Culinary cage match: Snapper
In one corner, The Raleigh Hotel, in the other, Latin Cafe. Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!
By Danny Brody
The Beach. The Boulevard. Beach. Boulevard. Why oh why can't South Beach's Collins Avenue and Miami's Biscayne Boulevard meet at some point? When it comes to eating dinner, in particular local favorite snapper, at least there's a bridge (or causeway) that connects the two so that we can enjoy our haute preparation alongside its country cousin.
I started with the snapper dish at the Raleigh Hotel, which is being helmed by newcomer David Briggs. He has seen Jeffrey Brana come and go in his short tenure, and he has been given the task of filling the beautiful outdoor dining area with locals this summer. Briggs’ snack menu includes a lobster satay that’s basically coconut breaded lobster-tail meat on a stick. Is there anything that doesn’t taste better either dipped in coconut or served on a stick? Perhaps the juicy snapper ($34) served with an herb crust that adds crunch to the flavorful piece of fresh fish. A light coconut-curry sauce over soothing jasmine rice completes the simple yet satisfying plate. I’d also recommend an incredibly rich cold cucumber soup -- its coolness will help you navigate the neck-stretching needed to garner a look at the other locals, also searching for the “beautiful people.”
Locals really don't need the Latin Cafe to do anything special for them during the summer -- just keep serving those 21 sandwiches on the menu (with full-color pictures) and keep playing those Marc Anthony concert videos on the outdoor patio TVs. The pango entero frito, or whole fried red snapper, is one of the best deals around at $14.95, which includes salad. It’s enough for two, although the hearty side of boiled yucca with onions and garlic mojo ($3) can help fill you up, too. And the $3 Hatuey's don't hurt, either. Formerly brewed in Cuba, Bacardi now brews this beer in the U.S., and it’s rarely available outside Florida. So squirt a little lime on your fish, throw a little salt in your beer and enjoy the patio overlooking Biscayne Boulevard. It may never intersect with Collins, but maybe that guy Euclid had something -- maybe parallel lines are better off not intersecting, just happily rolling along beside each other, a couple of miles away.
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