By Santiago Cardona
I’m all for the thought that Mexican food should be affordable and not fussed up. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m in no way saying that it’s a cuisine that is not deserving of utmost care and sophistication. It’s honestly one of my favorite cuisines in the world, but it is hard to justify paying quite a penny for what is normally more affordable. Cantina La Veinte (495 Brickell Ave, Miami) has the idea of upscale Mexican down pact, providing diners with an elegant ambiance while maintaining the integrity of the food. Walking in, you get a feeling of grandiosity while perusing the decor. This place is downright gorgeous. When you add the mariachis, margaritas, and beautiful Brickell waterfront views, you’re in for a treat.
Menu highlights: It would be hard not to be impressed by the Thick Cut Wagyu served over a carrot puree and with bone marrow. Bone marrow will always have my heart, but the star of this dish was the steak itself. The tender and succulent wagyu was cooked medium-rare and had a umami flavor that showed why wagyu is the superior type of beef. The carrot puree was not overly sweetened and paired well with the steak, giving the diner a cleansing of the palate from such decadent bites.
The Dessert Trio was fabulous, but the true standout was the White Chocolate Covered Panna Cotta. The custard was tropical and flavorful, not relying on just sugar and letting the natural beauty of the fruit shine. Never have I had white chocolate paired with mango, and this is something I wish I’d see more often. For mango being such a prominent fruit in Miami, this combination should be more regular.
Standout dishes: Truthfully, I would be hard pressed to choose between the Seafood Aguachile and the Sopes de Wagyu as my favorite dish. The aguachile is a cold dish created with shrimp, octopus, crab, and scallop on a sauce made of fresh lime juice, cilantro, serrano chile, cucumber, and avocado. While I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of cold dishes, the freshness of the seafood shined through this method, adding a beautiful and bright taste of the sea that can only be food with quality ingredients. Of the two dishes mentioned above, this was the more refined and put together.
The sopes are reminiscent of a mexican arepa, as they are essentially wagyu steak served on a handmade corn masa and topped black beans, sour cream and queso fresco. While this may seem like dumbing down the dish a little, the sopes give that comforting factor that come with eating traditional almost homemade food like an arepa. This dish shines in its simplicity, playing on the umami factor of the steak and cheese to give you a blast of flavor.
Are we boozing? I started with the Standard Margarita hoping to try variations on the classic on my second and third rounds, but after trying the classic, I stuck to it. The short answer is yes. The margarita is as perfect as you could imagine, having the right amount of sweetness while not skimping on the tequila and triple sec. This might be one of the best margaritas in Miami.
Check this place out if you like: Rosa Mexicano. Granted, Cantina La Veinte may be a bit more upscale (and expensive), but the idea of more refined Mexican food is the same.
Santi’s take: While I wouldn’t consider Cantina La Veinte to be an everyday occurrence, it is definitely a frontrunner in restaurants I would recommend for a special occasion. The ambiance and service is impeccable, the food is scrumptious and authentic, and they even have mariachis!