Rating: 8/10
Address: 3 Brown Rd, Onetangi, Waiheke Island
Phone: 09 372 7854
Email: miro@xtra.co.nz
Cuisine: Mediterranean Tapas

New year, new goals. With a brand new year stretching out in front of me I have two key goals for eating out: I'm determined to be intrepid - no suburb will be left unvisited, no inner city alleyway unexplored, no newly established eatery ignored. Sure, having a favourite eatery that you return to has its charm, but discovering somewhere new is exciting and filled with potential. So this year the number one challenge

is to get out of my comfort zone. Number two challenge is to be brave when it comes to encouraging great service. By this I mean that if things aren't right on the night, I'm going to say something at the time, as opposed to me complaining after the fact.

So, with these intentions firmly in place I jumped on a ferry to Waiheke Island early in the new year to meet some friends for lunch. Waiheke is dotted with vineyards and olive groves and there's plenty of choices for lunch or dinner. I was off to a place I'd heard about but never before visited. From the ferry we wound our way down the island to Onetangi to what was once one of the island's best kept secrets. Recently

expanded Casita Miro sits high above the beach among the olive groves and its vineyard. The impressive design of the building is one of the best examples of indoor-outdoor flow I've ever seen. Huge, levered glass windows provide uninterrupted views and, thrown wide open, give the sense that there are no barriers at all between the indoor and outdoor. Despite the high-level design, there's still a rustic charm to Casito Miro

that is reminiscent of the best of patio dining in the Mediterranean. In keeping with this style, Casito Miro describes itself as a tasting room/eatery and serves tapas. Ordering small plates of food doesn't mean you have to endure a selection of mismatched dishes, never quite getting enough of any of them. Select dishes that go well together and, if you're with a group, double up on some of the dishes so you get a decent taste

of each, as opposed to ordering one of each of a wide variety. Using this rationale we ordered four of the savoury dishes, followed by two of the sweets.

They bake their own breads at Miro and the focaccia served with olive oil was out of this world - freshly baked, crusty, salty and oily on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. The oil had that pungent grassiness that good olive oil has. Next up were sauteed scallops; they came in their shell, doused in a decent dose of a very creamy saffron beurre blanc that was divine - buttery and sharp, a perfect match for the queen

of shellfish. We continued our seafood theme with swordfish that had been cubed and marinated in coriander, cinnamon, fresh ginger and pomegranate molasses. These morsels sent us into raptures - the spices were a great combination for this big fish and how the chef, Carsten Blutner, got the fish cooked all the way through without it drying out, I want to know. It was soft, tender and moist.

Changing tack, we finished our savoury selection with patatas bravas, the traditional Spanish tapa of cubed potatoes dusted in smoked paprika and cooked down with tomatoes and chorizo. It's a full-on flavour and a big hitting dish this one, so good to finish with.

Moving on to the sweet tapas selection, we were intrigued by the summer fruits puree and it didn't disappoint. Like a soup full of summer this beautiful dish was refreshing and light with its floating islands of meringue. Our second sweet tapa, honey roasted figs, was another standout performance. Sticky sweetness at its best.

The service at Casito Miro is worth mentioning because it was fabulous: wait staff who actually look and listen and seem to like their job and hosts who are enthusiastic and excited by what they are creating and the experience their diners are having. Service, ambience, outstanding food - Casita Miro has it all. Being outside your comfort zone has never felt so good.

From the menu: Sauteed scallops with saffron beurre blanc $18, Swordfish steak marinated in cinnamon, ginger and pomegranate molasses $22, Patatas bravas - smoked paprika and tomato potatoes with chorizo $17, honey roasted figs with ice-cream $18, Iced summer fruits puree with almond meringue $18.
Drinks: Fully licensed, tastings available, great selection of local wines.

Rating key: 1-4: not good enough. 5-6: OK but needs work. 7: recommended. 8: excellent. 9-10: outstanding, book immediately.