2.5 stars for Cooper Avenue's American eats on South Beach

 

2.5 stars for Cooper Avenue's American eats on South Beach

cooper_ave

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Amir Ben Zion, the savvy and ambitious Israeli businessman who brought us Bond St. Sushi, Bardot and Gigi, intends his new South Beach hybrid, Cooper Avenue, to be a sort of modern Main Street — “a 21st century food service concept” to satisfy “the needs of the Mac generation,” as the website declares. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I like most of what I’ve eaten here so far.

There’s plenty more to look forward to. In addition to the restaurant, the nearly 10,000-square-foot space will house a deli, bakery with pizzas, late-night lounge, market and boutique, all packed neatly into the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center. The menu, printed on rough brown cardboard, is nicely limited to a couple of dozen items that appeal to a grown-up crowd, but it’s confusingly organized. Savvy waiters could clear things up, but the T-shirt clad cuties here seem clueless.

Ambience: The steely, industrial-gray warehouse space has floor-to-ceiling windows and a cool vibe with a soundtrack that’s sometimes cranked up a bit too high with a kitschy mix of ’80s hits and current dance music. Straight-back, metal chairs could use cushions, but otherwise the place is comfy as can be with its low lighting and well-spaced tables. Red market umbrellas shade outside seating.

What Worked

  • Simple but spectacular lobster salad with tender, steamed claws, a bed of frisee, snappy corn, tiny heirloom tomatoes, meaty fava beans and a fan of perfectly ripe avocado slices
  • Golden and red beet salad with gently seared squares of goat cheese
  • Local green salad with iridescent fennel, see-through sheaves of radish and cherry tomato halves
  • Gorgeously glistening pappardelle with earthy hunks of braised lamb and shavings of Manchego cheese
  • Short rib with perfect brussels sprouts and celery root
  • Overseasoned, but picture perfect, slender swordfish steak with chorizo and sweet corn accompaniments
  • Fantastic fiery kale sauté with garlic, bacon and chiles
  • Addictively hot herby fries loaded with sprightly spices - or dangerously oversalted
  • A not-too-sweet square of flourless chocolate cake with dark, bittersweet cherries
  • A dense brick of carrot cake with a satisfyingly chunky texture and a rich cream cheese frosting
  • A sophisticated selection of wine and beer
  • Cocktails by the pop-up Broken Shaker crew

 

What Didn't Work

  • Chewy calamari doused with what tasted like dried herbs
  • Spotty, clueless service

 

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