For Emily’s birthday, I wanted to go to a restaurant that had three major qualities: “vegetarian” friendly, since Emily isn’t eating any meat, an interesting menu, and a good view. I figured that the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel & Residences would provide the latter, and thankfully, Area 31 also went above and beyond with the formers. We arrived a little before our 8:00 reservation on a Tuesday. I booked on OpenTable, and they were ready to seat us immediately. I was surprised how busy the restaurant was for a Tuesday night, however, the service was impeccable and it almost felt like we were the only table there, as the waitress, Ingrid, was extremely accommodating (taking time to answer my question, for every course “what do you recommend,” and to take a few pictures for us).
We started out with drinks (of course). Emily ordered the Copa Verde – fresh lime juice, homemade avocado puree, cuervo tradicional, and a salt-chili rim. Emily ordered it because she thought it might taste like guacamole in a glass – it didn’t really, however, it had a really refreshing taste, and the chili on the rim of the glass provided a nice kick. I ordered the Side Car (remy martin, orange liqueur, lime juice and sugar rim), although I was really hoping to have the Mr. Fig – makers mark 46, chestnut liqueur, sugar cane syrup, fig – but they were out of the chestnut liqueur. Better luck next time, perhaps. I also would have liked to see some more drinks with St. Germain – my current obsession.
The bread brought out was delicious as well. Almost similar in thinness to a crostini, even the cinnamon raisin variety worked well with the tomato based sauce brought out with it, and worked well to fight off our hunger until we got our apps.
We opted for two appetizers. Since Area 31 is known to be an excellent seafood restaurant, we ordered the Rock Shrimp ceviche – the shrimp was incredibly fresh tasting, the portions were generous, and there was a hint of coconut and creaminess to the dish. There was nice contrast as well, as the shrimp contained diced carrots and (we believe) apple. Emily was particularly a fan of the coconut aspect to the ceviche, and I’d have to agree.
The other appetizer was probably my favorite part of the meal. I am basically obsessed with caprese salad – I love it because it’s so simple, yet the combination of tomato, mozzarella, and some fat and acid together is so satisfying. Area 31′s Heriloom Tomato Caprese elevated this to a whole new level, with peach mozzarella, white balsamic bubbles (my first experience with foam) and a pickled ginger sorbet. The ginger sorbet was a flavor that I would never think to pair with the remainder of the ingredients, but it provided a refreshing, summery feel to the dish. The foam was, naturally, light and airy, and the balsamic flavor came through in an understated way. The foam was perfectly placed in the dish – it wasn’t unnecessary or showy – it again perfectly conveyed that summery feel. The sorbet held up pretty well in the heat, as we were sitting on the terrace. Marcel woulda been proud.
For the entrees, I opted for the short ribs – just added to the menu that day. They were braised in red wine for 5 hours, and required no knife whatsoever. Any time I see short ribs on a menu, I order them, and these were some of the best I’ve ever had. The ribs came with two large tiger shrimp that were glazed in a chili sauce, providing a light kick to the meal. The shrimp and vegetable accompaniment sat on top of what tasted like a squid-ink sauce. The vegetables were crunchy and were a nice contrast to the soft short ribs. The ONLY critique I have of this dish is purely aesthetic – it could have used a kick of color – but I guess this was provided by the bright green of the pea shoots.
Emily ordered the Key West Pink Shrimp Ravioli which came in a uni butter, spinach, pea sprouts. The Waitress explained that the Uni butter (sea urchin butter) was meant to give the pasta and sauce an overall richness. Emily said she really enjoyed this dish, and kept describing it as “delicate.”
Finally, for dessert, we ordered the “Strawberry Rock” – described as macerated strawberries, tres leches cake, pistachio ice cream. The strawberry “rock” came looking like a little globe of space ice cream. The waiter cracked it open, and the presentation was very “cool,” for lack of a better word. The combo of flavors and textures was a pleasing way to end the meal. The strawberry rock almost melted on your tongue, while the cake had ample richness to it. I was also happy to see that the restaurant complied with my request on my Open Table reservation – I asked them to bring out a candle for Emily’s birthday, and without having to remind them, they got it done.
I thought this was one of the best meals I’ve had in Miami – the ambiance, the quality of the food, the service, the variety of specialty cocktails – it was all exceptional. Even if you just go for their Happy Hour (5$ drinks and bar bites) – it’s a must go to at least once while you’re in Miami. If you’re going to go, book your reservation on Open Table – it’s a 1000 pt restaurant, and will get you 10$ from OT (you can redeem once you get to 2,000 points). All in all, the meal cost $147 (without tip). HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY!!!!!
P.S. For the wine enthusiasts out there, every Wednesday night, Area 31 will be having their “Raid the Cellar” night, in which Chef Reidt will offer expensive bottles of wine for prices we can actually afford. In addition, this summer, a glass of Rosé and Rock Shrimp Ceviche are only $5 each. For just $5 more, you can sit at the Epic Pool all day. Rick Ross not included.