Miami’s best Spanish restaurant — La Gamba — lies tucked into a tiny storefront along Main Highway in Coconut Grove. Opened by Maria Elena Otero, a Venezuelan of Spanish descent, in 2013, La Gamba continues to dish up traditional Spanish tapas and plates with an inventive twist. According to her son and La Gamba’s manager, Miguel Van Den Oever, fresh ingredients from Spain are delivered almost daily, keeping the menu as authentic as possible.
Be warned, however: arrive hungry. The menu offers so many temptations, and you will want to feast on multiple tapas plates before digging into homemade paellas and other seafood-rich entrees …. and still squeeze in room dessert.
On a recent night, we ordered the so-called silky rice with scarlet prawns, mussels, and clams — a meal that took our previous thoughts of what a paella-like dish can accomplish to new heights. The hake in parsley and white wine sauce with grilled shrimps and steamed clams offered a delicate counterbalance to the silky rice.
Small plates dazzled, as well, including the montaditos, thin slices of tomato bread topped with meaty, buttery anchovies. La Gamba’s cod, oxtail, or ham croquetas are another must-try, and we were lucky to start our meal with a dish of garlicky razor clams.
The usual Spanish suspects — plates of Iberico and Serrano ham, as well as manchego cheese — also appear on the menu.
Do save room for dessert; it’s where Otero puts her culinary flair to good use. A manchego tart topped with berry coulis was an unusual and satisfying end to the meal.
But wait! The food isn’t the only thing that we enjoyed at La Gamba. On Wednesdays and Saturday nights, diners can groove to live music from local Cuban and Flamenco musicians.