By Laine Doss
By Ily Goyanes
By Camille Lamb
By Laine Doss
By David Minsky
By Emily Codik
By Zachary Fagenson
By Laine Doss
Matters didn't improve with the main courses. Grilled yellowtail snapper, which won a rave from the waitress, came as two hefty fillets, fresh, crisp, and sweet. The problem was the sauce, a citrusy beurre blanc that was far too tart, riddled with slices of sauteed lemon rind. A perfectly baked potato -- chosen from a list of starches that also includes rice, steak fries, mashed potatoes, and pasta -- perched alongside, soaking up the lemon-butter in a less palate-puckering fashion. A medley of verdant broccoli, string beans, and snow peas that composed another appealing (if too-well-buttered) partner was served with all entrees.
Given the snapper's freshness, we were disappointed by a fishy piece of pan-fried salmon, which was flaky and moist inside but too salty and drenched with butter outside. An artichoke heart topping was mushy and far too potent with leaves of sauteed tarragon, as if to disguise the pungency of the fish. And a pair of Louisiana crabcakes could hardly claim authenticity. Inches thick and fluffed up by an eggy, soufflelike interior, the cakes were deep-fried and lidded by battered and deep-fried onions and green peppers. But they were so rife with fake seafood that even my husband -- who actually likes the stuff -- couldn't swallow them. A basmati rice accompaniment was colorful with diced carrots but unevenly cooked, resulting in some grains that were hard, some soft.
On our first visit we arrived a little before 8:00 to find that the kitchen had only one special left -- meat loaf. (The Intracoastal Cafe closes at 9:15; it seems the restaurant is attuned to the schedules of building residents, who tend to dine early.) The beef was interspersed with a chunk of carrot or two, the thick, tasty slices permeated by a flavor reminiscent of smoky barbecue sauce. But the traditional sidekick of mashed potatoes was gluey to the extreme, despite some lumps that remained for texture.
Another homestyle dish, eggplant Parmesan, was huge: four slices of eggplant topped with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. The drawback was an abundance of grease in the coating, from overfrying. A side serving of spaghetti with marinara sauce was mediocre, barely worth comment.
But another pasta, which we chose from a list of seven and shared as an appetizer, was tasty despite a mixup on our server's part. We ordered ravioli with four-cheese sauce but received the other option: with mushrooms and a pink sauce. Four round cheese-stuffed ravioli were blanketed in a flavorful tomato-cream mixture, with plump mushrooms adding a distinct musk. A good option for a starter, given that appetizers are few here.
We tried two of the remaining three starters, and they were good as well. Freshly coated with crumbs and fried, chicken fingers were served sizzling with a homemade honey-mustard sauce. As ubiquitous appetizers go, it was delicious. A quesadilla was also appealing, eight quarters of buttery griddled flour tortillas stuffed with melted jack cheese, sharp scallions, and salty black olives. Lime-drenched tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and sour cream garnished the dish with some style.
Dessert, though, proved as uninspiring as most of the entrees. We settled for a slice of almond cake, a fluffy meringue pastry layered with whipped cream and chewy almond slices. Chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries perked this up a bit. But overall, dining at the Intracoastal Cafe was a bit like playing host to a baby for a week. Plenty of things -- the cuteness, the honest effort, the nurturing friendliness -- recommend both endeavors. But it'll probably be a snowy day in Miami before I try either again.
Clearly the kitchen is reaching out to a sophisticated clientele. It's also reaching a bit too high.
5600 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 866-3666. Open Wednesday -- Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. (open for lunch on Tuesday, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).
Ravioli with pink sauce and mushrooms
Grilled yellowtail snapper