By Sara Liss
The goods: Miami food fiends have been chomping at the bit waiting for chef Kris Wessel’s Red Light to finally open. The restaurant is up and running, albeit with a protracted menu and has yet to fully open its scenic Little River outdoor terrace. Adding to the plethora of dining options on the Upper East Side, this funky spot at the not-yet-gentrified Motel Blu on Biscayne Boulevard has already been attracting committed gourmands. The indoor dining room features retro light fixtures, cream yellow booths and large picture windows framing views of the boulevard. An inviting curved bar divides the dining room from the diminutive kitchen where diners can observe the culinary action. The restaurant has cleaned up its stretch of the Little River and plans to offer a raw bar on the outdoor terrace where patrons can observe the occasional manatee lolling by.
The grub: New Orleans-raised Wessel (formerly of Liaison and Paninoteca) aims to offer Florida regional cooking with an emphasis on organic or locally-sourced seafood and produce. The eclectic menu focuses fresh fish like local pompano, snapper and whatever else the fishermen bring in. Prices are in keeping with unfussy atmosphere. Starters average about $8 and mains top out at $18 for fish and the veggie of the day. Menu items include a five-hour braised rabbit, barbecue shrimp New Orleans-style (sautéed with butter, lemon and Worcestershire sauce), smoked oysters, frog legs (sautéed with garlic and lemon) and fish chowder made with coconut milk and corn.
Desserts include kumquat sorbet, key lime pie and homemade banana ice cream. Wine and beer, including Florida’s Landshark lager, are offered at the indoor bar.
The verdict: You’ll have to vie for tables amongst Miami’s food hounds and curious culinary elite to taste Kris Wessel’s locavore cuisine at Red Light.
Red Light, 7700 Biscayne Blvd, Upper East Side; 305-757-7773; currently only open for dinner Thurs-Sun