The Deck, a New Fave
When I heard the name “The Deck Miami” and knew it was waterside, I was expecting the kind of very casual place you go to eat (rather than dine) in Key Biscayne or the Keys, a place that’s all about the view period. But then again, I heard the chef was Alfredo Alvarez, ex of Seasalt n Pepper (now Seaspice), then Palmeiras, so decided it definitely deserved a visit. It turned out I was right about the food but wrong about the ambiance. The Deck at Island Gardens has to be one of the most attractive (in a European way), stylish and casually elegant restaurants in Miami. And then there’s the spectacular view of the Miami skyline. I liked it so much, I immediately booked a return visit for when a New York friend is coming to town.
Let’s talk about the décor created by Sukriye Bayraktar, part of the Turkish couple who own the restaurant which will later be joined by condos and a separate event space. Sukriye wanted to recreate the ambiance, sophistication and glamour of chic watering holes like St. Tropez and the Italian Riviera. And she certainly succeeded. It’s open air, with lighting that’s almost magical – candles on every table, tented cabanas with touches of violet light that add a zip of welcome color. Every table has a panoramic view of downtown in the distance and up close view of the megayachts in their own marina, like the four story yacht I saw the day I was there.
The cabanas feature plush sofas and chairs, perfect for whiling the afternoon and evening away. In fact, they’ve rented for an afternoon or even a weekend by the likes of Marc Anthony and the Estefans (mere mortals can rent them too for $4000 a day). In the coolness of winter, heaters are expertly placed, so the dressed to the nines ladies won’t fear getting cold. The restaurant is framed by towering palm trees that are expertly lit and let you know without a doubt you’re in Miami. And there’s a delightful, slightly quirky bar that’s also stylish and inviting.
Chef Alvarez has always been a talented chef. And now, after several months traveling around Europe to get inspiration, he’s better than ever. He brought two chefs from Turkey who do scrumptious mezze plates, and will soon be presiding over a shish kebab station. The choice of seven mezze dishes with puffed bread from a wood oven range from enginar (artichoke and tahini hummus) and kereviz (greek yogurt, celery root, green apple and walnuts) to hamsi (fresh anchovies, artichokes and tomato sauce). It’s definitely a dish to order (a plate of three for $25) along with fluffy codfish fritters served with a sauce of mayo, honey and garlic.
The cuisine crosses the Mediterranean – Greece, Southern France, and Southern Italy and is designed for those wanting something light, and for hearty eaters as well. So find charcuterie, caviar, raw bar and appetizers that focus on fish and vegetables, along with classic Italian pizzas and Turkish pizzas (ground beef, tomatoes and parsley; and mozzarella and Turkish cheese). Entree dishes include pastas and risotto, grilled meats and branzino, and a section called “oven baked” with seafood casserole, fish and wood fired chicken.
If you like meat, don’t miss the Kobe beef, the best I’ve ever had. It’s up there in the category of truffles, caviar and foie gras as is its price — $100 an ounce. But the thing is, you only eat a small piece. He makes the beef in a sausage like portion that’s just the right amount, firing it tableside for extra flavor and the WOW factor.
Another specialty is the red snapper baked in salt with rich black truffle risotto.
Do not miss, I repeat, do not miss the pear ravioli.It’s decadently creamy , and has a sweetness that’s an exciting new taste sensation.
For dessert, my recommendation is the Nutella donuts filled with dulce de leche and accompanied by hazelnut ice cream. They sound overly sweet, but not so.
Since the emphasis at The Deck is to stay and spend the afternoon or evening, it’s not surprising that the list of wine and liquor is heavily weighted to bottles. Bottles of wine start at $80 and wines by the glass at $15. I had a smile on my face when I saw the menu item “Anchor’s Away Package”. It includes Allaire Crystal Filtered Vodka, Allaire Crystal Reposado Tequila and Allaire Crystal Aged Rum for $1,200.A lot of firepower.
Appetizers and salads range from the high teens to twenties. Pastas hover in the twenties. Entrees range from $28 (chicken) to $45 for a 16 ounce grass fed rib eye. Seafood casserole with ample shellfish is $120. Desserts are $14.
If you want a quiet conversation at dinner on weekends, go early as the party scene heats up, and with it the music at around 10 p.m. If you want serious party atmosphere go on Sunday for brunch. Not surprising it’s serious party — nightlife entrepreneurs Michael Capponi and Eric Milon activate The Deck into the morning hours.
Self parking at The Deck Miami is available for $10 and valet for $20.
Between The Deck and DOA (see my earlier review), the year is off to an exciting start on the dining scene!