Source: Coral Gables Magazine

Chef Niven Patel’s Mamey in Paseo Continues to Amaze

There is something inherently thrilling about sitting in a restaurant in Coral Gables that the New York Times recently ordained as one of the top 50 in the United States. You read that correctly. One of the top 50 in the entire country.

What we wanted to find out was whether the restaurant measures up to that accolade. It does. And then some.

At any given restaurant, there is good food and sometimes great food. Some dishes are better than others. At Mamey, every dish is stunning. There are no weak items on the menu. The culinary creations of Chef Niven Patel are simply spectacular, and his growing reputation as one of the most important young chefs in America is well deserved.

Niven Patel

Chef Niven Patel of Mamey, voted in the Top 50 in the USA by the New York Times.

Mamey Miami

Mamey Miami

The overriding culinary proposition of Mamey, with some Southeast Asian exceptions, is Caribbean cuisine infused with the spices of India. Patel has a background in both, having spent years as a chef in Turks and Caicos and subsequently at the helm of his successful Ghee Indian restaurant in Dadeland. That tells only part of the story, however. The rest is Patel’s ingenious combinations and contrasts of tastes and textures that create deliciously complex flavor profiles.

Take, for example, one of the newer items on the menu, the shrimp spring roll. This consists of a single, large shrimp wrapped in spring roll pastry. The roll itself comes out warm, with a thin crust that contrasts with the cool, plump shrimp inside, both in texture and temperature. A sweet chili sauce for dipping adds a piquant edge. We could have ended the night right there, with plate after plate of these succulent crustaceans.

Or take the glazed lamb ribs. These are first baked with a rub of spices like coriander and cumin, then served in a plate with sliced, pickled star fruit, the plate itself pooled with sweet and sour vinegar tamarind sauce. We were instructed by our waitress to take a bite of the starfruit with each bite of lamb, to offset the lamb fat with the penetrating sour of the pickled fruit. The combination was a delightful dance between opposites.

Mamey Shrimp

Shrimp Spring Roll With Sweet Chili Glaze

Mamey Lamb Ribs

Middle: Glazed Lamb Ribs With Star Fruit & Tamarind

All of Patel’s dishes are like these, with surprising layers of complementary and contrasting tastes. His jerk pork belly is a perfect example. The pork belly, dusted with Jamaican spices, sat atop sliced maduros that had previously been sauteed in Indian ghee butter and then drizzled with a spiced yogurt. Each bite of pork broke the jerk crust and flayed the meat inside into soft juicy strands,grounded by the sweet banana flavor of the maduros.

Even something as simple or common as mojo chicken becomes an elevated, celebrated dish at Mamey. The chicken breast is cooked just enough that it remains moist and rich with the garlicky flavor of mojo marinade. Excellent by itself, but then further served atop a bed of rice cooked with adzuki black beans, avocado, spinach, and coconut milk, then topped with pickled onions. Another dish we sampled, the tuna tartare, also took the expected to another level. The tuna was laced with a creamy aioli and smoked soy, along with sesame seeds sprinkled throughout, so that each bite regaled the tongue with soft, citrusy yellowfin tuna and a spackling of the tiny seeds, contrasted by tostones that were thinner and crunchier than the standard Cuban varieties.

Mamey Mojo Chicken

Mojo Roasted Chicken with Rice, Beans, & Avocado

Mamey Tuna

Mamey Tuna

Mamey Interior

Supper club seating dominated by a full width bar

The ambience of Mamey is nearly as exotic and layered as the food. Most of the seating in the main room is at low tables with comfortable chairs, so that it feels like you’re in an elegant but informal supper club. One whole wall is dominated by a bar, the sound of the cocktail shaker adding to the ambience. Two of the other walls are comprised of jungle murals a la Rousseau, with tropical plants staged in front of the murals. A large wicker chandelier overhead only adds to the feeling that you are somewhere on the border between Zanzibar and a Rain Forest Café. Outside seating consists of a long, high-ceilinged breezeway with its own parade of Moroccan-style lanterns. With a soundtrack of contemporary upbeat African rhythms, it feels remarkably like Rick’s Café in “Casablanca.”

Mamey is a restaurant that would awe even the snootiest food critics in cities like New York, London, or Paris. The fact that it is here in Coral Gables is something everyone should take advantage.

 

For more information, visit: Mamey Miami

(Thesis Hotel) 1350 S. Dixie Hwy.
305.266.2639