When was the last time you went to Sunny Isles Beach for dinner? Maybe it was for the opening of Basil Park. Maybe before Yakko-San went from a hole-in-a-strip-mall sushi place to a big-time operation. It isn't exactly a gastronomic hub, though Sugarloaf Gastrobar (located at 18090 Collins Ave.) aims to change that fact.
Owners and nightlife vets Tatanka Guerrero and Luiz Fleury were the force behind the pop-up La Fonda, which sprouted at the Marlin in February and brought Kazuo Yoshida (who has since opened the omakase-slinging food truck Myumi in Wynwood) to the Magic City.
"The idea was to bring something to Sunny Isles that didn’t exist," general manager Violet Gomez says, "a place for the neighborhood to come eat, drink, and be merry."
To accomplish that, Guerrero solicited the help of a toque whose training began in Michelin-rated kitchens. And though that chef remains a mystery because Guerrero wants Sugarloaf to be concept-driven, it'll be impossible to hide that person's identity much longer.
The vibe here is vintage Florida with a touch of street. Think orchard-patterned booths, shrubs hanging from the ceiling, mismatched plates, and salt and pepper shakers collected from trips around the world. There are also antique lamps that look like they belong in the sunken ship from the Little Mermaid and vibrant artwork on brick and black walls, designed by Miami artist Marlon Peruss who is also responsible for the ice-skating rink and discotheque in Basement at the Edition.
Libations are handcrafted, and a hefty selection of craft beers is available. Try the slow poke (above left), with tequila, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, and cilantro. A spiced rim kicks it up a notch heat-wise and balances the pomegranate with panache. All cocktails and house wines cost $9.
The menu is divided into small, medium, and large plates. On the smaller scale, confit chicken and truffles have been worked into a beautiful and light mushroom terrine ($15). Pro tip: Use the brioche crackers as vessels.
Pan-seared queen scallops are served atop roasted cauliflower purée and alongside fingerling puréed potatoes ($15). It's all cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of char on the edges, and beyond tender at the center. You can taste the ocean in these mollusks.
Hamachi crudo ($13) is dressed with pickled jalapeños, squid ink mayo, and wasabi mayo and served atop a brioche cracker.
Half a pound of colossal mussels gratin ($12) is steamed and coated with "aromatic" bread crumbs. The secret, however, is in the sauce.
Bottarga fettuccine with spicy zucchini saffron and butter sauce sounds like a complex flavor combination ($16), but it lacks density and spice — plus, more bottarga would have been nice.
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A leg and thigh of duck confit is orange-infused with port jus. It's served with mixed sautéed mushrooms and creamy polenta ($26).
The only dessert currently on the menu is a quindim. The Brazilian dish is made with egg, coconut, butter, sugar, and compressed passionfruit and pineapple ($6).