One would think there’d be an embarrassment of riches in top seafood restaurants and markets in Miami? Not the case. But the good news is that times are a changing. and we’re beginning to see seafood restaurants on a calibre with the prime steakhouses proliferating. My optimism is based on recent experiences with seafood in the past few months. Case in point is Oceanaire, 900 South Miami Avenue, T.305-372-TUNA in Mary Brickell Village. Everything I ate was super fresh. In fact, they print menus twice a day. I had been there shortly after it opened and it was good, but nothing special. Now after a $1 million renovation, new ownership (the group that owns Morton’s), and the promotion of the Jamaican sous chef, Kareem Anguin, to executive chef, it’s a different story. I went with a good friend and fellow foodie whose grandfather was a chef at Cordon Bleu . She knows good food and, in fact, was part of my tasting team at Estiatorio by Milos, another solid addition to the Miami fish scene. We tried the chef’s suggestions which I strongly recommend you go with. Starter was the Thai style mussels, the medium size mussels I prefer, with a rich broth made with Thai spices and a touch of cream. Next up was the piece de resistance and the chef’s specialty, jerk grouper. The grouper couldn’t have been fresher. It was marinated in jerk spices, smoked and then grilled, served with pineapple chutney on a bed of sweet potato puree. It got my ultimate accolade — show stopper.
For the main courses we shared the Maine sea scallops with lemon caper butter and wilted spinach and the whole branzino from Greece, both excellent. But wait — then there was the dessert: warm, spiced banana bread pudding made with croissants, served a la mode. The decor is contemporary and, no surprise, nautical. Tables are well spaced and comfortable. There’s also outdoor seating which seemed to be a favorite at lunch and a bar that stretched the entire width of the room. It offers a weekday happy hour 4 to 7 p.m. and a novel reverse happy hour, from 9 p.m. to closing Monday through Thursday and from 8 p.m. Sunday (good for after the movies or an event) . Menu items include crab cake and ahi tuna bites, oysters, and a taco menu . My friend has been raving about the place ever since we went, and I’m now a major new booster as well. Can’t wait to go back. And, by the way, if you decide to go and reserve, ask for Sandy the assistant General Manager, who will make sure you get a good table . She’s a real pro (you may know her from the former Palm in Coral Gables). The other restaurant pick where I had some wonderful fish dishes is Florida Cookery in the St.James Hotel, 1545 Collins Avenue, T.786-276-0333 . Though not a seafood restaurant per se, there’s an original and quality selection of fish and shellfish. The whitewater clams with lemon aioli and fried green tomatoes were as good as any I had in Spain which is my benchmark of freshness and taste for clams. Also getting high marks was the spiny lobster, pan braised in dry sherry bisque with green garlic zucchini and wonderful spoon bread. I also recommend the weekly snapper series, and for dessert the to die for Puerto Rican pineapple rum cake with coconut pineapple frozen yogurt. The atmosphere is casual and the wait staff works hard to please. Bring on the seafood in Miami! Here’s hoping this new trend will continue!