Marion, the new restaurant in the Brickell area, like a beautiful woman, seduces at first sight. A star of the seas, Marion entices with its impeccable display of fresh fish and seafood flown in fresh from France, Spain, and Greece.
But it is the display of beautifully crafted desserts by young veteran chef Christina Kaelberer that provokes you to have a love affair with this place. A brainchild of Mathieu Massa and Michael Ridard, owner os the successful Bâoli in Miami Beach, the restaurant has enlisted the vastly experienced Jean Paul Lourdes as their chef. Much alike the traditional European cafes, filled intoxicating aromas and a bubbly ambiance, this Mediterranean restaurant makes you feel at home. The pristine Raw Bar is a must. I don’t eat oysters, but in my more than a dozen visits, my friends who do, have declared them the best in the city. Must have Table Snacks, include The Pissaladiere, with caramelized sweet onions nicely balanced by pungent black olives and briny anchovies. Also, the beautiful roasted piquillo peppers filled with melting Mahon and the appetizing Charcuterie from Spain and Italy will make you come back. And talking about cheese, not to be passed is the marvelous selection of cheeses from not one but two vintage Sambonet and Christofle silver cheese trolleys. A Twenty Five Tomatoes Salad is made with a multitude of different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, but it’s supposed to use 25 tomatoes to render the tomato water used for its delightful vinaigrette, the sumptuously creamy, fresh made local Burrata is a perfect companion. Paellas integrating king prawns, organic chicken, and toasted saffron, or Baby Squid and Oyster Mushroom, along with pasta and their incomparable selection of wild caught local and Mediterranean fish, carefully grilled over an open wood fire or baked in Normandy Sea Salt are one of the main reasons to visit Marion. Personally, the two items in the Marion menu (both shareable for 2-3 people) are the Whole Organic Rotisserie Chicken, basted with a savory Meyer Lemon Glaze, presented whole, then carved tableside, and the most amazing Suckling Berkshire Porchetta anyone has ever had! This succulent pork doesn’t need a knife to be cut and highlights the perfectly thin, brittle skin that crackles in your mouth. Desserts are all great, from the patisserie display to the a-la-carte menu selections, which include a beautiful Pineapple Carpaccio, Vanilla Profiterole and the Baba Au Rhum, Monte Carlo Style. Marion is located one block south of Mary Brickell Village at 111 S W 1st Avenue.
Next door to Marion is El Tucan, a stunning cabaret style restaurant that plays homage to the bygone glitz and glamour era of the 1940s when a night out meant dinner, dancing, and a show. Recreated with the same ethos as the cabarets in Cuba, aside from the masterfully created musical program, it also offers a seven-course, family style, tasting menu that rocks! Once again, Chef Jan Paul Lourdes sets forth his incomparable cooking with a parade of small dishes, mostly meant to be shared, that includes unforgettable dreamy Papoyo Cheese Churros, a true Leche de Tigre that livens fresh caught fish to create a simple but perfect Cebiche, a crudo of Wild thin sliced Dorade with Grilled Pinneaple and Adobo, Portuguese Octopus with Chorizo Verde and Avocado, a salad of Mexican Street Corn, with Huacatay and crunchy honey, and the melt-in-your-mouth Porchetta with two moles, along other savory surprises and two marvelous desserts, complement the evening experience, just before one is ready to jump up and join the conga line. Pre and après show drinks are continued to be served in the bar and lounge, as El Tucan offers two seating, 8:30 and 10:30 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
GK Bistronomie, the name that might be hard to remember is the restaurant you won’t easily forget. Strategically located in the very heart of Wynwood, 218 NW 25th Street, GKB is the brainchild of Peruvian-born veteran chef Rafael Pérez and stems from his childhood memories and recipes he learned from his grandmother back home. His goal was to bring to Miami authentic Peruvian cuisine, the proper native way, and to create dishes that have a global influence. All this may very well sound like what so many other chefs say about their food, but I got to admit, Rafael dishes out what he preaches. In a recent visit I pointed out that one of my favorite Peruvian dishes, the Aji de Gallina, a slightly spicy, fragrant and creamy chicken stew was not as “loose and saucy” as I have had it before, and laughingly Rafael pointed out that the authentic version that is served in Peru is like the one he prepares, which made me curious and as I researched I found that he was right. His superb Aji de Gallina comes in a small casserole, and it is brightly flavored with aji amarillo and a small amount of turmeric, accompanied by another small casserole of white rice, and a side plate of boiled potatoes, half a boiled Egg and delicious sprinkles of dry black olives, a true deconstruction of a dish keeping all the authentic flavors intact. His Cebiches and Tiraditos range from Pisco Cured Salmon with Crème Fraiche, red onion, avocado and caviar, to a Classic Peruvian Seafood Cebiche with calamari, shrimp, snapper, aji amarillo, sweet potato and choclo, to his “Global Influenced” Parmesan Tiradito of grouper, Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps, in a sauce of lime, rocotto and reggiano with cream. Spicy are the deliciously crisped Calamari rings served over a refreshing, spaghetti-like, thin sliced vinegary seasoned cole slaw, a must if you are not afraid of the severe heat. Great entrees include a Snapper with Vegetable Escabeche, Spanish Chorizo speckles, Malanga Puree in a Parsley Broth and a superb Braised Lamb Shank with Navy Beans, and the Aji Amarillo Chicha De Jora Sauce, the traditional corn beer sauce.
