3 stars for Prime Fish's South Beach swagger

 

The seafood-focused addition to Myles Chefetz's South of Fifth empire is a success. 

Prime Fish

By Victoria Pesce Elliott | vpevpe@gmail.com

Prime Fish, Myles Chefetz’s most recent addition to his Miami Beach culinary empire south of Fifth Street, is a study in exaggeration. The space, the menu, the portions and the flavors are as big and bold as an action hero.

Its multipage menu is made up of lots of trendy staples, including roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, tuna tartare, deviled eggs with truffles, coconut fried shrimp and sushi. A seafood display stocks oysters, lobsters and giant red Alaskan king crab claws that look ready to climb out of their icy beds.

To keep diners happy while deciding what to eat, smoky mahi dip with spicy jalapeño slices lands on every table. It’s great piled onto crackers or hot, fist-size Parker House rolls encrusted with mega salt crystals and dripping with butter (watch your sleeves).

Although most of the menu items are been-there-done-that, you won’t find me complaining about local catches like pompano, swordfish, grouper, yellowtail, mahi and hogfish. Add to that decadent imports, including Maine lobster, Hawaiian big eye tuna, branzino, halibut, Chilean sea bass and Dover sole, and I’m a happy pesca-phile.

The setting, too, is drawn with bold lines. The stunning terrace is rooted by an ornamental Japanese plum tree as old as Miami Beach and as tall as the building it surrounds. I could swear the jazzy soundtrack with hits by Coltrane and Davis was playing at my last meal here nearly a decade ago, when it was still Nemo.

Waiters look as if they came out of a speakeasy, in their snappy gray suspenders and well-starched, full-length aprons over crisp blue jeans and white button-downs. We had a team of two model-handsome guys I dubbed Batman and the Joker. While Batman was as patient and knowledgeable as a tour guide, the Joker tried to upsell us on everything from wine to desserts.

My advice: Choose an entree from the Chef’s Composition and dispense with sides. The upscale fish and chips with craggy golden chunks of branzino and skin-on spuds are as crisp as chicharrones and as puffy as pillows. The kale slaw was a bit too mayo-laden and hardly warranted a mention of the trendy green since it only appeared as tiny flecks.

Another great invention is the swordfish schnitzel, a lightly breaded filet that though not pounded is delicate and moist and made even more decadent with a fried egg on top, briny capers and emerald green broccolini.

Jumbo shrimp with cheddar grits in a stewed tomato broth spiked with Tasso ham is rich and satisfying with the monstrous, half-dozen meaty shrimp that are more like baby lobsters. Oysters New Orleans-style are equally and deliciously — if excessively — blanketed with scorched Parmesan and lots of spice and scallion.

Simple eaters should go for “fish on a plate,” where any species can be cooked any style. Sauces, from fancy English mustard to humble tartar, cost extra.

For the record: A romantic dinner here is out of the question, because the heaping portions of food are sort of a third wheel. Which makes Prime Fish all the more fun if you bring a crowd. The lobster Cobb with a sweet poppy dressing can easily feed four to six people. 

Cocktails are good, and the wine list has great options from around the globe. Chef Mike Sabin, who has roots in Hawaii and New Orleans, shows off his skill and range with American classics, Asian specialties and everything in between. 

That is more than I can say about Prime Fish’s pastry chef. 

I cannot recall a worse use of sugar than in the cereal milk crème brulée. This Momofuku-inspired flop was as lumpy as cottage cheese, with a bendy, plasticky caramel topping. Served alongside it were three chocolate marshmallow cookies that were as stiff as ice and as unappetizing. 

As for the other options, I don’t go for fried Oreos, chocolate peanut butter cheesecake or other gooey, kiddie desserts, which is what’s on offer here.

Despite its quirks, this over-the-top addition to the Prime world will appeal to lovers of all things oversized — including bills. 

Critics dine anonymously at the Miami Herald’s expense.

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