Novecento in Miami
Nestled in the heart of Brickell (Miami’s bustling financial district), is an Argentinian small chain restaurant called Novecento. We were genuinely confused when we arrived. The online presence talks all things Argentinian “Novecento (900) means the sum of all our parts”… and yet in Argentina where they speak Spanish Novecento means 90? However Novecento in ITALIAN means 900, so we figured this to mean it was actually an Italian Restaurant trying to be Argentinian or an Argentinian trying to be Italian.. Either way we were a little confused.
We took Uber here from our hotel. It was a crappy journey as it was raining heavily that night and traffic was heavy from the Friday night rush hour. We were very grateful to enter the warm atmosphere of the restaurant. Novecento’s concept is “Classically Rare, Never Medium, Always well done”.
The rustic effect plaster on the walls, cream and off white colours, all mingled with lots of old Argentinian metal signs gave a very relaxed feel to it. Normally this would mean going for a beer, but sensing the Italian influence (and not wanting to miss out on some Argentinian wine!), we opted instead for a 2015 San Pedro de Yacocauya. We liked this place and as we sat there amongst the different sized, but sturdy wooden tables and benches, Pook threw me a challenge.
She invited me to try the Mollejitas Doradas; which were pan friend sweetbreads, sautéed mushrooms with French beans and demi glaze. I am not an overall fan of offal type foods but, well I had already had a sip of the strong wine so when in Ro… Argentina I thought go for it.
Not content with me eating the most unappetising starter, Pook then chose for herself the tantalisingly titled Pulpi a la Brasa (chargrilled octopus, whipped pirayoes and smoked paprika). I’m not trying to be mean but I felt a certain sense of karma when the waiter came back to say sorry, they had ran out J. She ordered Ceviche instead.
The starters arrived quite quickly and were nicely presented, served as they were, on a sharing plate with two side bowls.
Sweetbreads are often mistaken for testicles and the gnarly look of them probably doesn’t help. In fact some of these products end up in good restaurants, but I suspect most of it ends up as packing ingredients for cheaper products and for pet foods. Sweetbreads take some preparation to remove the membrane and even more careful cooking. Done well they can taste very nice, normally they are soft and tender on the inside whilst having a crispier texture on the outside. These sadly had been a little too well done and were bouncy and a bit chewy, probably as they had been sliced too thinly before coating in flour and cooking. They had been fried and Pook pulled some surprising and quite funny faces whilst tasting them and found them to be too greasy and grisly. They were served along with baby spinach, peppers and green beans with sweet soy sauce.
The Ceviche was cubes of wild-caught white fish marinated in “Leche de Tigre” which was a white, milky, sour marinate of lime juice, coriander and red onion vinaigrette. This was served with crispy smashed plantains and served in the lovely medium size blue bowl. The plantains were quite dry and didn't taste sweet at all but this was largely made up by the ceviche which was very nice and a great contrast to the avocados.
Thinking back, Pook had also talked me into the main course as well… Polpetta, which is spaghetti meatballs, in tomato sauce with Stacciatella cheese and basil. The dish arrived and the meatballs were large and very flavoursome. Sadly the tomato sauce that they sat in had split. This left the oil mixture spoiling it a little, but not overly distracting from a nice dish.. Well done Pook for round two!
Sticking with her favourite area of cuisine, Pook chose for herself the Risotto de Maricos. Risotto is quite a challenge to get perfect and the Arborio rice here had been paired with shrimp, calamari, octopus, paprika and Parmesan. Being Thai, Pook is big on the right texture of rice and she was not disappointed. The risotto rice had been cooked to perfection and the balance of flavours with the sea food was just right. Big sized prawns, squid and octopus cooked well and served in the creamy sauce. After the grumpy faces of trying my sweetbreads she was smiling again!
Novecento are not big on desserts and actually, unless they have been done really well, we are not big dessert people anyway, so this suited us.
Novecento gave us food big on flavour with only a few easily forgivable issues and at $80 for the food it was good value for money. The $51 for a bottle of wine I can buy from the supermarket for $20 was a little pricey but forgivable against the food. Comparing that to last night’s $200 to eat at Ombra, we felt (if we lived in Miami) we would travel 10 miles to eat here again.