Under deconstruction: Shiso

Wine list: 101. Graphic: Sam Riepe

Is it the air on South Beach that makes restaurant owners go crazy? Or is it the other way around ? Do the Miami Beach inspectors also grab the menu and wine lists and mark everything up an additional 100 percent? Several spots have bucked the trend, notably Sardinia, which has enlivened a formerly dreary corner of Purdy Ave. So keep walking up the street and around the corner to Shiso. The space is beautifully done, as are the customers, but there still seems to be a neighborhood-y feel, especially on a past Tuesday night. Local musicians and other mellow types crowded the two small rooms and the drinks flowed like crazy. But in order to keep the non-tourists coming, someone’s gotta do something about those prices.

Let’s start with the sakes. Shiso has 11 by the 300ml bottle, from $28 to $55. The Hiro’s Milky, which looks lovely at $28, smells and tastes a lot like coconut milk, but with a pungent kick. Most sakes have an alcohol content between 15-25 percent, with most at the lower range. I might recommend the sake-by-the-mini-carafe to get your money’s worth, although $12 seems like a lot for what appears to be just a few ounces. Mix it with a $9 Delirium Tremens (9 percent alcohol), and you may start to feel something. Want a glass of Chardonnay? They have the Cavia from Argentina at $9/glass, $38/bottle. Not terrible, but I just paid $6 for it at Publix. Ouch. There’s also the Mount Grass, which I’m assuming is Montgras Chardonnay from Chile, for $45. Nothing to say here, really, just like saying Mount Grass.

The Castle Rock Pinot Noir goes for about $10 retail, and here this potential red wine pairing with Shiso’s mostly sushi menu goes for $10/glass, $38/bottle. A perfectly serviceable $10-12 bottle. Upper 30’s? No way. And the pattern follows with the rest of the low-end bottles. On the upper end, a really great food-pairing wine from Montgras called Antu Ninquen is a Cabernet and Carmenere blend. The only problem is the price: I have never seen this bottle for more than $20 retail; but here it’s priced at a jaw-dropping $85. In fact, most of the bottles seem to be marked up three times retail or more; so either Shiso is getting gouged on price, or someone else is (you). Or both. So enjoy the low-key feel and the friendly faces on the helpful staff while they last. After all, this is South Beach.

Shiso, 1418 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-672-1119; www.shisomiami.com

Published: 1/09

Sipped here? Leave a review!