OLA SOUTH BEACH & The Art of Dining Solo
I’m the kind of girl who has no problem dining alone. However, when I dine alone I prefer to sit at the bar and strike up conversations with other people. The bartender is often a bit more friendly and attentive to the solo diner and you never know who you’ll meet. Last week I was approached by the marketing folks from OLA Restaurant (1745 James St, Miami Beach) they were so appreciative of the love I show to their sister restaurant, The Dining Room (4th and Washington) that they invited me to sample the amazing tastes OLA has to offer. OLA is located inside the sexy Sanctuary hotel which is like a little baby W Hotel. It’s a boutique hotel and OLA is the main restaurant. The food is classified as “Nuevo Laino Cuisine” which basically means traditional foods from several different Latin American countries with an interesting new twist. It’s good very good.
When I walked in I immediately requested a seat at the bar where I met Ray. Ray is a friendly bartender who is easy on the eye and on point with the pour. He made me three drinks over the 3 hours I was there. First was the Pisco Martini, YUM. Second was a passion fruit mango martini which tasted like a mango, so fresh so good. The last drink looked like a fruit salad in a big glass. That was the watermelon mojito and it was the perfect drink to conclude the night. But wait rewind…
34 seconds after meeting Ray I met this lovely couple seated on the end of the bar. They were finishing their meal but as it turns out shocker, they are from New Jersey and New York. She was from Rumson which is where Bon Jovi Lives, down the shore. Rumson is an affluent Jersey Shore town and not the trashtastic mess of Sleaze-Side-Heights where Snookie, J-Wow and the rest of that disaster is. Then entered James, a very handsome on the brink of 50 businessman who considers himself a foodie. He sat down next to me and immediately started chatting me up. Turns out like me, he’s an eater. He likes good food and the experience that goes with good eating. This is a man who doesn’t just eat to stay alive. He dines. What I found refreshing is that he told me he was from Miami his whole life but traveled around the country for business. He was a classy Miami native who was refined, well-spoken and NOT LATINO, NOT MACHO just a polite cool guy. We got to chatting and then the lovely Miss Karen, Jame’s lady friend walked in.
Karen is great. She’s a total gamer. She’s 44 in great shape, looks like she’s in her 30’s and has a fun, down to earth personality. I was trying to pick a celebrity that she reminded me of and it was a cross between Olivia Newton John in Grease but when she came out all in black as a bad ass and knocked Danny on his ass. AND…Kate Hudson or a younger Goldie Hawn. Karen and I would become fast friends.
Then the food started coming. THIS was going to be a great time.
LETS BEGIN THE FOOD PORN…
The first 3 tastings were ceviche. PLUS this delicious Pan de Bono which are these Colombian little breads of love with a honey taste and cheese center. It’s not like a grilled cheese, the cheese is subtle.
The ceviches range from $16 to $20 and the portions can easily be shared. In face you can come here on a date order 4 different ceviches and be plenty full and satisfied. The Watermelon Wahoo sits in jalapeno watermelon juice. The diced melons and cucumber sorbet offers a nice combination. It was a favorite. Order this one for sure. The Rainbow Ceviche has cobia, salmon and tuna in a white soy citrus sauce which was insanely delicious. It has a spicy kick to it which made it another favorite. The final sample was Tuna Foie Gras Ceviche. All the flavors blended to create this interesting taste. 3 ceviches, each one unique and delicious.
After seeing the lovely ceviche tasting that was brought out to me, James ordered ceviches too but he thought the portions were going to be what I got as my generous tasting. Instead they were full portions with amazing presentation. OLA is for sharing.
The next course were empanadas. Short Rib Empanadas were AWESOME and then Foie Gras Empanadas were very good. They are presented with duck prosciutto which is similar to regular heavenly love to my soul piggy prosciutto but it has a little more of a thicker consistency with a hint more fat. The empanadas were fresh and tasty with loads of flavor, not spicy, just flavorful.
The next course was the Kobe Beef “Mystery” Meatball, Rock Shrimp, and the Marlin Taco. By this point I started sharing tastes with James. Karen is more a veggie girl and admits to being a selective eater, doesn’t really like spicy and had to excuse herself when a jalapeno seed went up her nose. Karen is into brussel sprouts and asparagus. I told her we should go to the organic spot on Alton Rd. which I have been meaning to check out but haven’t yet because I’m a total carnivore and have to try to sneak veggies into my meals with loads of sea salt and garlic.
James, Karen and I were chatting up a storm and were pretty much out together at this point. I learned that they went to high school together. They knew each other since they were 15, drifted over the years and then reunited at a funeral, that James was best friends with the deceased and delivered a eulogy that made Karen cry and applaud. They reconnected at a high school reunion Karen was planning and have been hanging out ever since. I also learned that Karen is a fan of the same bars and lounges I am. She’s into Bardot, Ricochet and Blackbird Ordinary claiming to have had the BEST time there. This is my kind of chick. She’s confident, funny, has a brain in her head and has ties to New York. We all exchanged info so hopefully we’ll get together. I feel like I’m putting together a little girl band and I just found my drummer.
Ok and then more food came. The next course featured Plantain Crusted Mahi (which was one of the most flavorful and delicious I’ve ever tasted), Pork Milanesa which is pine nut crusted, with a cauliflower and manchego cheese puree, topped with arugula, roasted tomato salad and mustard vinaigrette. Finally, the Filet Mignon Churasco. At this point I am drunk with food. It’s all soooo good and Chef Horatio just keeps it coming.
The desserts were the Deconstructed Key Lime Pie which you MUST get. WOW! Great stuff. Deconstructed basically means that each part is on its own, on the plate. The Flan de Queso was INSANE. I was loving the guava foam that surrounded it mmmmm, and then there’s the Chocolate Cigar great taste and very cool presentation. It’s a chocolate cigar with this cute matchbook made of edible candy.
I was so full so happy and grateful to have met cool new friends. The conversation was great. My advice to any single woman is to make a list of places you want to go to eat and go there. This week’s FREE issue of the NEW TIMES is the “Best of Miami” issue. I got mine and took a highlighter pen to the places I want to write about. Make your list then call ahead tell them you are coming, are dining alone and would like to sit at the bar. Upon your arrival they will walk you to the bar introduce you to the bartender and will take care of you. Dining alone lasts for about 35 seconds. People will talk to you. You’ll make friends so bring your personality, your appetite and get out there.