The big review: Pacific Time ***½

This is at the Pacific Time restaurant and the dish is a Day boat sea scallops, Florida tomatoes, black vinegar, blanched garlic, and hearty greens.

Chef Jonathan Eismann opened Pacific Time in June after a 15-year run on Lincoln Road, not just reincarnating but reimagining his well-known restaurant as a less pricey but still stellar restaurant with a more Mediterranean, less Asian sensibility. His loyal fans won’t be disappointed.

Eismann’s intriguing new menu features small plates as well as snacks and entrees, and so far they’ve proved most popular. There are 20 creative choices — including standouts like Buffalo-style sweetbreads and sweet corn and leek soup with peekytoe crab dumplings — from $9 to $22. Favorite starters include hot and sour tempura-popcorn shrimp on a nest of crisp rice noodles with a perky Thai vinaigrette and a sweet and spicy mix of roasted Spanish Marcona almonds and California walnuts.

The wine list is another plus for value-minded customers. A $41 bottle of 2006 Terra D’Ouro Albarino was perfect with our mostly seafood meal on one visit; another time, a friend and I shared a half-carafe of fruity Domaine Houchart rosé for $16.50 (a bottle is $22). There’s a super selection of organic, Florida-brewed beers and specialty drinks made with little or no alcohol. Pacific Time has also ditched bottled water in favor of eco-friendlier, house-filtered H2O that’s $1.50 for the whole table with free refills.

On various visits, we were steered by the attentive waitstaff toward black grouper in a fragrant red curry sauce with sliced bananas and a whisper of coconut; crisp Idaho-potato fries elevated with a splash of truffle oil and heavenly gnudi — fat, melt-in-your-mouth pillows of creamy sheep’s milk ricotta with a dash of Parmigiana, bits of speck (a distinctive cured ham) and baby spinach. Soft shell crab tempura is light and crisp — dip into a Cantonese black bean vinaigrette to wake your palate. An old Pacific Time standard, the Peking-style duck salad boasted moist, sliced meat, shredded Napa cabbage, jicama and snow peas in a slightly sweet Mandarin vinaigrette. Skate is lightly breaded, simply seasoned and quite flavorful, served with a homey parsnip purée, a few haricot verts and a hint of lemon grass.

We weren’t as impressed with the snapper, which was a tad overcooked, but loved the perfectly grilled mahi mahi with a tempura sweet potato. Our plate of three plump, pan-seared sea scallops was beautiful, served with kale and yellow and red tomatoes in a slightly too assertive reduction of plum wine and black and sherry vinegars. We also savored every bite of the Asian-marinated skirt steak with black mushrooms and braised bok choy. The crisp, pan-roasted organic chicken is wonderful, too.

Eismann’s desserts are scrumptious. Dive into his classic baked Alaska, filled with Key lime ice cream, or chocolate bomb with a molten filling as rich as Bill Gates. The frozen terrine (his mom’s recipe) is light and refreshing: whipped cream that’s fortified with sugar syrup, toasted almonds, bittersweet chocolate and dried cherries, popped into the freezer and then sliced. Top it off with very good espresso or a latte served in a cup that’s practically big enough to swim in. The new Pacific Time was worth the wait.

Pacific Time, 35 NE 40th St., Design District; 305-722-7369; 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, 5:30-11 p.m. Sun-Thurs, until midnight Fri-Sat; snacks: $4-$7; small plates $9-$22; salads $9-$16; entrees $18-$36; sides $4-$8; desserts $6-$10

FYI: Full bar, corkage fee $25; happy hour 4-7 p.m. weekdays. Metered street parking; valet $10. AX, MC, VS

Published: 8/08

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