The Miami Beach outpost is the second location of this oceanic oasis, joining the restaurant group's lineup in locations like Atlanta, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant’s mantra is simple: 48 hours from dock to plate.
With a Savannah upbringing and a spirited Greek heritage, chef Karatassos’ thirst for the water and seafood was born from a family tradition.
"We are a family that is passionate about seafood, and that started with my father,” says the chef about his father, the founder of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “He’s been in the business since he graduated from culinary school back in 1960.”
“We pay special attention to seafood that works with the specific ways that we do things and in ways that we’ve been successful,” Karatassos says.
What is most distinguished about the process is that chef Karatassos and his team have eliminated the middle men. Buckhead Life deals directly with the fisheries since they started their own import company, Boutique Seafood. “We are the direct importer for all this fish," David Abes, Buckhead Life Group COO, says.
“That goes back to my dad," Karatassos adds. "He had about four restaurants at the time, and he was tired of dealing with the low quality he was receiving from local purveyors. He said, ‘You know what? I can do this myself,’ and he did.”
Karatassos' father, the similarly named I. Pano Karatassos, hired a team for the business, set up several facilities and began flying in whatever fish he fancied.
Sure enough, just over a day later, they’ll see at their doorstep the same fish they inspected via video chat the day before. And, from the moment they arrive from their journey across the Atlantic, the fish are “handled like babies,” as Karatassos so lovingly put it.
“We don’t hold them by the face, and we don’t hold them by the tails,” he explained. “We lay them in their natural swimming position so each side will cook equally.”
According to Karatassos, the amount of care that goes into the fish directly contributes to the quality of its taste. When the weight is equally distributed, both sides will cook with equal tension, as opposed to fish that had been laid flat.
“Having been in South Beach since the early '90s, I can say that this restaurant is definitely bringing something that the locals will consider a neighborhood favorite,” Paz says. “It’s not meant to be just your typical tourist-driven concept. This is more of a neighborhood style restaurant.”
And when you’re serving loyal locals, expectations are raised and anticipation is high. The menu aims to please with a variety of inventive appetizers like burrata and caviar salata ($26), char-grilled Mediterranean octopus ($18), and lobster morsels ($32) with a Greek honey-mustard aioli. Then, move on to a slew of fresh crudos and caviar. The true parade, however, comes with the mains, including a live lobster experience, whole fish options, prime steak, and even a monstrous shellfish tower.
Although seafood is its first calling, the restaurant also has a variety of prime steaks for visiting carnivores. Lobster Bar Sea Grille is currently open for dinner and will begin lunch service starting in May.
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
404 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-377-2675; buckheadrestaurants.com.