Friday, January 9, 2015

Chef's Tasting with a Side of Mojito at TK's at the Villa Mayfair

I get asked for recommendations to restaurants that offer Chef's Tastings all the time. Personally, I absolutely love when I go to a restaurant and the chef takes the reins of my meal and prepares their favorite dishes for me. One thing about great chefs is that they are creative and they have a passion for what they do, so allow them the opportunity to wow you and you can bet they will. Since I have no food allergies and an appetite for just about everything, I am more than happy to oblige.

TK's signature mojito

Having said this, you can imagine how excited I was to check out the Chef's Tasting Table at TK's at the Villa Mayfair, located at 2901 Florida Avenue in Coconut Grove. I had been there to enjoy their Mojito Madness and was looking forward to getting a taste of that fabulous cuisine again. To our surprise, the evening began with a quick lesson on making their signature and ever popular cocktail: the Mojito. After a few minutes of muddling and swapping secrets with the cool Bar Master David Ungar, Chef Maribel Gaynor came out and welcomed us. She gave us a special menu to choose our four courses from (each course offered two selections) and explained how she would bring out the dishes and telling us what ingredients and preparation went into each one. She also encouraged us to ask questions and pretty much give her our opinions on how well the tastes blended together. Immediately I knew this was going to be fun.

TK's Tuna Tartare
The first course choices were Tuna Tartare or Beef Carpaccio. My dining companion and I both ordered the tartare. I'm sorry but if it's on the menu, I'm having it; especially when I know how delicious the one at TK's is. He felt the same and there was just no negotiating. Out came a beautifully plated tower of fresh, diced tuna, topped with avocado, sesame oil and crispy shallots, then bathed in a flavorful soy lime dressing. Chef Gaynor took us through the process she followed when creating this dish, and I almost asked her to move in by the time she was finished. You know me and my love for the chicken of the sea.

Roasted Baby Beets Salad

We went ahead and ordered both dishes on the Second Course selection. I had the Baby Spinach Salad and he had the Roasted Baby Beets Salad. You would think that this is just a salad so there was no need for them to go all out with it, but guess what? They did. Both of them were amazing. The Roasted Beet Salad consisted of a healthy yet flavorful helping of slightly crunchy quinoa, crowned with a colorful mix of olives, pistachios, mint, red onions, cooked baby beets and a mild yogurt dressing. 

Baby Spinach Salad

The Baby Spinach Salad...ooh the baby spinach salad. I have no words to describe it, which is rare, but I'll try. The raw baby spinach were drizzled with bacon vinaigrette (yes, you read that right), and a sprinkling of pine nuts. They were served with roasted port shallots and a golf sized ball of warm crusted goat cheese. (For someone who didn't have words, I sure came up with a lot - although I salivated all the way through it.) It was spectacular.

Spice Rubbed Bison Sirloin

And now it's time for the Main Course. We ordered both the Spice Rubbed Bison Sirloin and the Catch of the Day, which was a Black Squid Ink Risotto served with a skewer of Fried Shrimp and Fish. Let me start by telling you about the Bison, which was tender, juicy and a memorable chunk of comfort food. It was accompanied by creamy White Cheddar Grits, crispy onions, and then drizzled with a most palate pleasing hot sauce. But it was the Risotto that took the prize, not just for the night, but probably for the year. Have you seen that Seinfeld episode where George's girlfriend is eating risotto and she almost has a happy ending because it's so good? Well, such was my experience with this dish. I pretty much wanted to take this skillet home and be alone with the risotto for a while. It was so unbelievably moist and tasty, and Gaynor nailed it bringing all these textures and bold flavors together. Believe it or not, we still talk about it all the time.

Catch of the Day: The best Risotto ever

Let me catch my breath before I tell you about dessert. Once again, there were two choices to pick from: the Vanilla Mousse Cheesecake and the Peanut Butter Mousse. I thought I was right back in Art Basel when Chef Gaynor brought these two plates out. Beautifully presented, each sweet finales had its own distinct appeal. The Cheesecake was creamy and melted in our mouths, with a border of fresh strawberries and raspberries framing it. The Mousse was just as delicate and was covered in a rich chocolate sauce. A road of vanilla ice-cream and caramelized bananas led us to ecstasy with each bite.

Peanut Butter Mousse

Vanilla Mousse Cheesecake

By the end of the night, we were raving about how superb our Chef's Tasting Table experience had been at TK's at the Villa Mayfair. Chef Maribel Gaynor absolutely rocked with her presentation, interaction and most importantly, tastefully prepared dishes. You won't believe this, but you can take part in this gastronomical journey for only $49 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and get a personalized look at how the magic happens from start to finish. These special tastings are happening on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm, for a limited time only. For more information on TK's at the Villa Mayfair or to make reservations for their Chef's Tasting Table, you can call 305-774-1500 or visit their website here.

TK's at the Villa Mayfair on Urbanspoon

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