Restaurant Reviews

Bar Crudo in SoFi Is Your New Favorite Date Spot

On this wind-lashed night, no one seems too worried about the weather. Palm trees rock like giant, spindly knitting needles outside Bar Crudo, a tiny restaurant in the condo-crammed South of Fifth neighborhood. Inside, the spunky bartender with a Buddhist tattoo on her back asks a couple for their first names. "You guys are from here, right?" she asks without waiting for an answer. "We rarely get tourists, and that's kind of how we like it."

She's serving whiskey sloshed with bitters to locals in Havaianas. She's raving about the hamachi -- thin slivers of yellowtail folded over avocado mousse, chorizo salt, and edamame. It's the perfect plate to share with a date, particularly one who enjoys drinks served in mason jars with paper straws.

In August, Andy Travaglia debuted Bar Crudo, her second spot in this tony beach district. She also owns Lee & Marie's Cakery, a charming bakery with an outpost in New York. At Bar Crudo, Travaglia teamed up with chef Reto Von Weissenfluh. They stocked the kitchen with sous-vide machines and induction burners, but skipped on the ovens and stoves. This new place, adorned with a Roy Lichtenstein-like mural of women in provocative stances, attracts a more grown-up crowd.

Here, Kings of Leon croon from surrounding speakers. A cute girl snaps a photo of her dessert and flirts with her boyfriend. The bar, lined with mismatched tiles and worn wooden shelves, takes up half the space. Everyone around it is washing down their ceviche with a drink.

The kitchen disdains fire and instead opts for cured, preserved, and raw techniques. What it lacks in temperature it makes up for in flavor. Bar Crudo's razor clam ceviche packs cucumber, red peppers, and citrus into the bivalves' narrow shells. It's plopped over a mound of crushed ice. Scooping bits of clam with your fork, you might mock the gussied-up diners eating steaks across the street.

Even on Miami's coolest evenings, ceviche just makes more sense.

But if steak is what you want, you can get it raw here too. The carpaccio arrives covered with a bulky glass plate. Black tea smoke lingers beneath the crystal. When the server raises its cover, the fumes escape. The scent of apple wood clings to the meat like a delicate perfume.

Sure, it's gimmicky. But the carpaccio tastes lovely. Crowned with pickled carrots and black pepper, it goes down nicely with a cucumber-tarragon gin drink. At Bar Crudo, the emerald-tinged cocktail is proffered in a chilled coupe glass.

Sometimes, dinner here can feel like a never-ending parade of palate cleansers. The gazpacho, topped with daikon pickles and a tiny mound of cucumber sorbet, is acidic yet smooth. Its flavors lean toward the sweeter side, which didn't please my dining companions. Perhaps it was the wrong occasion. This vibrant tomato soup might work best after a warm afternoon on the sand.

Bar Crudo toys with modern cookery. It employs a textbook sous vide for the octopus salad, which is as refreshing as lemonade. The tender meat collides with two fixtures on the restaurant's menu: edamame and avocado mousse. (They pop up on several dishes, but there's really no need to complain.) The octopus is finished with cubed sweet potatoes -- a rare starch among the explosions of citrus, seafood, and microgreens.

There are crostini too. The artichoke variety is smothered in a bright olive tapenade and then layered with pecorino. Pork fanatics can try the toasted baguettes loaded with prosciutto, tomatoes, and ricotta. Bar Crudo mingles its new-age cuisine with recipes that comfort.

You can stick with traditional bar foods and dine on oysters, cheese, charcuterie, pickles, and bread. Or you can order a more substantial standby: burrata and tomato salad. The mass of cheese -- creamy, unctuous, and rich -- is served with speckles of aged balsamic vinegar. You might visit this spot for the sashimi and drinks. But SoFi residents come by when they're too tired to cook and all they want is bread, salad, wine, and the check, please.

Certainly stay for dessert. The pistachio panna cotta, arranged in cylinders alongside crumbled sponge cake and golden cubes of honey, looks like a treat straight out of the board game Candy Land. The chocolate trio is even better. Chocolate mousse pairs with dark cubes of bittersweet chocolate crisps and house-made Kit Kat bars. Polka dots of Chambord raspberry liqueur adorn the plate. It's a handsome dessert -- one that's small enough for one but best when it's for two.

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Emily Codik