Kris Wessel's Oolite Opens in South Beach (Photos)

Kris Wessel's new South Beach restaurant, Oolite, is open and we stopped in for a peek and a cocktail.

Large signs outside the restaurant, located in the former Cooper Avenue space just off Lincoln Road, give a June 19 opening date, but the bar is open now at 6 p.m. (Earlier if there's a World Cup game.)

See also: Kris Wessel to Open Oolite Restaurant & Bar at Former Cooper Avenue

Oolite, named after the limestone and coral foundation that South Florida sits on, is a fitting name for this restaurant that continues the James Beard-nominated chef's love affair with Florida's culinary roots.

Dishes on the bar menu read like a Miami travelogue. Smoked yellow jack with salty Key lime zucchini ($12); oxtail ($18); Florida white water clams with lentil roti and safflower aioli ($16); and dry rub, hot smoke, slow-braised ribs with guanabana ($14/$26). Fans of chef Wessel will be pleased to note that his signature BBQ shrimp is on the menu ($14), as are tostones with avocado and lime ($8), a perfect foil for the World Cup-inspired cocktails featuring cachaca.

The cocktails, by the way, are interesting and potent and the bar is stocked with all manner of interesting craft spirits and a small, but nicely curated, selection of draft beers including Funky Buddha Crusher IPA ($7); Sculpin Indian Pale Ale ($7); and Smutty Nose Brown Ae ($8).

We tried a Tranquilo y Tropical ($8). Made with Avna cachaca; Amburana; Amara Nonino; Luxardo Maraschino, and chocolate bitters, it was a full-bodied and complex cocktail that was a little sweet, a little spicy, with a hint of tobacco and smoke.

Though the restaurant doesn't go into full swing until tomorrow, this was a taste of good things to come. Oolite will be open for dinner daily from 6:30 to 11 p.m. (except Sundays).

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