db Bistro Moderne woos with a convincing 3.5 stars
At French bistros, I tend to fall for the crusty bread and salads that by some ancient alchemy are usually perfect. At Daniel Boulud's db Bistro Moderne, it goes way beyond a carbs-and-greens crush. The new restaurant at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami had me swooning all the way to the warm, sugar-dusted madeleines. Young executive chef Jarrod Verbiak, who has worked under the D man for more than eight years, knows his stuff.
Lest anyone think this is a casual affair, the so-called bistro is about as formal a dining experience as can be had in this flip-flop-shod city by the sea. Diners are greeted by appellation and promptly seated in one several dining rooms with soaring ceilings, warm lighting and cozy booths. The young staff can range from blasé to overly attentive, especially if you happen to be the restaurant critic for the local paper and get outed. We wondered throughout one three-hour meal why the staff was so solicitous; then we saw our bill, labeled in bold letters "VICTORIA CRITIC."
Ambience: The crisply starched look with plush upholstery is more 1950s country club than cool. Maybe the discordant clang of techno music blasting from the speakers is meant to loosen things up.
- Toasty golden cheese puffs - oversized gougéres with melted Gruyère and a throat-tickling dash of pepper - are like heavenly popovers, hollow in the middle but for a puff of steam
- Exceptional salads
- Tuna crudo with cubes of rose-fleshed fish, see-through slivers of cucumber and radish and a shower of crispy rice and sesame
- Warm potato salad tower dotted with bits of newborn frisee, tiny parsley leaves and quartered radish for bite
- Lobster salad with a mélange of fresh, fruity flavors and kicky pesto dressing
- A light lettuce vichyssoise
- A rich ricotta cavatelli in a creamy, almond-based sauce studded with crisp bits of pork belly and roasted orange pumpkin touched with sage
- Rich duck confit - a fist-sized leg encased in crackling skin the color of burnt umber topped with wispy coins of fried potatoes alongside impossibly green, creamed spinach and an earthy sauce forestiere with hunky wild mushrooms
- Must-try coq au vin in brick-dark wine sauce with baby pearl onions and lusciously crisped-edged lardons
- Two simple pompano fillets coated in buttered bread as thin as pan de miga, gently sautéed and served with a parsley sauce as bright as an Irish countryside
- The original high-end burger - the deliciously decadent, $32 db. A thick patty of ground sirloin stuffed with shredded, braised short-rib meat and a dollop of foie gras with black truffle bits and served with hot, salty, perfectly skinny frites
- An impressive and democratic French and South American wine list
- A surprising nonalcoholic cocktail selection
- The coupe dulce de leche, a foamy chocolate confection dotted with macadamia nuts, fudgy hot chocolate sauce, coffee ice cream and rich caramel
What Didn’t Work
- An unwieldy tomato tart layered so thickly with sweet and acidic confit that eating more than a bite was a chore