By Danny Brody
When the British and their dollar-double pounds have sailed on to New York and a better Barney’s; when Euro-wielding Belgians down their last frosted doughnut and head back to the safety of the Eurozone, the local hot-spots that once throbbed with house music and tan-deficient types from all over the globe must forlornly turn to that neglected and often scorned segment of Miami society — the local.
Some places, however, take this downtime as a challenge to pamper locals and perhaps offer them something they probably won’t see much of come high season: decent pricing. One place that has gotten it right is The Restaurant at The Setai, led by chef Jonathan Wright (who has cooked in New Orleans, as well as with Raymond Blanc, one of the leading chefs cooking today in Britain and star of his own hit BBC show), as they’ve launched a $55 prix fixe four-course menu, as well as a wine list of 55 "hidden values" from around the world priced at $55.
But even with a bargain, you have to choose carefully and be willing to try something new to be properly rewarded. The Gewürztraminer (say ga-VERTZ) by Paul Blanck (Austria-2006) is a heroic food wine and, with the Asian-accented food here, a bottle that will tamp down spices and refresh your taste buds, is going to be absolutely necessary. After Rieslings that are a tiny bit sweet, the Gewürz is the next best thing to pair with spicy or earthily complex food. The Tom Kha Gai, that lush soup of chicken, kaffir lime leaf and galangal (thai ginger) simmered in coconut milk, has just the right complexity to match the wine’s spicy notes. Approaching $30 retail, it’s also a true hidden value and one of the best bargains on any list in South Beach.
Another surprise was a Vinho Verde from Portugal, "Loureiro" from Quinta do Ameal (2006). Vinho Verde is usually fresh, refreshing and forgettable, but this double-V, which uses the Loureiro grape to achieve an almost lemony color and a flowery, nutty taste, brings out the nuttiness and ‘shroomy delight of the Soba Shiitake, which is a warm mushroom salad over soba noodles, cooked to a mouth-pleasing density and finished with a truffle vinaigrette. Currently, this dish is my nominee for best mushroom dish in Miami (right up there with Dewey LoSasso’s mushroom risotto), and it needs a subtle-flavored, lightly fruity wine to bring it home. At about $25 retail, another great bargain and a real surprise.
The other bargain that caught my eye and that matches perfectly with the Barbeque Kurobuta Pork was a third white — the Vinoce Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley (2006). I’ve seen this wine at retail for a little under $25, so the price is right; and its crisp and sharp backbone works not just with the pork but with the various mushroom dishes and with the crusty and aromatic naan bread that comes with dinner — be sure to ask for the creamy cashew cream. If you want to go simple and local with the Crisp Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Homestead Farms Tomato Salad this will make a singularly refreshing and light summer pairing.
Don’t forget desserts, which should probably be paired with a little Prosecco, but some of your leftover white will do, especially with the Coconut Nectar, which combines passion fruit crème, pink peppercorns and white chocolate.
And remember, they’ll probably be real happy to see you, too. So enjoy being a %$*&%$& local while you can!
The Restaurant at the Setai, 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-520-6402