It has been a long long long long long time since I last posted. At one point I had a long list of posts I wanted to get up, but that felt a bit daunting and probably discouraged me even more. Going to start fresh with a new spot I checked out on Friday and also spend some time cleaning up old posts and listings.
My aunt was going to be coming down from Delray and I was on the lookout for a good place for dinner. I was open to doing an old favorite but also wanted to see if I could find someplace new. I hadn’t been keeping up as much on what new gluten-free places might be out there, so I did a Yelp search and a couple Google searches. One option I found was Semilla in South Beach. They offered gluten-free lobster pasta and gluten-free truffle linguini. Now in the past, the lobster pasta wouldn’t have really caught my attention, but seafood has certainly grown on me a lot over the years. I didn’t even try sushi until about five years ago and even after that having straight fish was rare. Memories of being forced growing up to clean a pan of salmon, mayonnaise, and asparagus (yuck!) after one of my mom’s dinner are still a bit traumatizing… I still won’t touch mayonnaise but I am happy to report at an event a few weeks ago I ate straight salmon! Not something I’d crave or really order at a restaurant, but something I would now eat if someone makes it. But anyways gluten-free lobster pasta was sounding a lot more interesting. What sealed the deal was their gluten-free tempura Brussel sprouts. My aunt was coming down to honor my grandfather’s birthday and that had been one of his favorite foods.
I made a reservation for an early dinner around 6. The decor inside is a bit eclectic with mirrors right next to empty clay flower pots lining the walls. There’s a big bar in the middle and tables on the outside, plus outdoor seating. Since Semilla focuses a lot of tapas and small plates I could definitely enjoy sitting at the big bar for drinks and snacks. I was a bit wary at first seeing a DJ set up and this being South Beach, but at least when we were there from about 6-8 pm the music was a nice background music and not too loud.
Our waitress brought us several menus. There was the regular menu, a happy hour menu, and then also a “bar food” menu. Happy hour was both drink and food specials. Most of the food on the bar food menu was on either the happy hour menu or regular menu, so I wasn’t totally sure the need for it. There might have been a few things on it that weren’t anywhere else though (their corn on the cob maybe?). They did have gluten-free fish and chips on both the happy hour menu and bar food menu, which wasn’t on the regular menu and what I had seen online. The regular menu has a lot of options- salads, fish, different steaks, some pasta dishes, a lot of sides.
Generally one of the steaks would have been on my radar, but with all the gluten-free options I decided to stick with those. Since Semilla is primarily a small plate/tapas restaurant my aunt and I ordered most of the gluten-free dishes to share. We got the lobster pasta, truffle linguini, fish and chips, and tempura Brussell sprouts. They also have gluten-free fried calamari but my love of seafood does not extend that far… A lot of the items listed gluten-free also had a green no-wheat symbol next to them. This symbol wasn’t next to items I would assume are naturally gluten-free or are likely to be (oysters, mashed potatoes, etc.). Since I was happy with the amount of food we ordered I didn’t clarify if those other things were safe as gluten-free.
Being tapas style the dishes came out at different times. The fish and chips came out first. If we had ordered one more dish I probably would have ordered their homemade french fries with cheese sauce (or the mashed potatoes), so I was a little disappointed the fish and chips come with actual chips and not french fries. Not a big deal though. What I liked about the fish and chips was that the breading stuck really well to the fish. A lot of times gluten-free batter (on chicken strips, fried fish, etc.) will come off easily, which makes for a messy and/or less than enjoyable experience. That was not the case here. The fried fish was definitely solid taste-wise, especially with the tartar sauce. I couldn’t help comparing it to the fish and chips at Raglan Road Irish Pub at Disney World, which are pretty awesome, and these fell a bit short compared to that. They still were enjoyable and I can’t think of coming across gluten-free fish and chips anywhere else in Miami.
Next came out the truffle linguini and tempura Brussel sprouts. The truffle taste on the linguini is strong and my aunt remarked on this, but I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the texture of the linguini and the creaminess the truffle sauce added. I didn’t mind that there was a lot of it. Since I don’t often eat tempura I was kind of expecting the Brussell sprouts to come out encased in a breading (similar to tempura shrimp you see in sushi). Instead, it came out looking pretty regular from across the table. On closer inspection it had a light coating of tempura around it. I’m not the biggest Brussell sprouts fan, and neither is my aunt, but we did it in honor of my grandfather. We both however really enjoyed these ones. The light tempura coating gave it a nice crunch and some good flavor. I really liked them dipped in the spicy chili sauce that came with it.
The lobster pasta came out last, but we were still working on all the other dishes, so by this point, we were going back and forth between different things. My favorite part about the lobster pasta was the cream sauce. It had a slight “kick” but not what I would consider spicy. The bit of lobster throughout was nice and I think a big lobster fan would really enjoy it. I wish the pasta was a bit more tender and found myself comparing it to the linguini (which again I really liked). Not sure I’d order it again since I don’t love love seafood, but I was glad to try it and have it as an option.
We finished up our food and hung out at our table for a bit. My aunt had a drink she wasn’t going to finish and there was a big party next to us, so I am not sure if our waitress didn’t bring us our check (after we declined dessert- only gluten-free option is caramel creme brulee) because she was busy or she thought we were still visiting. We didn’t mind as we chatted, but then once we were really ready to go it took a while to be able to ask for the check and then finally get it (at that point certainly because of the big group next to us). Minor blip.
I appreciated the variety of gluten-free options on the menu and if someone is a seafood fan I think they will really enjoy that you have lobster pasta, fried calamari, and fish and chips to choose from. Full disclosure I forgot to ask if they use a separate fryer for the calamari, fish and chips, and Brussel sprouts. I didn’t have a reaction to any of the fried food but celiacs should ask. If there isn’t a separate fryer I would still be happy with the pasta and other non-fried options. Next time I would get the linguini again, probably the Brussell sprouts (again not a big fan of them generally, so this is a compliment), and then I would want to try one of their steaks and maybe a few of their sides (fries, mashed potatoes, etc.). The quality of the dishes I got makes me feel optimistic about the other things on the menu.
I think Semilla is a great option to have on the beach with its variety, small plates, and gluten-free options. I also really enjoyed that it had a bit of a South Beach vibe with the bar and decor, but not the South Beach restaurant chaos and noise (at least when we were there) that exists closer to the Ocean Drive. It felt more a restaurant that both West Ave locals and tourists could enjoy. Pics below!
Semilla– 1330 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139