The who: Chef Justin Smillie and restaurateur Stephen Starr bring their celebrated Upland from New York to Miami. The name refers to the California town where Smillie grew up. This is Starr’s fifth restaurant in South Florida.
The space: Designed by firm Roman and Williams (27, Broken Shaker) the sprawling dining room has a warm and cozy feel thanks to golden lighting, cushy booths and walls lined with preserved lemons and artichokes. An open exhibition kitchen allows for kitchen theater and outdoor seating maintains the bistro look.
The dishes: California-inspired and Italian-leaning. The menu is divided into fresh pastas, pizzas, vegetables and wood-fired proteins. Prices are in line with the posh surroundings with starters going for $15-$22 and larger mains $19-$78.
Dinner starts with homemade bread and a bean dip then it’s on to plates like the Little Gem Salad with avocado, cucumber, ricotta salata and walnut vinaigrette and the whole crispy hen of the woods mushroom with yogurt sauce. Four types of pizzas are offered, each with a blistery crust and are topped with things like pistachio and fontina, sausage and kale and broccoli and ricotta.
Six home made pastas are available including a cacaio e pepe, the estrella pasta with chicken liver, sherry rosemary and sage and a pappardelle with spicy sausage ragù, kale and parmigiano.
Coal roasted salmon is served with Florida grapefruit, pickled beets and a farro salad and the smoked roasted branzino for two comes with a fennel leek vinaigrette. The Roasted Short Rib for Two with castelvetrano olives, walnuts, celery and horseradish is a signature dish and can easily be shared by more than two.
Desserts of carrot cake with cinnamon cream and chocolate mousse with fennel pollen keep the rustic home cooked feeling going.
Bottom line: A New York transplant with California roots makes this new SoFi spot a destination.