Nautilus, at SIXTY Hotel, is the newest addition to Miami Beach’s pre-Basel scene, totally unassuming but highly alluring. Originally designed in the 1950s by famed architect Morris Lapidus, it has been restored preserving key elements of Lapidus’ design legacy. The restaurant, Driftwood Room, operated by China Grill Management and under the culinary direction of Food Network Star, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, and Chef de Cuisine Lucas Marino, serves a simple but flavorful cuisine that is created to nurture with no pretense. The fresh, locally sourced menu offers healthy options like a Grilled Artichoke with Mustard Sauce, an Indian seasoned Eggplant Dip and a fantastic Crostini of hen-of-the-wood mushrooms with whipped sheep’s Ricotta and aged balsamic vinegar. Simply Grilled items include Filet of Branzino, Diver Scallops, Florida Snapper and a magnificent Cote de Boeuf for two. But without a doubt my favorite entrée is the Roasted Ashley Farms half chicken with spicy whole grain mustard au jus. Order that bird with a side of Heirloom Carrot Fries and you are in heaven! Alfredo Álvares, the ever so charismatic Venezuelan chef that back in the 1990s established a name and reputation—along with business partner Homero De la Torre at Giacosa Restaurant in Coral Gables and Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic—is back in Miami to create the menus for the ready to open (December 1st) Palmeiras Beach Club in Grove Isle, Coconut Grove. Those who remember Giacosa know that Alfredo was ahead of his time. His presence in the dinning room would delight his guests while he would dare you try dishes that back then, were innovational. And that is the legacy he brought to Miami, a couple of years ago, when he opened Seasalt and Pepper, another culinary success. Alfredo is an evolving chef, one that knows how to please his clientele, which is why he is so loved and followed everywhere he goes. At this new hidden gem surrounded by lush, tropical landscape with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and beyond, Alfredo introduces Mediterranean offerings at the Dining Room at Palmeiras Beach Club as well as the 20 seat beautifully hand painted Belle Époque Perrier Jouet room. In the series of recent tastings in preparation for its December 1st debut, Alfredo impressed me with his appetizer of Glazed Pork Belly with Pistachio Crumble and his perfectly Grilled Spanish Octopus with confit tomatoes, sautéed baby zucchini accented by a perfect Salmoriglio and Preserved Lemon. But his pastas, are what I call, truly unique, specifically his Raviolone de Carciofo, homemade pasta pillows filled with barely cooked baby artichokes, creamy Ricotta, served with touches of tomato fondant and a sauce made with lemon, sage, and the thickened artichoke water. Light and delicious it is masterful. Following that same light hand approach, his Porcini Ravioli, filled with golden chanterelles and candied shallots, comes bathed in a singular mushroom au jus. His seafood preparations have brought him recognition, and expect to love his Branzino with its golden skin, Tarragon Crusted Wild Chilean Seabass in an aromatic Shellfish Broth and his Mediterranean Turbot with Tomatillo Sauce and Sturgeon Caviar. But, surprise, surprise, Brie Tiramisu? Why not? It is made with mascarpone, dates, espresso, white chocolate, Kahlua foam, and crips of hazelnut speculoos. That and his Mango Coconut Mousse with Chocolate Dacquoise will make you leave happy, but after making reservations to return. ■