The goods: Brickell is now home to Mare Nostrum, a gleaming Mediterranean seafood house (Spanish slang for “our sea”).
Ambience: The sprawling restaurant is awash in blue mosaic floors, a white Italian marble bar and gauzy white curtains. A glass-enclosed wine cellar separates the dining room and bar; a raw bar houses imported lubina, yellowtail snapper, tiger prawns, lobster and oysters; and a separate glass case showcases homemade noodles churned out via an imported Italian pasta press.
The grub: Seafood-focused modern Spanish. Executive chef Pedro Gallardo (Hotel Intercontinental de la Torre in Murcia, Spain, Arzak, El Bulli) dishes out straightforward and rustic flavors, highlighting imported Spanish fish and local seafood. Prices are reasonable given the swanky setting: starters $7-$16, pasta $11 and most mains $20.
A basket of herbed ciabatta rolls and an amuse bouche of the day’s fresh fish hit the table first. Starters include fried artichoke hearts in romesco sauce, eggplant “fries” with organic honey, Bluefin tuna Toro tataki and a creamy gazpacho soup.
Paella and risotto are offered, but homemade pasta is the best value – mix and match eight varieties (tagliatelle, gnocchi and papardelle) and seven sauces (pesto, Bolognese and alfredo). Mains include pan-seared branzino finished with seat salt, grouper sautéed with olives and tomatoes, a New Zealand rack of lamb and a 16-ounce rib eye.
Desserts include an olive oil sponge cake with olive oil sorbet and a homemade key lime that provides a tart finish to the oceanic feast.
Verdict: A mellow, date-friendly shrine to Mediterranean-influenced seafood.