The goods: Noteworthy chef and prolific restaurateur Jonathan Eismann dives into the seafood scene with Fin. The North Miami Avenue eatery solidifies his presence on the western edge of the Design District, joining his barbecue joint, Q, and casual Pizza Volante. (He shuttered Pacific Time earlier this month.)
Ambience: Next door to Q in the old Sheba building, the petite dining room is a nautical cousin to the down-home barbecue joint. Outfitted with blue and white striped wallpaper, clean white chairs and Eismann's own vintage wooden surfboards, it brings to mind Hyannis Port or Florida's genteel Gulf Coast. Big picture windows and a low-key atmosphere make it an ideal date spot.
The grub: Seasonal American seafood. The BP oil spill scuttled the chef's plans to feature fish from the Gulf and Florida coasts. Instead he's sourcing from the Pacific Northwest and Canada, supplemented by a few Miami purveyors. The switch bumped up prices a bit, with starters $8-$18, mains about $25 and desserts $8. Wines from the compact French and American list average $40 a bottle, $10 a glass.
The concise menu (four starters, four mains, four desserts) changes daily. You could start with oysters on the half shell from New Brunswick to go along with a complimentary snack (bacon-wrapped dates on our visit). The Manhattan clam chowder is a hearty bowl of herby tomato broth stocked with bits of clam, potato and carrot. Eismann's deft hand with Asian flavors is evident in the shrimp curry, a spicy stew of chiles, bananas and coconut water served with a scoop of jasmine rice. Mains (7-ounce protein portions) could include Oregon-caught black cod over potato puree dotted with olives and green apples or wild Alaskan sockeye salmon subtly flavored by a 15-minute stay in the smoker and served with sauteed spinach and arugula. A la carte sides include hearty curried French lentils and rustic wood-roasted parsnips and beets.
Desserts like lemon tartlet and peaches sauteed in lavender cream cleanse the palate after the fish feast.
Verdict: It may not be super-local, but the fresh, "safe water'' seafood at Jonathan Eismann's date-worthy spot will remind you of summers on the New England coast.