The goods: The dream of a bustling, cosmopolitan Miami is slowly coming to fruition with newcomers like db Bistro Moderne, the latest eatery from celeb chef Daniel Boulud. The famed restaurateur helms a culinary empire that stretches from New York to Singapore, though this is his first foray into the Miami market (Boulud has a restaurant in Palm Beach). This is also the third outpost of Bistro Moderne – joining siblings in New York and Vancouver. Executive chef Jarrod Verbiak, an eight-year veteran with Boulud, steers the kitchen in Miami.
Ambience: db Bistro Moderne occupies the ground floor of the sleek new JW Marriott Marquis with soaring ceilings, a regal glass-enclosed wine cellar and three separate dining rooms (ask for the Persimmon room with deep sofas and fruit-colored walls). There’s a spacious lounge outfitted with gray studded leather couches and a marble sunken bar, a sophisticated spot to sip a Mexican Fig (made with tequila and fig preserves).
The grub: Classic French cuisine with global influences. Expect brawny, farmhouse dishes like bœuf bourguignon and Coq Au Vin, made with red wine braised chicken legs and mushrooms. But there are also seasonal items like the ricotta cavatelli made with pumpkin, almond, smoked bacon and sage. Prices are in keeping with the luxury surroundings: starters average $18, mains are $26-$45, sides are $8.
Dinner starts with crusty peasant bread (not made in-house, alas) and soft butter. Warm cheese popovers also serve as an amuse bouche. The tuna crudo is accompanied by a harissa sesame sauce and thin slivers of radish while the Tomato Tarte Tatin (tomato confit, goat cheese frisée, basil pesto sauce) is half a meal. Traditional dishes include Burgundy snails in a garlic and parsely sauce and crispy duck confit but the star of the show is Boulud’s reinvention of the American standby – his DB Bistro burger made with ground prime rib, leavened with braised short ribs, truffles, foie gras and served on a Parmesean bun. It comes with a small tin of fries. For dessert the Coupe Dulce De Leche has caramelized macadamia nuts and coffee ice cream topped with a wafer thin chocolate shell that melts when hot chocolate sauce is poured over it.
The verdict: It may not seem “casual,” but Boulud’s plush spot is a sophisticated addition to downtown.