Best Restaurant in South Beach - 2006
Mark's South Beach
Readers' Choice: Prime One Twelve
With restaurants such as Nobu, Casa Tua, Talula, Pacific Time, Prime 112, Vix, OLA, o-R-o, et al., it would be easy to forget about Mark's South Beach. After all, the stylish Deco restaurant is tucked away invisibly in the boutique Hotel Nash, and namesake culinarian Mark Militello is the quietest of star chefs. Also, many of the aforementioned spots have had splashy openings and attendant press coverage within the past couple of years, but Mark's has been excelling since 2000. Although this fact should be a plus, it has relegated the restaurant to yesterday's news. Fact is, Militello's menu of Caribbean-, Mediterranean-, and Latin American-influenced cuisine is as up-to-date and relevant as any in town, and executive chef Larry LaValley orchestrates the sunny fare with a consistently deft touch (he is as underrated as the venue). The food here is light, delicate, brilliantly conceived, and meticulously crafted. Witness the cracked conch ceviche-style scorched with vanilla rum. Or line-caught Gulf pompano with rock shrimp and ethereal vegetable agnolotti ($38). Or black grouper in sweet herb broth with baby artichoke potato hash and blue crab rémoulade ($30). Every note on the menu is played cleanly. Pastry chef Juan Villaparedes shines, too, and uses El Rey chocolates to create unimaginably luscious treats. The wine list boasts an array of mid- to high-end bottles from Old and New World vintners, and offers two dozen selections by the glass. Service is among the most polished in town. The overall dining experience here is simply superb. And very memorable. Which means that the only folks who will forget about Mark's place are those who've never dined here.