Taking my parents out to dinner is a game of chance. Age, experience, and generally strong opinions typically lead us to dine at “safe choices,” places like their favorite local Cuban restaurant, or a major chain – usually Ruby Tuesday or Macaroni Grill.
They’re very well aware that these are subpar places, but the point is – they’re expectedly subpar. No surprises here, folks. The Fettuccini Alfredo is bland, the server is disinterested, and even though the dessert menu never changes, we always ask for it. As expected.
Sometimes, they’ll let me take them somewhere new. A restaurant with an interesting menu and flavors I think they’d enjoy. Most of the time, though, we end up spending a ton of money and they go home to secretly make themselves a sandwich.
This time, I tried my luck and took them to Finka Table and Tap, a fusion restaurant combining Cuban, Korean, and Peruvian flavors. Finka is right down the street from my parents’ house and just happens to be owned by the same family that runs my mom’s second favorite restaurant ever, Islas Canarias. It was a pretty safe bet.
Things started off fabulously. Finka’s menu struck a perfect balance of words they’re incredibly familiar with (garbanzos, croquettas, pork) and words that were intriguing, yet not quite scary (truffle oil, brussels sprouts.)
My dad, who has never had a cucumber in a drink ever, noted that my Leblon Cachaça and fresh cucumber cocktail tasted “like a salad.”
He quickly moved on to the foreign flavor combinations he came across on the menu. “Wasabi mustard?” he said. “That’s weird.”
The arrival of their signature complimentary basket of chips caused some uproar at the table. “Cuban families need their bread and butter,” said my mom as my dad displayed more interest in the reprints of old Cuban newspaper that lined the basket.
A spread of shredded beef-based appetizersarrive at the table. The Tostone with vaca frita and Peruvian pico de gallo cilantro aoli got a small nod of approval from my mom, who still made sure to tell us she thinks her tostones are better. They are, but that’s not a knock against these. My mom makes some pretty baller tostones.
The Mac n 3 Cheese with carne asada, bacon, and chives were a big winner. Cheese, bacon, and grilled meat can do no wrong in this family.
Another twenty minutes later, we get our entrees. They are lukewarm at best. I get the dreaded “these newfangled restaurants are a joke” face from mom that I always get when a hot, new restaurant fails to deliver on the most basic things.
I ordered the Cuban Bibimbap Bowl for my love of all bowls full of carbs. This one had a bed of rice, vaca frita, black beans, maduros, kimchee, and a fried egg on top:
Something quite magical happens when you’ve reached the Optimal Mush zone of a bowl. It was a recurring dream featuring the same perfect bite of egg-soaked rice and crispy beef. The kimchee felt unnatural, trying to force itself between two soul mates.
We also tried the Oxtail in Merlot Reduction with wild mushroom risotto. Like a series of failed foreplay moves, the plate managed to still be not quite hot:
Cuban oxtail and rice is one of the mountainous Caribbean island’s great culinary gifts to the world. In spite of the interesting experiment, it still made us wish we went somewhere that served the real thing.
We all unanimously decided that the Cuban Fried Rice was a must-order. I’m not sure if I’m biased by my own upbringing, but I’m pretty sure Cubans love Chinese fried rice. Unfortunately for them, the addition of pineapple and plantains made it not Chinese fried rice. So, all hope of my parents finding love in familiarity went out the window.
What about the Manchego cheese pizza with chorizo, Peruvian olives, and a fried egg in the middle? I mean, look at this thing. How could you not like a thing with all those fantastic words in it?
As is tradition, we ended dinner with a sweet, caramel flan.
Did we spend a pretty penny? Sure. Did they go home afterward and make themselves a sandwich? Maybe. But if they did, they made themselves the best damn sandwich they’ve ever eaten.
Finka Table and Tap
14690 SW 26th Street
Miami, FL 33175