Mediterranean cuisine is the toast of South Beach. Over the past few years, more than a half-dozen hoity-toity restaurants have opened, serving bright, clean, simple Med fare forged from fresh, high-quality ingredients. Here are two catches that focus on seafood:
La Marea at The Tides South Beach
1220 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-604-5185; $35+ per person, excluding tip and alcohol
The new, improved Tides has really revived with the arrival of Italian chef Pietro Rota and his clean, uncomplicated Mediterranean fare. Take the open ravioli appetizer, an ethereal sheet of pasta draped over creamed potato mousseline so smooth that from here on out, regular mashed potatoes will seem like something only primates should eat. The runny yolk of an impeccably poached organic egg spreads its voluptuous splendor over the ravioli, and tableside shavings of Taleggio cheese and black truffle contribute the final exquisite flavors. La Marea is expensive, but it's worth the money. Seafood is the main catch, a smart selection including loup de mer, dorade, Florida yellowtail snapper, and wild salmon served grilled, roasted, or steamed, accompanied only by olive oil and sea salts (which is all they need). Let's hope Pietro Rota keeps the fine fare flowing — and, unlike his Tides predecessors, doesn't ebb too soon.
Maison d'Azur at The Anglers
660 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-9600; $35+ per person, excluding tip and alcohol
This fantastic seafood brasserie takes its name and cue from the Côte d'Azur, and it is so understatedly chic that it's easy to imagine the Riviera coast twinkling below. The main indoor room echoes a timeless, romantic brasserie, with wood floors, arched windows, and linen-draped tables each set with a candle and rose. Cuisine also approximates that of the French Med. Executive chef Gwenaël Le Pape, from the Brittany Coast, exquisitely prepares Mediterranean seafood flown in daily. Fish rarely seen on these shores, such as Dover sole, John Dory, and Tasmanian ocean trout, are grilled and served with lemon and one of seven side sauces. Caviar and shellfish selections are topnotch, and prices reflect the quality. Don't miss the soupe de poisson Marseillaise, a showstopping fish chowder served with Gruyère cheese and chili-spiked saffron aioli. Other strengths: a compelling array of unique wines, all served by the glass; a personable, professional staff that offers the finest service in town; great dining-appropriate music spun by a DJ; and a crème brûlée that makes all other local variations seem as if they were prepared from Jell-O pudding mix. Put Maison at the top of your list.