Choosing a restaurant to celebrate that special someone’s birthday isn’t exactly easy. We foodies are usually pretty selective when it comes to picking a place that a) the other person will like, and b) isn’t too hard on our wallet. So when my boyfriend’s 25th birthday rolled around, it was time to go to work. After a little research and advice from friends, I ended up picking Ortanique on the Mile, a Caribbean inspired restaurant in the heart of Coral Gables. Chef and owner Cindy Huston is a self-taught chef who has been running the place for 12 years. While being open that long on Miracle Mile is itself no small feat, Ortanique has the accolades to boot, including Zagat’s Top 10 Best Restaurant List from 2001 to 2009 and numerous awards for their infamous mojitos.
Upon arrival we made a bee-line for the bar. We just had to get our hands on one of these mojitos. As I watched our bartender make them, we realized, these people do not skimp on the rum. Although it is a classic cocktail, this mojito was like no other I’ve tasted before: the perfect amount of freshness from the mint leaves and a generous piece of lime perfectly complement that generous portion of rum. After a few sips, you will definitely feel like you’re on a Caribbean island.
Make sure to take a moment and enjoy the ambiance; this place truly is a tropical oasis. The yellow walls and yellow-tiled floor accent perfectly with the dark cherry wood chairs and crisp clean drapes that separate sections of the restaurant; tropical yet sophisticated. Be sure to check them out for happy hour. The mojitos are normally $11, which is a little steep; but during HH, all cocktails are $4 off. Happy hour is from 4 – 7 Mon. through Fri.
After we wobbled over to our table, our server introduced herself and explained the specials along with some of the chef’s specialties. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the menu. We decided to order the conch and corn fritters as an appetizer and for our entrees, the Caribbean seared ahi tuna and jerk penne pasta. The appetizer came with four round fritters. They were chewy (in a good way), well-seasoned and slightly spicy, however I don’t think I will ever pay $3.25 for a tiny little conch fritter again. They were good, but not that good. The ahi tuna, marinated in sesame oil and Caribbean spices was incredibly fresh and very tasty. Three large slices of fish came alongside wasabi mashed potatoes which were also delicious, but could have been a little warmer. The pineapple and cilantro salsa with which it was paired added a nice touch of freshness and contrasted nicely with the spicy mash. I thought this dish was reasonable, even though $30 is still a bit pricey for the amount of fish given.
My boyfriend ordered Cindy’s jerk chicken penne pasta, extra spicy. After the first bite he was sure they delivered. The pasta comes with chicken and he added shrimp for $6. The portions were just right. The dish is made with sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and mushrooms in a cream sauce which was fiery to the tongue, at least for my boyfriend. The large shrimp that topped the plate were juicy, succulent and went very well with the dish’s flavor profile. I may suggest ordering this meal with only shrimp and no chicken. Again, a bit tough on the wallet at $27, but my boyfriend was satisfied.
When it comes to dessert, anything that has to do with banana catches my attention; which is why I ordered the rum-soaked banana fritters with vanilla ice cream. These people sure do love their rum because when I bit into that fritter, the aroma and taste of the rum was definitely present, but not overpowering. They were perfectly fried and served with a vanilla ice cream that was clearly homemade.
Overall, Ortanique is a great place that serves up solid dishes with bold flavors. The theme really comes through in both the ambiance and menu. I, for one, don’t think I’ll be returning, unless I get a raise – a big one.