The location might be a little sketchy -- but this Greek place is worth slumming it.
By: Linda Bladholm
Simplicity rules at the third incarnation of Ouzo, a Normandy Isle darling that was done in by road construction after it relocated to South Beach. Now called Anise Waterfront Taverna, the Greek restaurant resembles a Mykonos hangout. Owners Liza and Gennaro "Gigi'' Meoli found their charming new spot for sale on Craigslist and fixed it up, adding a pocket bar.
The menu is inspired by their Greek, French and Italian heritages. The Argentine chef, Pablo Cittadnia, contributes dishes like potato gnocchi in rabbit ragu and fettuccini with minced lamb, mint and garlic in yogurt sauce. The place is named for the anise seeds that give ouzo liqueur its licorice flavor. When mixed with water or ice it turns cloudy, as you'll see when a small complimentary glass is served after dinner as a digestive.
About half the menu consists of sharable mezze. Grilled, chopped octopus tentacles drizzled with lemon, olive oil and oregano; crispy fried smelts; mussels steamed in ouzo; grilled Portuguese sardines with lemon herb sauce; keftedes (grilled meatballs made from lean ground beef with yogurt dip) and baked eggplant rolls stuffed with feta in homemade plum tomato sauce are among the options.
Fresh whole fish include branzini (sea bass) and dorado (sea bream). The fish are brought to the table for inspection, cooked and fileted at the table by Gigi. Have it roasted with raisins, pine nuts and rosemary in balsamic reduction. There's also bouillabaisse with mixed fish and shellfish in fennel and white wine broth with grilled herb baguette for soaking up the soup, lamb shank braised in red wine served over rice pilaf, and a light version of moussaka with half the béchamel usually used to make the eggplant and beef casserole.
Liza's mom makes the desserts, including a scrumptious coconut cake soaked in sugar syrup. On busy nights when the mood strikes, Liza dances the Zorba and smashes plates. Kali orexi!
(Bon appetit!)Anise Waterfront Taverna
, 620 NE 78th St., Miami (half a block east of Biscayne Boulevard); 305-758-2929. 6-11 p.m. Tues-Thurs, 6 p.m.-midnight Fri and Sat, 6-10 p.m. Sun. (Lunch service planned.)
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Shrimp with fennel and Ouzo at Anise Waterfront Tavern. Photo: Gaston de Cardenas.