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.
- 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