Restaurant review

Review: Barceloneta in South Miami is the first Pubbelly concept outside of Miami Beach


If you go

Place: Barceloneta Sunset

Address: 5850-B Sunset Dr., South Miami

Rating:* * *  (Very Good)

Contact: 305-665-0020,

Hours: Noon-4 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Prices: Cheese and charcuterie $5-$20; grilled seafood, meat and flatbreads $10-$15; sides and salads $8-$14; bistro plates and rice dishes $7-$20; desserts $9

FYI: No reservations. Metered street parking and nearby garage; valet $8 (Thursday-Saturday). Full bar; $25 corkage. AX, DS, MC, VS. A second location is at 1410 20th St. in Miami Beach.

Pubbelly’s sizeable paunch already has a hold on South Beach, with its sushi, steak, tacos, tapas, Italian and gastropub restaurants consistently packing them in.

But can a Pubbelly concept play off the beach? An hourlong wait at the no-reservations Barceloneta in South Miami on a recent Saturday night says “Yes.”

The smells of sizzling garlic and gambas that greet your entrance, and the sips of cava and Spanish draft beer that temper that extended wait, send immediate signals of comfort: This is where you want to eat tonight, and where you’ll be talking about tomorrow.

No-reservations annoyances aside — we were quoted 30 minutes for a table — Barceloneta excels at delivering a tapas experience that’s equal parts classic and modern. There’s sangria and high-quality cured meats for those seeking the former, shrimp with chocolate and a salad named for Spanish avant-garde chef Ferran Adria for those with a hankering for the latter.

Nosh on some charcuterie for a snack, but a heartier appetizer is the chorizo flatbread: four squares of hauntingly smoky spiced pork topped with creamy burrata to cut the spice and peppery arugula to keep things bright. Garnished with tiny slivers of garlic chips, it highlights a selection of tostas that, like the rest of Barceloneta’s menu, are ideal to share with tablemates.

Chef and co-owner Juliana Gonzalez opened Barceloneta’s Sunset Drive outpost in January, about a year and a half into the original location’s successful run on 20th Street in Miami Beach, aka Pubbelly Row.

The two menus are identical, starting with Spanish market selections like fresh, simply grilled snapper, octopus and skirt steak. Garlicky aioli is a tangy complement to seafood hot off the plancha, while a roasted-pepper romesco matches up with meat.

Tapas like cod fritters go head-to-head with the best I’ve tasted in Spain and elsewhere. They’re creamy, crispy, piping hot and have a distinct lemony kick. I wished the spicy tomato sauce that’s the signature of good patatas bravas had more heat, and a drenching of it rendered our fried potato cubes soggy by the time they hit the table.

Gonzalez gets to flex her culinary muscles more in Barceloneta’s bistro plates. Although, sometimes, less is more. Octopus, for example, plays a starring role when you order a tender, meaty tentacle from the grill. But slices of octopus get lost under a salty blanket of potato cream (the menu kindly calls it foam) and chorizo oil in pulpo a feira.

A more-successful marriage of ingredients comes in the Barceloneta salad. Fresh frisee provides a foundation for Gonzalez to layer on shaved Manchego cheese, Serrano ham and sweet little wheatberries, all dressed with top-shelf balsamic vinegar and a little truffle oil.

Like its South Beach sibling, the newer Barceloneta fills up quickly on weekend nights. The placement of the host stand and bar immediately inside the front door creates somewhat of a logjam as people wait for a table. Still, service is efficient, and plates come out quickly once you order.

If you’re less into a scene and more into the food, go for a weekend brunch. You’ll get the same menu, with a few eggy additions, and the same attention to quality. Case in point: Gonzalez was in the kitchen, and running dishes out to tables, on a Sunday afternoon.

Her baked eggs flamenco is ridiculously good: crisp nibs of fried squid atop two soft-baked eggs in a cast-iron dish. Equally impressive is her elevation of humble shrimp tacos by garnishing them with a light, zippy avocado mousse, crunchy red cabbage and baby cilantro with coriander seeds that popped with citrus freshness.

Spanish wines by the glass and bottle represent a number of the country’s top growing regions and varietals, and a gin-and-tonic program should keep cocktail drinkers happy. A word of caution: The gazpacho bloody mary is the fiery-orange color of Buffalo hot sauce. If you can get over that, and the fact that it tastes pretty much like that patatas bravas sauce, you’re in for a fun ride.

Good food and fun seem to be the magic formula that’s worked so well for the Pubbelly crew in Miami Beach. With Barceloneta, they’ve managed to replicate that recipe in another South Florida locale. Here’s hoping it’s not the last Pubbelly concept we see beyond the Beach.

Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.

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