It's 9 p.m. and it's raining in sheets outsideMignonette
, a new oyster bar and seafood eatery off NE Second Avenue across from the City of Miami Cemetery. Gentlemen pull their cars onto the sidewalk to let their ladies scurry in (relatively) dry. But there's nevertheless a wait to be seated at this latest venture from
owner and executive chef Daniel Serfer and the man behind the food blog Miami Restaurant Power Rankings, Ryan Roman.
Diners yet to be assigned tables stare longingly at the massive marquee behind the raw bar indicating the day's oyster offerings. West Coast options are displayed on the left, East Coast ones on the right.
See also: Danny Serfer Talks About Mignonette
The aphrodisiacs arrive arranged in a circle in a bowl accompanied by the requisite cocktail and mignonette sauces, along with a yellow slip stating the names of every oyster selected in clockwise order. The server politely explains the system. It's a helpful touch, given how closely the iridescent bivalves resemble one another. The four kinds we sampled at $3 apiece ($32 for a dozen) were plump and expertly shucked. The only thing missing was a little bread and butter.
The plate is a fitting beginning to a meal from these fearless best friends -- clever and unconventional. Serfer is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef whose take on American comfort food at the 2-year-old Biscayne Boulevard restaurant Blue Collar has won unanimous raves from critics. Roman, an attorney by day, has been blogging about food and restaurants for years. The two bonded over a love of the law and, of course, food.
The idea for Mignonette came to the pals a year and a half ago over a bowl of ramen at Momi Ramen in Brickell. Roman was at first hesitant. What swayed him to risk pouring his life savings into the business? "I'd rather live in a restaurant than a house," he explains.
So a little more than a month ago, they decided to open Mignonette with a fairly expansive menu of simple, classic preparations. To execute their vision, they plucked Mignonette's chef de cuisine, Bobby Frank, from Blue Collar, where he was Serfer's protégé. Then they decorated the place in an "Old Florida meets New Orleans" style that includes tan leather banquettes, a marble raw bar, and hanging constellations festooned from copper pipes. There's also an intimate back room with original wall art consisting of life-size fish rendered in gold leaf by artist Reed van Brunschot.
Following the oysters and impeccably fresh Alaskan king crab legs at the raw bar, a solid choice is the crabcake. Jumbo lump crab and claw meat are fortified with bell peppers, red onions, and scallions and served atop a Worcestershire butter. The base is a combination of beurre blanc and Worcestershire sauce that's been reduced with chilies and garlic. Consequently, the item has a pronounced spiciness. That, together with the cake's crisp top layer and slight crunchiness, makes for a vibrant dish that's complex without being fussy.
Entrées are divided into two columns: plain and fancy. The former are plated with beurre blanc and a choice of vegetable side. Options include mahi, grouper, scallops, and chicken breast. There is also prime rib and Thanksgiving-style chicken thighs for meat lovers.
The "fancy" seared monkfish comes crowned with smoked trout roe and nestled on a bed of al dente broccolini. On its own, the monkfish is a tad tough and plain, but the entrée springs to life thanks to the saltiness of the roe and the assertive lobster sauce lining the bottom of the bowl. Feel free to scoop it up with the accompanying spoon.
Chef Frank's redfish is seared and paired with a reduction of sautéed shallots, garlic, and piquillo peppers that are deglazed with brandy, stock, and white wine, plus a touch of butter. The plump fish is well seasoned and an excellent match for the sauce and accompanying al dente haricots verts. A quiet elegance pervades this relatively straightforward main that's not so easily achieved, yet it comes naturally to Serfer and Frank.
As a side dish, the roasted cauliflower is recommended. It's squiggled with a mayonnaise that has smoked trout roe and whole trout eggs added for an extra kick that's not too salty. One point worth noting is that at Mignonette, much like Blue Collar, vegetable accompaniments are deployed with the utmost attention. They stand tall on their own.
Whether you come for the daily lunch or dinner, the high-caliber lobster roll is a must. The succulent meat is from Maine, and it's sandwiched inside a toasted Portuguese roll and plated with fried potato chips.
Apart from the changing oyster selection, Mignonette offers daily crudo, whole fish, and CBGB (chowder, bisque, or gumbo) options. There's also a pie of the day.
Try the butterscotch Heath bar bread pudding and Meyer lemon squares. The brioche bread pudding is the same one proffered at Blue Collar, and wisely so, for it would be a crime not to serve it at Mignonette. Conversely, if you're craving a less decadent dessert, the Meyer lemon squares will do the trick. The treat is topped with a grenadine whipped cream that balances the intense citrus flavor.
The night my dinner guest and I ate there, the place was packed, and we were told we would have only 90 minutes for our meal. The waiter was a little frazzled and delivered the check before we could ask for it. That's not perfect, but the place is just shy of 2 months old, and the team is obviously still learning how to deal with the crowds. They can do better.
Serfer and Roman say they hope Mignonette becomes the sort of place where regulars can eat several times a week. Not many can afford such a luxury -- a meal for two with alcohol can easily exceed $100 plus tax and tip. But if you take money out of the equation, it's easy to see why people would return to enjoy such high-quality, uncontrived food at a restaurant with a distinctly neighborhood vibe. Mignonette is Edgewater's new pearl, and that's certainly worth celebrating.
Oysters $3/piece, $32/dozen
Alaskan king crab legs $18
Seared redfish $25
Lobster roll $22
Roasted cauliflower with smoked trout roe mayo $6
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Butterscotch Heath bar bread pudding $7
Meyer lemon squares $7