Name: Casa Juancho – Flickr Set
Age: Almost 30 years old (opened 1984)
Location: 2436 S.W. 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
Guest Reviewer: ERGagit
Despite the avant-garde nature of modern spanish cuisine spearheaded by the likes of Adriá, Roca, Aduriz and Arzak, some culinary traditions are best left unchanged, letting time pass by without altering them. Paella is no doubt one of them, a dish that goes back 200 years and is still today prepared in the same fashion.
So is the case at Casa Juancho on 8th street, a mammoth of a restaurant offering classic Spanish cuisine.
As with some of the previously reviewed classics, it seems time stopped the day this place opened. It seems they are the same waiters, the same tables, the same cutlery. The same decor from its opening back in 1984. This is a classic that is handling like a champion the test of time. The large restaurant even boasts its own private parking, and is able to seat well over 300 people.
Despite its magnificence, it remains under the radar even for a classic. Spanish cuisine has had a little bit of a comeback in Miami in recent years thanks to a large extent to the Pubbelly group and their Barceloneta joints, as well as the growing empire of 100 montaditos. Xixon, a three year old in Coral Gables, is also drawing the odd food expert here and there. Casa Juancho sits on 8th street unaware of all this fanfare, unaware of what has happened in Basque Country or San Sebastian over the last decade, where a few chefs and restaurants have monopolized top restaurant lists and Michelin stars.
The food is straight forward spanish fare, unassuming and risk free. Pimientos rellenos, stuffed with white fish and battered, fried and served on a puddle of tomato sauce were delicious but felt as though they had been sitting around for a few hours. A vegetable soup looked simple and probably tasted so. One of us ventured into fabada astuariana territory, a white bean stew with slices of blood sausage which apparently was not bad. A non-ricer from our table ordered the cod filet with vegetables, a plate decent enough to garter its dissapearance whole.
Jars of red and white sangria were passed around making for a decent level of tipsyness for when the main course arrived: the paella. It’s probably difficult to get something wrong that you have been doing for 30 years, and you can tell the same guys in this kitchen have been making these in the same fashion forever. It was flawless, just the right level of moisture left and just the right level of “al dente” in the grains. Well seasoned, with the right combination of seafood variety, mussels, squid, shrimp and lobster.
The highlight though was a suckling pig that was being passed around when we arrived, split open and roasted, face down on a tray. We ordered half of it and it was brought to us in chunks. It was crispy and succulent, a true feast.
I can’t recall the last time I was at a restaurant with live music, but it was probably also spanish or maybe lebanese (in this case it also included a dancer). I can’t think of anything tackier, but can also appreciate how at a place like this, it gels. A trio of dressed up gallegos fired away unannounced and gave us a whole serenata of spanish classic tunes, most out of tune, but who cares. It added color to the night and makes for a more entertaining experience if anything. It’s not always about the Michelin stars you know!
Desserts included more classic options like a flan and crema catalana. As with the paella, very straight forward and unfussy.
Another great night of classics review, this time more due to the company, the great conversation and the entertainment rather than the food. If you are craving a paella or are spanish and feeling homesick, visit Casa Juancho on 8th street. You should also consider this place for a group meal if you want to have a really good time. Just don’t take Jose Andres if he happens to be in town and you want to impress him.