AltaMare

 

Thrillingly silky & reverentially treated seafood earns an enthusiastic 3.5 stars at AltaMare...

Altamare

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Like the high school grad who changes his name from Billy to Bill when he goes off to college, the drab AltaMar has morphed into the more elegant AltaMare. The additional "e'' is just one of many changes veteran restaurateur Claudio Giordano has made to his once-cramped Italian fish house. After nearly a decade, Giordano is still giving Miami's discerning palates what should be more common in a place surrounded by water: consistently exquisite local seafood. He has also moved AltaMare down the block, doubled its size and added a full bar, private room and new chef.

Simon Stojanovic, a tow-headed Aussie who worked for nearly three years at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, brings with him not only the cellphone numbers of South Florida's best farmers and fishermen but a commitment to letting local ingredients at the peak of freshness speak for themselves. If imitation is the height of flattery, Michael's Genuine chef-owner Michael Schwartz must be blushing. Even my 10-year-old noticed the same heirloom tomatoes stacked on the kitchen bar and sea salt on the tables. The toughest thing about a meal here could be choosing from the three-dozen items on a daily-changing menu.  The prices are a bit higher than before, but well worth it for this caliber of cooking. This food outshines most any I have had on the Beach in years

What Worked

  • Raw dishes dressed with little more than lemon juice, olive oil and salt
  • A thrillingly silky hog snapper carpaccio with freshly shaved hearts of palm and sweet little smiles of cara cara orange
  • A “celebration of spring” house salad with see-through sheets of shaved fennel playing against the snap of tiny leaves and the crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds
  • “Perfect as a sunrise” microgreens, herbs, edible flowers and snippets of chives that appear on most plates
  • A springy golden crab salad with a simple lemon, oil and salt treatment
  • Reverentially treated cobia, trigger-fish, yellow jack and tuna
  • An exceptionally pristine grouper with lemony, pistachio-studded rice
  • Grilled octopus over warm, chewy faro studded with spicy bits of chorizo, grilled lemon and lusciously rich saffron aioli
  • Shatteringly crisp-skinned poulet rouge served with a tangle of baby Swiss chard
  • Buttery whipped parsnips
  • Expertly seared, gently charred, plump and juicy dry-aged Angus strip loin served with an earthy mound of sautéed wild mushrooms
  • A creamy whipped chocolate brownie ice cream
  • A toasty almond tart with a moist center and restrained flavoring like a good French pastry
  • A friendly, attentive and competent young staff
  • A cozy, clean and well-lighted dining room
  • An Italian-focused wine list with a moderate two times retail markup

What Didn’t Work

  • A drab whole-wheat spaghetti with shavings of bottarga (dried fish roe)

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