By Melanie Galarce
There’s a common misconception that to take full advantage of the Miami Spiceculinary program the experience should be over the top, lavish, and slightly outside your comfort zone. However, I’m here to share an experience that was quite the opposite. You might already be fully aware that both Mitch and I are slightly biased to a small, understated, and slightly under-explored wine bar on 8th Street called Lekoké. We could write a four-page love letter to this quaint wine bar, with a collection of quirky, antique household items and a floor-to-ceiling collection of booze, but it’s the food, and, specifically, it’s Miami Spice-inspired menu that recently gave me a new reason to brag some more about this small gem.
I’ll preface the review by saying that each course on the Lekoké Spice menu is paired with wine, so you’re immediately smitten by the thought that goes into the menu, but even more so that for a mere $45 you’re getting a wine-paired dinner in Miami. Everything about the experience is a total win.
One of the choices for appetizers is a fresh Caprese Salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar; it’s a simple choice that will not disappoint.
If you’re feeling a bit more flavorful and adventurous, we recommend you choose the Empanaditas that bring a mixture of chorizo, ham, and cheese, and are thoughtfully accompanied by house-made chimichurri sauce. I’m Colombian and have a Chilean husband, and as so, I’m always lured by any rendition of empanadas (our home is slightly divided by each of our family’s interpretation of the traditional Latin dish). After trying Lekoké’s take on the empanada, we’re strategizing a plan to welcome them into our family Empanada Wars. They’re a clever take with unexpected items like ham and cheese, and I just loved everything about these bite-sized pastries. All said appetizers are paired with white wine.
As a main course option, aptly paired with red wine, you can choose the Kokito Tostones. These are baked plantains with Lekoké’s signature six-hour roasted shredded pork and melted mozzarella cheese. I can’t remember having been to Lekoké and not ordering this dish on one of my many visits. It’s undoubtedly a crowd favorite and it’s the type of dish you feel fully comfortable consuming when you’ve made your way to Calle Ocho: it’s Latin, pork infused, and fried.
Another dish you can choose from? The Seafood Pasta with sautéed shrimp, octopus, and scallops, all bathed in a fresh home-made Alfredo sauce. I had never had this dish before and I secretly curse myself for having waited so long. The deliciousness of the pasta is reminiscent of a homemade type that is malleable and silky with chunks of delicious seafood. It’s a perfectly orchestrated pasta dish that puts others (in Italian-inspired restaurants) to serious shame.
As for dessert you can expect favorites like Cuban Flan (inspired by the chef’s grandma’s recipe) and rich, velvety vanilla ice cream. Both are simple but plentiful and fulfilling in flavor; there’s no doubt you’ll be fully satisfied. The paired rosé wine will also help.
Mel’s take: As a foodie, this is the type of place you dream of taking credit for discovering (kudos to Mitch). It’s still relatively undiscovered, and, as so, you can’t help but feel territorial about it. You want everyone that comes here to appreciate its charm, its idiosyncrasies, and, most importantly, its wine and food selection as much as you do. Apart from never leaving Lekoké without a satisfied stomach, you’ll never leave without having had a great, laid-back time.
Standout dish: This is a hard one for me, but the seafood pasta still has me weak in the knees. It’s a creamy, plentiful dish with a myriad of fresh seafood and Alfredo sauce that I can easily consume out of jar. I had tried the stuffed tostones before (and they have a special place in my heart,) but this pasta quietly knocked the Latin-inspired favorite down to a notable second place.