Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Evening at Altamare, Miami Beach

I have lived in Miami for almost nine years now and have always heard that "Altamar" was a great spot for fresh seafood that had a nice local following on Miami Beach.  Unfortunately, I never made it there before the temporarily closed down.  When the restaurant moved to a larger space on the west side of Lincoln Road and added Michael's Genuine alum, Simon Stojanovic, along with an "e" at the end of it's name, I figured it was high time I gave it a shot.  Friday night, I did just that.

Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by two hostesses and a man who I believe was the owner, Claudio Giordano.  The restaurant apparently has expanded though it's still somewhat small.  The main dining room off to the left of the door features many two and four tops, a long banquette against the westernmost wall, and an elevated section of seating that offers looks into an open kitchen.  To the right of the door there is a small bar with two hi-def TVs and a little dining room to the North that looked a little more private.  The restaurant also has outdoor seating on the sidewalk of Lincoln Road.  

It was a nice night out but a little on the chilly side so we opted for a table in the main dining room against the back wall.  Our server brought over some water and bread and gave us a few minutes to sift through the menu.  The menu is comprised of four sections, broken down into ceviches/crudos, starters, mains, and sides.  The raw selections and the starters had a lot of interesting options so we opted to share a bunch rather than go with main courses.  We started with a bay scallop ceviche and a local Spanish mackerel crudo.  Both dishes were delicious.  The crudo consisted of Spanish mackerel, bottarga, meyer lemon, maldon sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil.  The fish was silky smooth and brightened by the meyer lemon and sea salt.  The bay scallops arrived in a little bowl that also contained blood orange, chives, and tiny julienne red pepper.  I loved the flavor combos of this dish.  We were off to a refreshingly good start.

Our next round of plates were more hearty.  A large bowl arrived with homemade mushroom ravioli bathing in a cream sauce.  Our server, Jean Marco, took the time to serve a few ravioli on our plates. The ravioli had a velvety texture and the cream sauce was surprisingly light.  Shaved black truffles added another dynamic to the dish that I wasn't expecting.  This was our favorite dish of the night. Next up was a seared snapper topped with saffron aioli and served on top of warm farro spiked with bits of cured chorizo and grilled meyer lemon.  I imagine this dish was inspired by the chef's days at Michael's Genuine as I'd previously enjoyed this preparation there with both local kingfish and local snapper.  This dish came up a bit short.  The fish was bland and the aioli was somewhat flavorless and more like a glop of mayo.  The farro, however, was awesome.  The texture of the farro had a slight chew to it that I loved.  I was surprised at the use of cured chorizo rather than fresh grilled but it worked really well with the texture of the farro.  I feel like I could eat a gigantic bowl of this stuff.

On Jean Marco's recommendation, we ended our meal with Altamare's house salad which consisted of heirloom tomatoes, toasted pumpkin seed, shaved fennel, and a pear balsamic vinaigrette.  It was a nice ending to a nice meal.  I found the food on this first visit was impressive and the portion sizes were larger than I expected.  We had shared five "starters" between the two of us and both left pretty full.  The best part of the night, outside of the food, was the service.  Jean Marco was the man.  The guy made recommendations for wine, food, and the progress of the meal.  He came by often enough to make sure our wine glasses were always full and plates were cleared without being intrusive.  He even took the time to personally serve us a few of our dishes.  I know we always expect service to suck in Miami and then get excited when our waiter or waitress actually gets the order correct but this was phenomenal service in any city, any town.

I'm glad I finally made the effort to try Altamare.  The quality of the food and service was great and the value was there too.  It is a nice option to have in the Lincoln Road area and I look forward to future visits.


The Chowfather said...

ahhh the truffle ravioli. My wife ordered that EVERY time at the old spot. There service has always been top notch.

SteveBM said...

I didnt think I saw "truffle" on the description but maybe I overlooked it. It was killer.