By Zachary Fagenson
By Bill Citara
By Laine Doss
By Laine Doss
By Carina Ost
By Valeria Nekhim
By Hannah Sentenac
By Carina Ost
Villa Azur is an ideal venue for spending a leisurely cocktail hour. The list of elixirs is long and temptingly touts inventive mixes. Sharing a Chardonnay in the garden would be quite romantic, and there's a wine cellar's worth of bottles from which to choose. Literally: La Cave d'Azur is an on-premises market of some 190 wines and champagnes from France, Italy, Spain, and North America — from small village appellations to Grand Cru Classé. Many of the bottles start around $100, and markups are higher than the blood pressure of the average middle-aged man lounging on a Saint-Tropez beach.
La Cave also boasts a delicatessen of charcuterie, cheeses, breads, and pastries, as well as a menu of light "gourmet" bites, including the aforementioned caviars, foie gras, and smoked fish.
Nutella mousse, tarte tatin with almond milk ice cream, and mint-and-chocolate profiteroles sounded more alluring to us than most of the main courses. Brightly colored macarons provide a lighter sendoff, as does an ethereal île flottante (a "floating island" of whipped, sweetened egg whites poached in milk).
309 23rd St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Region: South Beach
Lemon meringue tarte, however, was too cute for its own good. The custard filled a small coffin of hard graham crust capped with four puffs of bronzed meringue — each squiring a square of white chocolate. Even if the shell were not overbaked, I'd still prefer the more generous ratio of custard-to-crust found in everyday pie.
The staff is mostly French and all-around hospitable (diners are given complimentary passionfruit cocktail shots after dinner). Plus, waiters bear a professional look, and their tableside manners are smooth, but we waited too long for finished main plates to be removed, to get the check, and for just about everything toward our meal's end when the patio was filling up.
No expense was spared in assembling this stunning and sprawling restaurant and wine market complex. Much attention has been paid to detail, from the caviars to the cocktails, lighting, music, décor, and staff uniforms. Yet nobody thought to implement the simple diner positioning system used by every coffee shop in America to avoid the embarrassment of having to auction off the food — as in the server holding plates up one by one and asking, "Who gets the veal?" followed by a raise of the appropriate diner's hand, and then, "The bouillabaisse?" until all the dishes have been claimed.
If only Villa Azur's team were as unabashedly ambitious with its service and cuisine as it is with the restaurant's overall concept.