Some nights I would lay awake dreaming of chef Richard Andino's Miami ribs from his days at the failed Flow. It took a while, but I am thrilled to say they're back on the menu at his new restaurant, Dyne. So, yay! Located between Italian food stalwarts L'Unita, Spuntini and Sotto Sotto on Avenue Road, Dyne is an area anomaly with its unique mix of Spanish and Asian influences on the menu. And though the name may be kind of dumbish (sorry, Richard, no one will know it's a nickname; everyone will think it's a bad play on the word "dine"), Dyne heralds a marked return to gustatory sophistication and composition in a nabe most noted for its over-priced cucina povera cooking style.
Delicacies at Dyne abound, like jellyfish ($8). Its rich pink dye from a soy vinaigrette can not hide its chewy slipperiness, but it's quite a tasty treat nonetheless. Mixed with thick threads of cucumber, daikon and topped with seaweed, it's one of the most unique slaws you'll encounter. Even more captivating is a carrot and chile granita that showcases some mighty molecular skills from the kitchen, and a heat that slowly sneaks up on you. In one word, exemplary.
Desalting and rehydrating salt cod is typical when making bacalhau. Using milk instead of water often makes the fish a bit softer and allows it to absorb more flavour. But this salt cod ($11) soaked in water and blended with red onion, olive vinaigrette and plump red tomatoes is too timid, nothing a little dash of salt or a drizzling of some grassy olive oil couldn't fix. And a clever twist on the lobster roll ($21) blends a stunning mix of seafood, celery and mayo before being stuffed into three mini brioches. The problem rests with the overdone "roll". Such a lovely tangy seafood stuffing is not done any favours with the cloying sweetness of the cake-like roll. Methinks a puff pastry or just an egg challah would be a far superior choice.
But the papardelle ($14) is just gosh-darn gorgeous. Too bad the thick ribbons of silky homemade pasta, tossed in a sexy melange of ground chicken and veal, are marred by a heavy handful of bird's eye, jalapeno and habanero peppers that would be too intense for even the bravest heat lover. Thankfully, an incredibly rich and flavourful fennel veal bisque-like broth does what it can to tame the fire in your mouth.
Of course, the biggest celebration here is the return of Andino's cross cut (aka Miami) ribs ($14). I dare you to find any fat on these beautifully grilled meaty mouthfuls that fall off the bone ever so seductively. But again an otherwise perfect dish is criminally impaired by an overdose of a sweet pineapple and brown sugar sauce. A fermented in-house kimchi helps cut through its sickly sweet quality as does a side of sticky rice that could be a wee warmer. And a butterflied and beautifully crisped sardine ($9) with lop chong (an Asian sausage), has the requisite amounts of salt this time. But still something is missing from the spice rack.
Minor errors in judgment like the aforementioned are easy fixes. Dishes are often tweaked for weeks before being perfected. But nothing can rescue an Angus brisket ($25). Square pieces of meat seasoned with anise, bourbon, lemongrass and guava carry on the exotic theme, but the meat is so tough we can barely cut into it. And a side of baby carrots are so overcooked they can be pureed by breathing on them. A colossal disappointment.
Desserts also demonstrate an unsure hand. A nicely crumbly almond cake ($9) with honey is sugar overkill with the addition of yet more chopped and candied almonds. And a flan ($9) with toasted coconut is just way too dense, lacking the signature silkiness of this Spanish classic. Not to mention that the promised vanilla is barely detectable.
Even with these lapses, there is still much to laud at Dyne. Exquisite plate presentation and Andino's idea to mix exotic cuisines with such strong profiles and serve them in a casually elegant setting should make deciding on dining at Dyne a no brainer. The sad part of this story is that it seems that the very talented Andino has hung up his apron to become a restaurateur. At the helm of his kitchen is chef de cuisine Julie Marteleira, a former sous chef at Canoe and Flow. As lovely and capable as she may be, she can't possibly replace the expertise of a chef like Andino who's had years to fine tune his craft on the front line for very demanding diners.