It gives one a strange feeling to walk into what has been described a "hot new restaurant" on a Saturday night at eight and find it almost empty. The Miami Dining Examiner's friend had no problem expressing her thoughts- "It's Saturday night at eight- why is no one here? What's wrong with this place?"
Obviously, staff didn't know how to answer the question, other than to say "It will fill up later." This didn't prove to be altogether true and to answer the "What's wrong with this place?" question, the answer is, nothing really, other than the fact that Lippi is off the beaten track (Brickell), the prices steep and the portions small.
The inside of Lippi, billed as a new American dining experience, is over the top flashy, with marble, chandeliers and orchids abounding. Parking is difficult, unless you valet. The Miami Dining Examiner and her friends started the night with two champagnes and two glasses of wine, which racked up a bill of almost 60 bucks.
Sitting in a practically deserted dining room, the server welcomed us to Lippi and then rattled off "must have" items to try from the menu, as well as specials. She spoke so quickly, it was necessary to ask her to repeat portions of the spiel.
The menu is separated into sections of crudos, starters, salads and sides, seafood and meat dishes, dessert and cocktails, with dishes meant to be shared.
Sticking to the server's recommendations, we ordered an octopus carpaccio from the crudo section and truffled scrambled eggs from starters. An amuse bouche of peach colored gazpacho in a shot glass was delivered. Topped with a thin slice of bread, and speck, it was a refreshing way to start the meal.
The octopus carpaccio came with potato confit, roasted red peppers, sliced octopus and what looked like black olives out of can. This was drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. The octopus was sliced thin, with thin slices of potato fanned out and topped with chopped tomato, microgreens. It was refreshing dish, although the appearance of tinny black olives, in a restaurant that's supposed to be organic, was disappointing.
The truffled scrambled eggs,("I know it sounds strange for dinner, but you've got to try it," said our server) were a hit with the table. They were served in a clear, tilted bowl (reminiscent of a fish bowl) and were fluffy, mixed with wild mushrooms, topped with a white foam and sprinkled with chopped green chives. Visually, it was beautiful and was served with thin slices of toast, for texture.
The diners at the table ordered a couple sides recommended by the server, along with separate entrees. The brussel sprouts were served in a cute enamel crock; they were cooked nicely with large slices of meat flavoring the dish. The risotto with wild mushrooms, also came in a crock and was creamy, topped with a foam, tasting of truffles and sprinkled with chopped chives.
Entrees ordered were: seared black cod, roasted lobster, seared scallops and roasted duck breast. The presentation of all the dishes was beautiful, served on ceramic pottery plates and garnished with herbs and flowers, in keeping with the organic theme. The duck breast was especially pretty, served on a wooden cutting board, in order to catch the au jus from the duck.
Of all the entrees, the duck, served with potato balls and cranberry relish and the scallops, perfectly seared and served with tomato jam, were standouts. The portions were not big, but paired with the appetizers and sides, that was fine.
For dessert, the Snickers tart and Grand Marnier soufflé, were delicious. The Snickers tart, with a base of brittle, topped with a chocolate wafer, accented with dollops of cream and whole peanuts was a delectable mix of textures and flavors that were amazing. The soufflé, golden, puffy, crusting out of the white dish and dusted with powdered sugar, was served with crème anglais and cassis caviar, which tasted like little Jello dots. It sounds strange, but it worked well, with the texture, flavor and temperature of the cool dots complimenting the hot and airy soufflé.
The Miami Dining Examiner's friend complained about the chairs being uncomfortable and, at the end of the meal, a discussion arose about if diners would return to Lippi. The conclusion was service was good, the food good (some of it very good), but it wasn't worth the money spent. This is a four dollar sign restaurant and the food (even if it's organic) doesn't justify the sticker shock at the end of the meal. Two bottles of (marked up) wine, didn't help matters.
Lippi also serves lunch, Monday through Friday from noon to 2:30 p.m. The business lunch is $29 for two courses, $39 for three courses, which considering Miami Spice is currently charging $23 for a three course lunch, seems out of step with financial reason.
The other comment the Miami Dining Examiner has about Lippi is that if the restaurant is touting a "new American dining experience", it needs to serve food that is ahead of the trends. Adding microgreens and truffle oil to dishes no longer feels cutting edge, but old hat. If Lippi wants to justify the exorbitant prices they need to get ahead of the culinary trends, not ride their coattails.
Hopefully, Lippi can find its audience. Otherwise, the Miami Dining Examiner doesn't have much hope for its future.
600 Brickell Avenue
Miami, Fl 33131
Dinner Monday- Saturday 6-10 p.m.