By Zachary Fagenson
By Bill Citara
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By Laine Doss
By Carina Ost
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By Hannah Sentenac
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A more basic bibb lettuce salad brings only the pale namesake greens effused by peeled, juicy mini heirloom tomatoes of various festive colors (yellow, purple, red) and shapes (cherry, grape). "Tarragon and green goddess dressing" is perhaps translated a bit too loosely, because no cream or even yogurt base is evident. Instead, a toss of tarragon, dill, and chives with olive oil and a whisper of lemon lightly wets the leaves. That's not what most folks think of as green goddess, but it's nonetheless a refreshing summer course.
Inhabitants of the Mediterranean have always indulged in a nonfatty, nouvelle-style diet, so a trio of main-course seafood dishes based on that region's bounty fit right in. Four fleshy black grouper cheeks intermingle on the plate with petite green onions and an array of multicolored baby cauliflower (purple, green, yellow), although the red-pepper-based romesco sauce beneath the cheeks is pasty. Fava beans, slivers of Cerignola olives, baby fennel, and baby heirloom spinach leaves supply two crisply seared branzino fillets with an effervescent liftoff, and an appetizer order of three whole langoustines "Provençal style" wows. The sweet shellfish come coated with anchovy-anchored bagna cauda breading steeped in escargot butter; the plate is garnished with sauce vierge (a blend of olive oil with chopped basil, tomato brunoise, and lemon zest).
1111 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Region: South Beach
The aforementioned fish entrées bring enough food on the plate to satisfy the average appetite. So does a main course of assertively spiced lamb belly, but that's not to say I couldn't have downed another thin square or two to go along with the pair offered. The gamey lamb flavor of the braised meat bursts through the seasoned crust; a wispy flank of fat within serves as an internal sprinkler system of moisture. English peas, miniature carrots, and a "salsa verde" of herbs (marjoram, parsley), lemon zest, and chili flakes offer diners dabs of complementary tastes.
À la carte side dishes encompass a slew of creatively plated vegetables. Unfortunately, we went with one of the starches, a potato gratin with "pork belly" and "goat cheese" that was overcooked and lacked pork belly and goat cheese. We politely asked the waiter if the two ingredients might have melted in; he explained the potatoes should have contained a thin layer of pork and subsequently removed the item from our tab. Service here is solid and accommodating, although some waiters are more polished than others.
Pastry chef Natalia Arevalo (Nobu) puts out whimsical desserts that pay homage to nostalgic American flavors. Homemade Kit Kat bars accompany a brown-butter "popcorn" milkshake. Hazelnut milk is matched with a trio of homemade Oreo cookies that tasted as though served to us just after cooling from the Nabisco ovens. An optional glass of Johnnie Walker Black is proffered with the cookies and milk (!) for an extra $7. Three petite squares of naked carrot cake come with airy puffs of cream cheese foam, a perky quenelle of carrot sorbet, bits of pineapple-ginger purée, and crushed peanuts. The cake itself is unexceptional, but a mouthful of all ingredients yields a gratifying and distinctive carrot-cake kick.
Some patrons will question portion sizes, but few will gripe about pricing alone. Snacks are $7 to $14, starters $11 to $15, most mains $23 to $29, and sides $8. Rising from the table feeling sated instead of bloated is a holdover from the nouvelle movement, but it remains a tough sell in America. Dainty dining is not for everyone. Still, those who emphasize quality over quantity will feel right at home in this House.