A cozy, charming bistro tucked away in plain sight in Bay Harbor Islands, Paon Eatery offers a large selection of tapas and a handful of small plates and desserts. Curated by Chef Federico Cassino, he adds his Argentinian upbringing of Italian and Spanish dishes with formal training an ocean away in Barcelona.
The result is a mélange of flavors that focus on fresh ingredients, fragrant sauces, and the colors of the Mediterranean. There’s a warm and elegant vibe at Paon Eatery with worn leather booths, charcoal gray walls and upside down plants dangling from the ceiling. Tables are graced with tiny plants in shot glasses and white and blue striped linen napkins. Even the drinking glasses get special attention as they are tall and elegant. Diners can cozy up inside in a booth, at the ten foot-high bar or sit outside to people watch along Kane Concourse.
My artist dining partner opted to sit inside. We sipped on chilled Prosecco while plates of Grilled Octopus with eggplant pureé, potatoes, chimichurri; warm Brie and tomato, brioche toast and truffle oil; and Pork Ribs with sweet potato fries came rolling out of the kitchen.
The generous purple roast octopus tentacle was pretty glorious, tender and flavorful aided by scoops of the earthy eggplant and tangy chimichurri. Octopus has always been a staple of tapas restaurants and Spanish cuisine, though the new trend of serving the large tentacles is an eight legged leap over calamari rings and fried tiny squids.
The Brie was melted to perfection served over brioche toast softened by truffle oil. Some charred small whole tomatoes gave a nice juicy contrast to the creamy cheese. And yes eat the cheese “rind” it’s delicious and powdery in the best way.
The Grilled Shrimps were large and plump, nestled on a bed of Rosti Potato with house mayo and a Gazpacho sauce. Grilling really adds an extra richness to the shrimps and brings out their deep sea flavor.
We really loved Paon Eatery’s pork ribs. Meaty and fall off the bone tender, the BBQ sauce was spicy and sweet, with some sliced green onions and crispy sweet potato fries to go on the side. I could have made a whole meal out of this and I think my starving artist dining partner did.
A Flourless Chocolate Cake with ice cream and caramelized nuts came frozen in a small glass mason type jar tasting more like a deluxe cold mousse. For a contrast we tried the Grilled Pineapple with strawberries, another grilled plate that enriched the taste of the fruit.
While we were eating, Chef Federico Cassino came out the kitchen to see how we were doing. He explained how he tweaks his recipes with the seasons, and draws on the experiences of cooking in both South America and in Spain. Opened by him and his wife Designer Sofia Rodriguez Kandeler, Paon Eatery was designed to be upscale casual with an extensive wine list and a sophisticated vibe.
Chef Federico A. Cassino was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied marketing while growing a big enthusiasm for cooking that began with his grandmother, and his mother, who cooked refined French cuisine for the family.
In 2008 he decided to follow his true passion, cooking. Two years later, he was welcomed at Hisop, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona where he specialized in Modern Mediterranean cuisine.
“I learned real cooking values, I also got in touch with premium raw products. After that experience, I traveled a lot and tasted everything I could. That mindset is the same we have with my wife nowadays, travel and taste,“ he said.
Chef Federico and his wife saw Miami in a constant culinary and hospitality growth, and wanted to start something here out of their comfort zone.
Their swank Paon Eatery goes from traditional Latin American dishes to Mediterranean highlights; an opportunity to create a moment where people enjoy to share what they like.
We looked around the restaurant and couples and families were doing just that; trying seafood, BBQ, cheeses, chocolate and fruits. Here, one indulgent meal beats a one-dish experience any day.
If you visit, Paon Eatery is located on 1076 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor. The restaurant opens Monday to Saturday for Dinner. Check paoneatery.com for information on their menu.
Paon: Spanish Tapas with a South American Flair