The Kindest Cut of All

Just as you can't go to Joe's without ordering stone crabs, it's impossible to dine at Nick's without feasting on live Maine lobster. I generally prefer smaller lobsters, but here they begin at two-and-a-half and peak at five pounds. (Oh, what I suffer for my craft.) A sweet, steamed two-and-a-half pounder, one of the best I've ever had, put me first in ecstasy, then in agony when I realized I couldn't possibly finish it. For me, a bigger lobster was a drawback; I'd like to see the option of a lobster for more modest appetites. Another liability was the price: At $16 per pound, the cheapest lobster weighed in at a whopping $40. Two cod cakes were bland, oily companions -- such a heavy meal would have been better accented by crisp, green vegetables. The marked de-emphasis on greenery (all vegetable side dishes are offered a la carte) was disappointing.

A quote from Nickolas at the top of the menu reads, "There are a million ways to go broke, but eating or drinking isn't one of them!" If that's true, then why, after dinner at Nick's, is there nothing in my pocket but pocket? And why a three-dollar valet parking fee when part of the attraction is the "ample free parking" in the 450-space lot? Still, there is some solace: In this current season of economic setbacks, Nick Nickolas's own financial commitment is, at the very least, a vote of confidence for the future of South Beach. At most, the month-old eatery is an institution in the making, guaranteed to bring the bucks back to the Beach. Eat at Joe's? Looks like the stone crab syndicate may finally have some competition. And though you might have to tip the valet attendant, here you don't have to tip the maitre d' in order to sit down.

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