2.5 stars for the revamped Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne

For years, it mystified me that a restaurant that boasted such appealing views served such appalling food as the Rusty Pelican. The contradiction kicked in with management, and the place is now reborn with new décor, hip ambient music, a bar serving the requisite trademark cocktails, a kicking wine list and a hot new chef. If once The Rusty Pelican was the place where one took guests who would value the wow factor and ignore everything else, today’s restaurant is much improved but a work in progress.

Ambience: Wow and wow. You walk in through a gorgeous glassed-in wine-cellar, and then Miami’s jaw-dropping waterfront skyline graces your eyes — I expected the young Don Johnson to cross my sightline, cigarette boating at max speed, jacket sleeves pushed up.

The Food: Once you stop wowing, however, some of the old contradictions surface.Don’t get me wrong. This is nowhere like the outdated industrial cuisine of days past. This is nouvelle, Nuevo, new.  Insistence on small dishes is a good thing, though some are better than others; that the penchant for complex combos can produce forgettable results, such as the chipotle aioli on the crab cake that it took my re-reading the menu to remember it was there and the lamb that seemed not have gained — nor lost — anything by its duck-fat treatment.

What Worked

  • Tender & perfectly done avocado fries with crispy,  light batter
  • A good wine list free of banalities
  • Four kinds of chocolate sumptuousness deseer
  • Lobster crudo – cooked lobster, chilled and sliced thin, and nicely offset by piquillo peppers, cucumber and a key lime dressing
  • Sea scallop tiradito, again cooked and sliced thin, with a subtle vinaigrette
  • A very good spicy tuna sushi
  • A fire-crusted, perfectly medium rare burger
  • Tantalizing shoe-string potatoes
  • An authentic Greek salad with flavorful (albeit chewy) grilled baby octopus


What Didn’t Work

  • Ho-hom baked crab
  • Eeel and foie – a bad marriage made worse by a cloying sauce
  • Solicitous, but lacking service- main course served before new silverware was set; wine arrived after main dish was eaten
  • An outdoor terrace underserved by short staff




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