BEST RESTAURANT WHEN YOU'RE PAYING (2005)
20475 Biscayne Boulevard
www.pilarrestaurant.com A feel-good farewell. Sentiment or too many drinks has caused words to pour off the tongue like vodka from a bottle. Before you realize it, you've extended a generous dinner invitation to business associates, or distant cousins, or your wife's Pilates classmates. Later, in a more rational moment, you look over menus from the more respectable restaurants in town, tally the potential costs, and realize you really didn't want to vacation in Aruba this year anyway. Here's the solution: Take them to Pilar, where the cuisine, service, and ambiance are on par with dining establishments that charge far more. The 82-seat Aventura restaurant, which opened in July 2003, is named after Ernest Hemingway's fishing boat. To suggest chef/owner Scott Fredel has a way with fish is like saying Hemingway wasn't too bad with words, and prices are so reasonable the writer could've afforded to eat here before he ever sold a manuscript. House salad with lemon vinaigrette is four dollars. A starter of boniato gnocchetti in creamy walnut pesto is eight dollars; a pasta entrée of homemade pappardelle with fresh tomato, roasted garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese goes for just one buck more. Entrées are kept below twenty, and that includes upscale pairings like yellowtail snapper with plump potato-leek croquette and warm tomato-herb vinaigrette; slow-roasted salmon with grainy mustard sauce and truffled red potato salad; and a succulent flatiron steak with mashed potatoes and truffle-roasted broccoli and shallots. Prices on the largely West Coast wine list are kept in line as well, and Pilar has recently reeled in a full liquor license. When you're fishing for a caviar dining experience on a fish-egg budget, Pilar should be the first place that comes to mind -- and it's invaluable as fail-safe insurance for those times you speak without thinking at all.
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