetbreads delightfully. I loved the contrast of soft and crisp.
The Baronia / salad of braised cauliflower, pear, sweet gorgonzola and golden beets was less successful, however. Despite the promising roster of ingredients, all of which I adore, it was a bit bland. The green pear used in the salad was slightly underripe. The cauliflower and beets were undersalted and flavorless (they would've been better roasted to sweetness). The salad may have been more memorable had there been an acidic component to offset the sweet and salty.
A classic Sardinian specialty of malloreddos / Sardinian teardrop pasta with ragu of braised Colorado baby lamb (pictured at the top of this post) was another winner, bursting with good, earthy flavors. Lamb was slow cooked to perfection with a moderate amount of tomatoes, carrots and onion and the resulting broth / sauce was left beautifully clean, unadulterated by thickeners.
I was less excited about the polpo alla griglia / grilled octopus over grilled vegetable salad. The octopus had been boiled for a good, long time, leaving it tender and moist, but that gelatinous layer of skin had not been grilled off. (I know this is a subjective matter and that some people like that gelatinous layer. I personally don't.) Elements of the grilled vegetable salad were good: Medallions of grilled eggplant were meaty, not at all bitter. Cherry tomatoes were juicy and sweet, grilled just enough to break the skin. But the slabs of carrot were nearly raw and not fresh and sweet enough to prepare this way. (Fresh, sweet, whole baby carrots would have been lovely and they are in season at the moment.)
|Polpo Alla Griglia|
The desserts we tried came in huge portions and they tended to be homey rather than elegant. The black and white mousse was thick and very rich, with some unexplained (but delicious) crispy bits.
|Black and White Mousse|
Here's the Nutella mille-feuille:
.... and the chocolate ice cream:
|Chocolate Ice Cream|
We drank a bottle of Serralunga D'Alba Fontanafredda 2007 with our food, a low tannin, almost jammy wine with lots and lots of cherry and plum. It was pleasant with the moscardini, animelle, coniglio and malloreddos.
I really ought to give this restaurant a shout out for being so accommodating of Ian. We brought him in his stroller and our lovely waitress found us a table where Ian could be parked next to us while we ate. At our early meal, around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday, the restaurant was nearly empty, though it was nearly full and noisy by the time we left. Wait staff didn't bat an eye in either circumstance when Ian let out a few mild squawks. The only downside: The bathroom doesn't have a changing table or room to change a diaper on the floor (and of course nowhere quiet to breastfeed), but this isn't exactly unusual.
Overall, very good food and service. I wouldn't hesitate to return.
1801 Purdy Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Food Rating: A
Baby Friendly Rating: A
Food Rating: A
Baby Friendly Rating: A