On October 28, my sister turned 30. Since I wasn't able to be with her on the actual day, I asked her to think about a restaurant she'd been wanting to try, and I would take her there when I arrived for Thanksgiving week. After mulling it over for about 48 hours, she emailed me a short list and from those contenders, we decided on Chef Daniel Boulud's Boulud Sud.
Boulud Sud is in the JW Marriott in downtown Miami. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, I felt like we'd been transported to Greece.
The dining room had light fixtures that cast a warm glow over the space. The booths were very cozy, and my sister noticed the banquettes had leather straps with gold buckles meant to look like luggage.
We settled into our seats, and our waiter came by to bring us menus. Boulud Sud offers a variety of Mediterranean dishes, including a three-course, prix-fixe option.
Before deciding on food, we began with drinks. Red wine for the birthday girl, and the Mediterranean margarita for me.
The margarita was made with tequila, hibiscus, ginger and lime, and was very refreshing. I loved the garnish too.
Next we enjoyed focaccia bread with olive oil and labne cheese.
My sister dunked her slice with glee and said, "For someone who recently gave up bread, this is a serious homecoming. It's like a party in my mouth." The olive oil was so pure, it tasted like we were in a field in Italy. For me, the labne was a little too tart, but my sister thought it was the perfect compliment to the bread.
The zucchini chips were up next. This was a huge portion, enough for at least four people. Each chip was paper thin and they came with a harissa aioli for dipping, which had a nice kick.
As we were inhaling the chips, my sister raved, "These are the best I've ever had."
We moved on to the panzanella salad with burrata cheese.
Usually panzanella is made with torn bread, but this version had very crunchy croutons. My sister griped, "Personally, I would have preferred red onion over a shallot." She continued, "That said, this burrata is like a cloud." I couldn't get over how fresh the tomatoes tasted.
For her entree, my sister selected the chicken tagine. She took one bite and proclaimed, "Mol, if you were ever going to eat meat again, this would be the dish."
I smiled, so happy that her birthday meal was exceeding her expectations. She continued, "This chicken is perfect - tender with crispy skin. The Moroccan spices are delicious. Every bite is warming me on the inside."
She took a few more forkfuls and continued praising, "The cauliflower and turnips are also yummy. It's really a full meal in a bowl. It's a generous portion, but the food itself is light. The drama of the server lifting the lid off the tagine also makes it feel very special."
For the entree round, I actually ordered two side dishes. The first was the "farrotto." This is risotto, made with farro instead of arborio rice. The farro gave it great texture and every bite was wonderfully creamy. It was topped with lots of mushrooms, my favorite.
I also tried the patatas bravas, which were honestly not the best. The potatoes could have been crispier and the aioli was drizzled over the top in a rather fancy way, rather than having a small bowl to dunk into.
We only ate about half of our entrees, because we knew we wanted to save room for dessert. We ordered the most chocolatey thing on the menu (no surprise there) which was essentially a chocolate bar, served with baklava ice cream and a granola underneath.
The dish was very delicate and we actually wound up liking the ice cream best.
Then, as a birthday surprise, our waiter hand delivered a basket of freshly baked Madelines, with a candle and a "Happy Birthday" message.
I'm not usually a fan of anything that isn't hard core chocolate, but these cookies were served warm, with powdered sugar and tasted like little, lemony pillows. We were popping them like candy!
We had such a wonderful experience at Boulud Sud. We had a comfortable table, a knowledgeable, attentive server, and the food was delicious. I think we talked about that basket of Madelines for the rest of the week!