Lure Fishbar Excels at the Simple Things

Find a yellowtail jalapeño roll at your neighborhood sushi joint and compare it to the one served at Lure Fishbar. They look similar enough: Coiled nori and rice are crammed with wasabi-spiked fish and then topped with jalapeño. But inside the grand Loews Miami Beach Hotel, the yellowtail tastes different -- its mellow flavor is enhanced by a texture that's smooth and buttery on the tongue.

Beneath the chili pepper, this quality might go unnoticed. If you pause, though, you distinguish its charm. Like everything else at Lure, it is shockingly fresh.

In this ocean-themed dining room, seafood is king. Ice plates stacked with kusshi oysters, stone crabs, and Maine lobsters tower over polished tables, a display case reveals a bounty of seafood, and the menu features more than 15 types of sashimi.

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"Uni, toro, fluke, kanpachi: You want it, I got it," a lively server gushes on a Thursday night.

Usually, Lure Fishbar doesn't get too creative with its fish. This is where women in patent-leather pumps nibble crabcakes while men in Tommy Bahama shirts wash down tempura shrimp with nautically themed drinks. Where Lure sets itself apart is in its sourcing.

Grilled whole daurade -- a petite silver fish served tail- and head-on -- needs nothing more than its accompanying watercress and charred lemon. The greenery adds bite; the citrus coaxes a subtle sweetness from the fish. And though it might sound austere, this daurade succeeds on its own -- devoid of any unnecessary diversions.

Lure Fishbar is certainly not new to the seafood business. The restaurant's flagship resides in SoHo, where chef Josh Capon has attracted streams of fish-loving clientele for years. South Beach is the first outpost outside New York, and the menu features the compulsory South Beach roll.

It is packed with salmon, cream cheese, mango sauce, and crisp tempura flakes -- and it costs $18.

Lure's fresh fish can cost you.

You'll forget the price of an oyster once you slurp down a dainty Beau Soleil. Try it bare or dressed with pineapple salsa -- a dash of the minced topping complements the oyster's clean, terrific flavor. There are other options too. Hailing from both the East and West coasts are British Columbia Kusshis, Washington Kumamotos, and New York Blue Points.

Servers in starched shirts quickly carry away those empty oyster shells. Soon, they return and pour soy sauce from the tin pitcher on your table. That tells you: Lure Fishbar relishes in Asian-fusion cuisine.

You will taste it in the tuna tataki -- neat slices of seared tuna splashed with ponzu sauce and then sprinkled generously with fried onion. It can be difficult to find the fish beneath its additions. Is that tangled web of golden onions truly necessary?

The Asian barbecue chicken lollipops are meeker in appearance. The frenched chicken wings taste of chili, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Their edges are crisp, glistening a dark reddish-brown, and their flesh is tender. But it's also what you'd expect on the menu at a downtown gastropub. At Lure Fishbar, you have better options than those.

Take, for example, the mushroom bisque. Lesser versions can be whitish and wan; here, the bisque shimmers. Crowned with crème fraîche, chives, and brioche croutons, it is gratifying and rich.

Want more assertive flavors? Discover them in the miso black grouper. Marinated in an orange miso-sake glaze, the fish is roasted and then served with mango-pepper slaw and a dome of white rice. Its sauce -- a bold, coffee-colored liquid -- mashes ginger, palm sugar, garlic, apples, and sesame oil. On its own, it is overpowering. Sampled with the grouper, slaw, and rice, it barely succeeds. Unnecessary additions such as those can tarnish Lure's fish.

"You're crazy if you don't try the ice-cream sandwiches," our server declares late on another evening. And he's right. In this nostalgic dessert, mint ice cream -- the kind that perks you up -- is smooshed between two chocolate cookies. And a flavor that looks deceptively like vanilla but hints at caramel is paired with chocolate chip cookies. The dish is simple -- untainted by an overambitious hand.

In that instant, while the ice cream slowly softens between our fingers, a bartender begins shaking a complex drink: gin, sake, St. Germain, lemon, cucumber, bitters, and egg white. The noise echoes across the dining room, drowning the sound of clinking glasses and cracking crab shells. When she finishes, Trey Songz' "Say Aah" booms through the speakers.

Lure Fishbar's cookery can be wonderful -- simple, pure, and seemingly unadorned. But like that jarring song, which belongs nowhere near an upscale dining room, it also suffers from an occasional stroke of the gratuitous.

Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.

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