The Romans used to call the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum (Latin for "our sea"), so it makes sense that most of the menu at this new restaurant in Brickell is inspired by the coastal regional cuisines of Italy, France and Spain. Mare Nostrum (1111 SW First Ave.) which opens to the public on Monday, December 12, will offer up everything that falls under the heading of 'modern-Med', from bouillabaisse to bolognese.
There are only a few outcasts in the line-up; a blue fin tuna "toro" tataki with a wasabi aioli ($15.95) has us stumped, as does the kumquat sauce which accompanies a traditional Spanish roasted pork dish called cochinillo asado, these influences sound suspiciously foreign to Mediterranean cooking. However, most offerings do capture the authenticity of a seaside enclave, such as a rock salt encrusted whole Spanish seabass, squid ink stained seafood paella ($23.95 per person) and a traditional spaghetti vongole ($22.95) with lots of clams and garlic. Red snapper and dorada are offered by the pound ($28 - $32 per pound) and you can pick your own homemade pasta and sauce match-up -- classic pesto, puttanesca, tomato and basil and olive oil are made to order ($10.95).
The place is huge, with an overall square footage of 8,000 divided into a sectioned main dining room, bar area and an outdoor terrace that seats 60 people. At the kitchen helm is Chef Pedro Gallardo, who also holds the title of executive chef for the Hotel Intercontinental de
la Torre in Murcia, Spain (a four-star property) and has logged hours in amazing restaurants such as Arzak in San Sebastian (Spain's first Michelin three-star restaurant) and the infamous, El Bulli.
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The decor is Med-friendly, with traces of blue everywhere - the chairs, handmade Moroccan tiled floors, a blue-melange glass mosaic bar. The restaurant's artwork and photography is from international artist
Javier Martin and was created specifically for the space. Visually, the big ticket is a glass enclosed cube at the entryway that houses Mare Nostrum's wine collection. Sommelier Bernard Riviere (previously of the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort) has curated a whopping 250 selections and "promises to showcase many wines unique to South Florida with a strong representation of Spanish, French and Italian vintages."
Stay tuned for a first bite of the food, coming soon.