The arrival of Talavera to Coral Gables is a breath of fresh air. More often than not I want to leave the Gables when looking for food, especially at dinnertime. But Talavera shows promise and I’m happy that there’s a new option in the neighborhood.
My first visit was for lunch with Jackie of Kitchen Interviews. It may not seem like it from the outside but the owners have done a great job with the décor. Bright orange walls with royal blue accents give the place a warm vibe.
The menu is larger than I expected. Our server told us they tried to focus on Mexican dishes not commonly found in other menus in Miami. Their signatures are huaraches – corn masa (dough) topped with black bean puree, lettuce, salsa verde, goat cheese and your choice of various meats. Aside from the standard beef and pork, fish and seafood sections, they offer moles, tortas, chiles rellenos, quesos fundidos and ceviches – something the owners are already well-known for at their Grove restaurant, Jaguar. A section of $12 lunch specials has about 15 options to choose from.
To start, our server brought us round, baked chips with two salsas – one spicy and one slightly sweet. Interestingly, the round, baked chips from the first visit were joined by blue corn tortilla chips on the second (maybe they read Frod’s suggestion).
On that first visit, I ordered the half chicken tacos and soup special. Being a lover of all things corn, I wanted to try the cream of fresh corn, which comes with poblano chiles and small cubes of queso fresco. The sweet-savory taste of the soup hit the spot. And the cubed cheese was a nice touch. The tacos had good flavor and while I could see how the portion would be small for some people, it was enough for me.
After that first visit, I was eager to take D there to see what he thought. We visited today for lunch and tried a few more things.
D typically can’t resist guacamole on a menu so we ordered it to start. For me, the salsas with chips are enough. Plus if you order tacos they come with a little side of guacamole. The side, however, doesn’t come with white cheese and chicharron. Let me tell you, chicharron and guac make for a good combination. And given that I tend to like guacamole chunky, the chicharron gives Talavera’s creamy one an extra bit of texture.
We both ordered from the $12 lunch menu again. This time I went for one of their signatures: the grilled chicken huarache. D ordered tacos de chilorio (roasted pulled pork in ancho and guajillo chiles), which come with a small side of rice and beans.
This was my first time eating a huarache. The chicken was well cooked and I liked the guajillo chile rub, although its flavor was more pronounced in some bites than others. Huaraches are named after sandals that go by the same name. Hence the shape of the masa that holds the bean puree, lettuce and salsa verde under the chicken. The combination of flavors was interesting but I found I liked alternating bites of the chicken with bites of the masa rather than having all of it in one bite. After a while the masa also got a tad soggy, probably from the salsa verde. In all, though, it wasn’t a bad dish.
I should mention that service, while spotty on the first visit, was great today and management made it a point to ask for feedback. They seem to be doing things right in their first two weeks and judging from today’s crowd during lunch I’m pretty sure they’ll do well. I also know I’ll be back. I’m ordering crab enchiladas.
2299 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables