Shark Attack

New Caribbean joint has James Bond feel, with spice

Tiburon Caribbean Bistro
1201 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis
612.604.0585

Like most Minnesotans, I've developed a number of ways of coping with the recent weeks of subzero temperatures. Such as immersing the extremities in a warmed harem; keeping a small, cozy trashfire burning in the parlor; railing against the sun, and such.

Capitalism. Capitalism seems especially cruel at this time of year, when car trouble isn't just irritating, but physically painful and dangerous. I'd like to take this space now to apologize to the man in the white Impala talking on a phone and stranded at the side of I-94 the other day--I really was on the very verge of pulling over to help you, until I remembered that the only thing I know about cars is that they come in different colors and some of them smell of false pine. I did take a moment to picture the encounter: Screech! Small, chipper critic bounds from car: "Hey there, need help? Worry no more, because I've got some deeply informed opinions about the most romantic lunch getaways in the Twin Cities; and why local paella is invariably lousy; and, as an added bonus, I'll wrap up with a discussion on the best Caribbean cocktails in town." Perhaps in the end the real reason I didn't pull over to help was selfishness, as well as a clear vision that no Minnesota jury would convict a stranded motorist for murder in such a case. Good intentions and a warm heart just aren't worth what they are in the summer. I know because I tried to trade mine to MLT Vacations for a week in Cancún and my offer was rebutted quite cruelly.

Tiburón: Eat with the fishes
Tema Stauffer
Tiburón: Eat with the fishes

Location Info

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Tiburon Restaurants

1201 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

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I'm guessing the cold is a good bit of why I like Tiburón so much--it's really not the food, which, aside from a shockingly good cheeseburger, is fairly mediocre. Well, the cold, but also the tall coral-like fountains that bubble all over with waterfalls and tumble into clear pools; the long rounded wall that changes colors in an enchanting, sunrise-to-sunset sort of way; the marvelous service; and, perhaps above all, the sharks--or, rather, the enormous aquarium that snakes through the center of this new, vast, 260-seat Caribbean restaurant, which opened last December. This giant aquarium undulates through the room, separating the bar and main dining area, and it gives the room a very James Bond feel, Live and Let Die-era, but in a gentle, no-one-in-the-shark-tank sort of way.

(One friend I brought there had heard of Tiburón and got the idea that there would be great white Jaws-type sharks in the aquarium. No. Darlings, this is a restaurant, not hell. I can't even really imagine who would enjoy dining in clear view of bloodthirsty, rapacious, oversized monsters--did we learn nothing from the failures of all those Planet Hollywoods?)

This James Bond feeling without the burden of James Bond is distinctly enhanced by Tiburón's cocktails, Tiburón's snazzy, jazzy, fruity, powerful, charming, and otherwise yachting-holiday-without -the-cost-and-trouble-of-selling-the-house cocktails. Such as the Mojito ($7), which comes with a swizzle stick of sugarcane, the better to swirl about the freshly torn mint leaves. And the distinctive sangria ($6.50), a memorable concoction that's less summer-juicy than most versions: Here red wine and citrus fruits are allowed to meld, then enhanced with Grand Marnier and Courvoisier. The weight of the heavier alcohols imparts a nice Christmas accent to the drink--winter sangria! Tiburón also has a decent wine list and a large selection of single-estate and other top-shelf rums, like the rich and fragrant caramel of Appleton Estate EX ($7), served in a brandy snifter, or the--holy cats! Bacardi for a hundred bucks?--Bacardi Millennium ($100), which is served in the bellybutton of a roiling, oiled chart-topping pop star, I assume.

I think the Minneapple is my favorite, though, because it is the first cocktail I've ever encountered that has wit and a sense of place about it. It's basically an apple martini made in such a way that the green layer floats in the martini glass over a red section, and a dessert spoon balances across the rim, holding a single maraschino cherry--a clever, miniature echo of the Walker Sculpture Garden's famous Spoonbridge and Cherrysculpture, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

In all honesty, in a few short months Tiburón has leapt to the head of the class, joining Bar Abilene and Chino Latino in the first rank of local tropical cocktail makers. The Chino connection is one worth noting--Tiburón is the project of young twin brothers John and Michael Mihajlov, 33, who are the sons of Peter Mihajlov , one of the principal partners in local restaurant powerhouse Parasole Restaurant Holdings, the company that founded many of our most important local restaurants, including Chino Latino, Buca, Figlio, Oceanaire, the Good Earth, and Manny's Steakhouse. The brothers have been in the business since they were children; when I spoke to Michael Mihajlov on the phone for this story, he said he got his start at seven years old, helping the prep cooks, then graduated to washing dishes when he was strong enough to lift racks of dishes, and has worked front- and back-of-the-house positions nearly continuously till this day. This experience has given the Mihajlovs a bone-deep understanding of what makes a restaurant work, and there are a million little details that make Tiburón a pleasant place to spend an evening--from the weighty, elegant dining-room chairs to the comprehensively informed, helpful, eager, and otherwise impressive service staff. From hosts to servers' assistants, I can hardly recall a large restaurant that opened with such excellent service. In the good-karma and good-business-practice division: Tiburón will, as of April 1, be offering health insurance to all the restaurant's employees, which bodes well for low turnover in this notoriously volatile profession.

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