Baremeli69: Miami's Mediterranean Haven
Barmeli69 is a Greek Bistro and Wine Bar in Miami, Florida. I went there on a Friday night and I was very surprised to say the least. Who has been hiding this Mediterranean haven? The ambiance is warm, familiar, and cozy. The owner, Liza Meli, greets her guests at the door, stops by every table to "catch up", and pours wine over small talk and laughter. It really felt like everyone was an invited guest and we somehow all made it on the VIP list.
I'm not a wine drinker but I couldn't imagine coming to a wine bar and not trying something. So, I told Liza that I would like a full body red wine. Trust me, she knows what she's doing because she selected such a perfect blend for me. It was rich, savory, and had a mild taste of sweetness.
Since I am a cheese lover, I had no other choice but to start off with the "Cheese Saganaki." It is flamed table side with Brandy. I was quite impressed to see this tray come to my table with a blaze of fire. In the darkly lit room, I felt like I was watching a magic show and I was the kid trying to figure out the trick. I later found out that Brandy is an optimal choice for flavor and creating a little fire show for the guests. The Cheese Saganaki was absolutely incredible! It glided with my fork and went so well with their homemade pita bread. It's a great starter to order for a table of two or even a small group. Before I knew it, people were ordering the dish left and right, and there was a little blaze simmering around every corner. It was like we were all indulging in a cheese affair that the rest of Miami was missing out on.
Then, I had the "Rustic Greek" salad. It was an authentic Greek salad with plum tomatoes, English cucumbers, bell peppers, red onions, Bulgarian feta, and Greek olives. The tomatoes were so fresh! I would of believed them if they told me that they were picked outside right before being placed on my plate.
For my entree, I ordered the "Head-on" Wild Prawns and fresh sauteed spinach. The prawns were huge! I joked and told my husband that there was no need to order lobster because the prawns offered enough meat to be placed in the same category. The garlic spinach was prepared with lemon, garlic, and wine. My husband had the infamous "Grilled Lamb Loin Chops." He loved them! They were prepared over a house pesto and served with Greek roast potatoes. Of course, I had to try the lamb chops, and I quickly agreed that they were juicy, moist, and full of flavor. At this point we were four for four, and I was already thinking about when I could return.
For dessert, I was blown away! Traditionally, Baklava seems to be the most common dessert offered at most Greek restaurants. However, BarMeli69 has eight "sweet endings" to complete your Greek journey. I had the "Lemon-Coconut Cake." It looks simple, but when you mix a piece of the lemon-coconut cake with the passion-fruit gelato, the Barmeli69 party happens right in your mouth! I had to call Meli over and get the history of the dessert because I have never tasted a combination of cake and gelato like that in my life! She told me that it was an old family recipe and she has kept it on the menu because the guests can't seem to get enough of it. My husband and I have talked about the dessert several times since we had dinner there a few weeks ago.
Liza is really such an interesting person. She was raised in Sidney, Australia and came from Greek descent. She is quite popular in the Miami food scene and has opened restaurants in South Florida before; Ouzo's Greek Taverna, Ouzo's Mediterranean Bistro, and Bar Meli's Tapas and Wine Bar. However, MeliBar69 has become such an intimate project. It allows Liza to stay hands-on with her kitchen, staff, and guests. How many owners can say they know most of their guests by name? And the ones that are new, she's trying to learn their names too.
We have many Greek restaurants in Florida, but only a few provide the freshness and flavor of BarMeli69. The atmosphere is extremely European, and it was a nice change from the fast pace anti-social settings often seen in South Florida's Miami culinary scene. The prices are reasonable, making it a place where most people can dine weekly, instead of only on special occasions.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely! Everyone should try the MeliBar69 experience. Take someone special or a group of friends and and enjoy an evening with great wine, amazing food, and an environment that will take you to a casual European party for the evening.