Just a hop away from the rowdy, beer-chugging section of Coconut Grove, is the elegant and inviting Gnu Restaurant and Lounge. Offering up a sophisticated array of Caribbean-Mediterranean fusion cuisine with prices to match, Gnu is teeming with successful business elites, pretty cocktails and meticulously-concocted gourmet treats. Nestled on the second floor of the Grand Bay Hotel, and framed by a live jazz piano bar, it’s hard to believe said world exists at such close proximity to the belligerent bar scene we’re all acquainted with. Surprisingly, there is life in the Grove beyond Tavern’s 2 for 1 pitchers and Sandbar’s wet t-shirt contests-high life to be exact.
After crossing the dimly-lit lounge peopled with business execs well over their 20s, I was immediately seated in the warmly-decorated dining area. Covered with wood floors, bamboo details and guacamole-green walls, the room was lovely, but completely empty aside from Carlos, our obliging waiter, and one other group of business execs. This was disappointing at first, but once the food arrived, I quickly caught on to the charm of Gnu.
Slathered in guacamole and topped with scrumptiously-seared blackened ahi-tuna, the “Gnu Tostones” I ordered were perfect. The tuna was seasoned with mild spices, and marinated in zesty sesame seed vinaigrette. Rich and complex, the guacamole definitely transcended the kind they serve at Salsarita’s (to say the least). Both elements were meticulously assembled atop a perfectly fried toston (flattened fried plantain) which, with its chewy crunchiness, perfectly cemented all of the textures together into something truly delightful.
At six tostones an order, this more than satisfied me, and at 12 dollars, it was hardly a blow to my budget. This dish was at the bottom of Gnu’s price range however, which shot all the way up to 28 dollars for some dishes, such as the Casanova Filet Mingon: served with truffle potato puree and honey poblano sauce, or the Grand lamb Chops: encrusted in thyme and rosemary, and served with a cabernet reduction sauce. Prices for the appetizers, though (or “teasers” as the menu playfully states), were much easier to swallow at the 7 to 10 dollar range, which isn’t bad if drinks and starters are the order of the night.
This brings me to the ostentatious mojito I slowly sipped in the lounge after dinner, while the jazz singer crooned tunes like “Besame Mucho” just inches away from me. My glass seemed more like a floral arrangement than a mojito; with mint leaves shooting up out of it as if still growing; it was a striking, tangy delight.
The Tiramisu I had for dessert left an indelible impression on me; I still relish the memory of it. Other than Gnu, only in Italy have I ever experienced that level of yum when it comes to the ethereal little puff of chocolate gossamer that is Tiramisu. Most joints just can’t pull it off.
The service was superb; my waiter Carlos was so accommodating that he agreed to serve and charge me for only half the dessert upon my request. Even the chef made an appearance; he asked what I thought of his masterpiece as I took my first bite of the Tiramisu. I however said nothing, the goose bumps that emerged on my forearm from that first taste was response enough.
Deborah Acosta may be contacted at email@example.com.