Shark Attack

New Caribbean joint has James Bond feel, with spice

But what about the food? It took me forever to make up my mind about the place, but after what felt like a million visits I've concluded that Tiburón is basically a very competent spicy chop house yearning to breathe free--yet that chop house is trapped within a Tiburón that has a menu that is far too ambitious and contains too many touchy and unsuccessful seafood dishes.

The most alarming dish is probably the calamari spring rolls: full, smallish squid bodies stuffed with a mixture of vegetables and noodles. The squid itself is okay, but the center is a gummy, tongue-sticking, chill mess that manages to repulse and cause profound unease. I have never, ever received so many reader e-mails warning me about a dish. Yet it sounds so alluring, so exotic, so two-things-you-already-love (Calamari? Spring rolls? Yes!) that I think everyone who walks in the door orders it. And they skip the less exciting-sounding Bermuda Cheeseburger (because those two words have no relation, and they read like "Bermuda shorts") which is perhaps the best thing on the menu: The meat is blended with sautéed red bell peppers, chiles, onions, and spices, then covered with tetilla cheese and served with chipotle ketchup, all of which results in a burger that is light, tender, thoroughly spiced, and truly delightful. The pile of crisp sweet-potato fries that accompany it are a joy too. At $7, this, I say, is going to be the cult hit of Tiburón--especially after March 21, when the restaurant will start serving till 2:00 a.m. on weekends. Till 2:00 a.m.! Downtown! Thank God.

I'll certainly allow that a convincing case could be made that the adobo pork chop ($17) is the best thing on the menu. A spicy, smoky chile paste animates the outside of a thick-cut tender chop, and on each side of the meat is a vast pool of side dish--on one side a lagoon of addictive salsa-spiced creamed corn, on the other a hill of oniony sweet-potato hash. For all the men out there who think a top-flight meal would be a course of nachos and beer followed by steakhouse-caliber steak and potatoes, please note, your dreams are being answered.

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

Location Info

Map

Tiburon Restaurants

1201 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

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However, if you dream of lively ceviche and sweet Caribbean mollusks, keep up the good work, because Tiburón has miles to go in these areas. The ceviche platter ($20) needs to be dropped from the menu as soon as possible. The first time I tried it, all the fresh seafood options were so flagrantly past prime that I felt like calling a chaplain to request a burial at sea; a few weeks later I got up my courage to order it again and found that the five dishes on the platter were fresh enough but still tasted bad. The barbecued shrimp ceviche (why is this ceviche?) comes in a sweet, cloying sauce with too much faux smoke flavor; the whole marinated mushrooms seemed like they'd be happier in a martini; raw scallops with lime and jalapeño tasted like they'd been in the marinade all day, and were rubbery and unpleasant; the raw ahi tuna with a fruit marinade tasted fatty and wrong; and while the lightly fried oysters on a bed of marinated tomatoes were okay...they were leading the pack by a mile at okay. The lobster is another must-miss: For $26, one wishes for more than a lobster tail so overcooked that it lodges in its shell like a gum in a shoe and tastes not like anything but like the chemical soak they use to preserve the things.

Yet if you order the most common seafood-restaurant dishes, such as the shrimp cocktail ($10) or mussels ($9), you'll find seafood that is quite good: The shrimp are plump, royal looking giants served with bright, fresh horseradish sauce and attractive charred lemon halves for squeezing; the mussels ($9) are tender and charming, dripping with a sweet ginger-coconut-milk broth. Swab your complimentary spicy cornbread (from the lovely bread basket) through that lush coconut broth sometime while you sip a cocktail and stare at the fish, and you'll quickly see why I plan to go back to the place whenever the need for escapism hits. Truthfully, I think that all Tiburón really has to do to become one of the most fun destination restaurants in town is to lose about half of the far too elaborate, nearly 50-item menu, and focus on its strengths.

For example, two of the six desserts are knockouts in the Manny's kill-'em-with-portion-size vein. The dense "French toast" is made with a chocolate banana bread and topped with roast bananas and banana ice cream; for $8 you get enough rich dessert for four hearty appetites. The tres leche cake ($6) is another standout: The soaking-wet cake topped with that tangy caramel of dulce de leche is too sugary for my taste, but if I know you-all, and I think I do, you'll quickly elect this to your Cafe Latté and Manny's Hall of Fame.

Yet the flan ($5), topped with watermelon salad and surrounded by cilantro sugar syrup is undeniably weird and wrong, the sweet cream of the flan jarring against the syrupy crunch of watermelon and soapy herbaceousness of the cilantro. And the toasted cashew tart ($5) was stale whenever I tried it, presumably because no one's ordering it, in favor of the better items. Cull the herd!

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