Best Seafood Restaurant - 2009
Pigs and chickens belong on farms; fish should come from bodies of water. Yet as our favorite seafoods are being grilled and pan-seared to extinction, more and more species are raised in huge, sinister, Matrix-like farms. Not the fish at Area 31. The restaurant takes its name and many of its products from Fishing Area 31, a United Nations-sanctioned, ecologically sustainable swath of the Western Central Atlantic Ocean. Chef John Critchley takes daily catches such as Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, corvina, and wahoo and sizzles them over a wood grill, with pristinely pure results. There are other worthy menu items, including a sensational salt-crusted dorade, a salad of octopus tossed with fried cubes of pork belly, and chitarra pasta with fried garlic and spicy crab. Most entrées are in the upper-$20 range. Area 31 is located on the 16th floor of downtown's new Epic Hotel and is open for all meal periods. The wine list is one of the smartest in town, the cocktails among the most creative, and the service smooth as an eel in water.