Gables Spice

Every year the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau puts on Miami Spice. This is a two-month period when about 200 hundred Miami-Dade restaurants offer discounted, three-course “spice” menus (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) for lunch and dinner. Two dozen of these restaurants are in Coral Gables; this year the price is $28 for lunch and $42 for dinner. 

The idea of Miami Spice is to induce you to visit someplace you’re not familiar with, or if familiar, not within your normal budget. For us, that’s the best bet – going to an upscale Gables restaurant that is normally a little too posh for you, now affordable. 

In other words, why go to a modestly priced place like Tap 42? If you order the crispy calamari tower, the grilled salmon bowl and the strawberry shortcake tres leche off the regular menu, it costs $50. Drop the shortcake (their only spice dessert, and who would ever order it?) and the price is $39, less than Spice. 

On the other hand, if you go to expensive, gourmet Italian Fiola, and you order the yellowfin tuna puttanesca, wagyu short ribs and Valrhona chocolate terrine from the regular menu, it will cost $77. So, Spice’s dinner tab is a bargain. Likewise, at someplace like Bellmont Spanish Restaurant, where the seafood paella costs $25 on the regular menu. You can have it as part of a three-course lunch that cost $28. 

For a full look at all the Coral Gables Spice menus, go to, then scroll down to Participating Restaurants by Neighborhood. What follows is a sampling of eight Spice restaurants we visited from the list. 

Fiola Miami – Lunch Menu 

Fiola Miami – Lunch Menu - Gables Spice

When Fiola landed from Washington DC a couple of years ago, it reset the bar for fine dining in the Gables. Their Spice menu also sets the bar high, with an amazing five choices for each category of appetizer, entrée, and dessert. We tried the summer colors of the garden salad and their polenta fries, both good. But it was their heirloom tomato gazpacho, with pickled watermelon and avocado pieces in the puree, that hit it out of the park. Stunning. For entrees it’s hard to go wrong. The wood oven-roasted flap steak is exceptional, but so is their grilled Spanish branzino – or roasted wild mushrooms for the vegans among us. And don’t miss the Valrhona chocolate terrine for dessert. 

Fontana – Dinner Menu 

Fontana – Dinner Menu - Gables Spice

Fontana is arguably the most romantic restaurant in the city. Its open courtyard with Venetian fountain and classic columns trans- ports you to another world. We sampled all three appetizers and found the lightly dressed shrimp on arugula to be tasty and refreshing. But it was the burratina ripiena – burratina cheese stuffed with avocado, heirloom baby tomatoes, scallions and basil – that blew us away. Amazingly creamy and flavorful. Hats off to chef Beppe Galazzi. And continuing with the stuffing theme, we thought that while the hand-twisted strigoli pasta and the 10 oz. rib eye were both good entrees, the sea bream stuffed with crab
and spinach in lemon butter sauce was sublime. Even the roasted vegetables that came with it were superb. 

Perry’s – Dinner Menu 

Perry’s is a steakhouse, so naturally steaks are on the Spice menu
– though you have to pay an extra $7 to $11 for one of the three they offer, which sort of defeats the spirit of Spice. We say choose from the other five entrees, which include grilled salmon or brick chicken with truffle merlot demiglace. Not bad. Our recommendation, however, is the amazing Perry’s Famous Pork Chop, cured, roasted, slow-smoked and caramelized. It’s huge and delicious. On the appetizer side their Caesar salad has a nice novel bite with pumpkin seeds, and the wedge salad won’t disappoint – though we asked for blue cheese dressing rather than buttermilk vinaigrette (yes, we’re cowards). For dessert, the chocolate crunch rocks. 

Gustave – Lunch Menu 

Gustave – Lunch Menu 

Because of the bright, upscale Parisian cafeteria décor, it doesn’t’ register that this up-and-coming French restaurant serves some seriously sophisticated food. Now with its Spice menu, you can sample why Gustave Restaurant is a worthy addition to the panoply of Gables eateries. For appetizers, you can go with a soup of the day or onion soup, but we went with the homemade pâté de campagne, a robust slice that came with rustic bread, and the salmon charlotte with tomato and basil coulis. Both excellent. But neither compared to the delicate pan sauteed codfish with lemon sauce or the roasted chicken breast, sliced and bathed in a dark, wild berry sauce (right). End with the mousse chocolate and you’re somewhere in Paris. 

Sawa – Lunch Menu 

Sawa is always a pleasant place to visit in the courtyard of the Shops at Merrick Park. Even in the heat, their outdoorspace works, thanks to wide umbrellas and multiple fans.Their Spice menu mirrors their overall menu, with its parallel tracks of Lebanese and Japanese dishes. For appetizers, wetried their pita-dipping platter of hummus, baba ganoush and muhammara – made daily; fresh and delicious. We also tried their duck breast yakitori, tasty duck on a stick with a teriyaki dip. For the entrée there was only one way to go for us: the salmon poke bowl with salmon sushi, rice, avocado, sesame seeds, edamame, cucumber, sweet corn, shitake mushrooms, fried onion, scallion and more. The best poke bowl we’ve tasted. 

Tur – Lunch Menu 

TUR - Gables Spice

When the air is cool, TUR’s loggia on Giralda Avenue is a lovely place to dine. Inside it’s also pleasant, with an open kitchen, high ceilings, and two screens showing travel images from the Mediterranean. For their Spice menu, we love that they included a cold vichys-soise soup. A deft, sophisticated choice. The beets & asparagus salad is also good, pairing soft, cooked beets with grapefruit slices and al dente asparagus heads. For entrees, the baby pork ribs have a great rub and are served with a Spanish moruno sauce. But the gnocchi dish (right) is where chef Christian Chirino shines. The gnocchi themselves are braised for color and texture and mixed perfectly with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese. Brilliant. 

Caffe Vialetto – Dinner Menu 

For appetizers, sweet and savory are beautifully intertwined in their ravioli, stuffed with fig or pear and draped with creamy manchego and gorgonzola sauce. Mouthwatering. The croquetas are stuffed with artichoke, ricotta and mozzarella, and complemented with sweet chili gorgonzola sauce. They melt in your mouth. For entrées we chose the meatball polenta and the Risotto Vialetto. The buffalo meatballs were topped with a sweet tomato and basil ragu and rested on a bed of creamy cheese polenta. Scrumptious. And then there is house favorite Risotto Vialetto, with peas, mushrooms, and shrimp. Deliciousness. For dessert, if you have never tried Italian panacotta, it is the creamy “love child” of flan. Theirs has a hazelnut flavor, coated with sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce. Need we say “Yum”?

Zucca – Lunch Menu 

How can such a lovely menu can be offered for the price of Spice? This elegant restaurant has become a bastion of fine dining, and the Spice menu reflects it. We bypassed the soup of the day for the other two appetizers, both as attractive in presentation as in taste: thin-sliced white fish marinated in lemon oil and vinaigrette (a kind of carpaccio dressed with bits of radish, parsley, and avocado puree); and a salad of Farro grain topped with marinated slices of salmon. For entrees, their Corvina fillet with yellow tomato sauce, clams, potatoes, and leeks was superb, as was their medallions of filet mignon with green peas, pea puree, and bits of crispy prosciutto. For dessert: a chocolate and hazelnut tart. Buon Appetito!