Fall in Love With Mediterranean Cuisine at Marion

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At a certain point, dining out becomes more than just a meal. With the right combination of atmosphere, fare, and service, a restaurant experience can turn into an adventure. That’s what guests should expect at Marion, the Mediterranean-inspired Brickell restaurant that opened at 1111 SW First Ave. last month.

With a bar, market, bakery, and raw bar, Marion creates a kind of immersive, multi-faceted Mediterranean world of its own. Having all of these elements in one makes the space seem a little unfocused, but it’s all about incorporating various countries and cultures into one concept. For owners Mathieu Massa and Michael Ridard, CEO and COO of Bâoli Miami, the goal is to highlight European regions through what they call “an epicurean love affair.”

Feminine hues and lacy curtains provide the perfect backdrop for the flirtatious fare. Wicker, brasserie-style chairs are reminiscent of an outdoor French café, but just the right amount of tropical greenery lends an unmistakable Miami feel.

Executive chef Jean Paul Lourdes is no stranger to international cuisine, having worked at three-star Michelin restaurants in Paris, Tokyo, London, and Hong Kong. Combine his talent with Ridard's and Massa’s personal experiences as a South of France native, and you’ve got a dishes that are both expertly crafted and authentically comforting.

Throughout the extensive menu, chef Lourdes plays with contrasting notes and puts herbs at the forefront of the dishes — and it’s evident from the very beginning. In the appetizers, the fatty richness of the tuna belly ribbons ($16) is cut by the brightness of local tomatoes and shaved red onions.

Of the table snacks, the piquillo peppers ($12) are a must. Charred and stuffed with Mahón cheese and nestled in a golden layer of olive oil, they’re sinfully rich without being greasy. Plus, they provide the ideal opportunity for dipping one of Marion’s homemade breads.

For main courses, the organic vegetable tarte ($19) is too beautiful to eat, yet too delicious not to, with lavender adding a floral note to the sheep’s cheese. The pastry was flakey, and the veggies lent full-bodied flavors without losing their crunch.

The wagyu steak ($29) is cooked sous vide, a French method of vacuum-sealing and submerging in heated water that results in precisely even cooking and sealed-in flavors and moisture. Marion takes the technique to the next level, searing the meat to create a thick, salty crust.

Roasted lamb jus and melted onions add even more richness to the parmesan-stuffed pillow-shaped pasta ($19). Yet the thin, delicate house-made dough kept the dish surprisingly light.

More than 20 dessert items were on the menu opening night, but recently Marion narrowed its focus to just a few. The bittersweet chocolate terrine ($12) could be a little bit darker, but the silky-smooth texture is on point and compliments the creaminess of the crème anglaise beneath it.

The white chocolate dessert ($12) plays on the classic berries-and-cream combination, pairing rich white chocolate mousse with tangy raspberry coulis.

No matter what sweet treat you opt for, in the end don’t leave Marion without trying their house-made sea salt caramels (three for $5). The bold saltiness and deep, dark flavor is what caramel should be. They’re ultra-addicting, so do yourself a favor and buy a couple extra at the pastry counter on your way out.

Maybe the cutback on desserts is a hint that Marion will keep narrowing their focus as they find their footing. Creating so many parts of the menu fresh in house, while running a bar and a market is ambitious, no doubt. But so far, it seems like Marion is handling the challenge just fine. Hopefully, they can have it all without letting anything fall by the wayside — only time will tell. In the meantime, we’ll be savoring our salted caramel stash.

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