Out of Town: La Marea in Miami Beach, Florida

We spent a day in South Beach, making a pit stop at Dash then walking north on Ocean Drive. The series of restaurants along the strip created an incredibly vibrant scene bursting with fluorescent lights, eccentric characters, seafood showcases and miami vices. From rollerbladers in short shorts to girls all dressed up on mopeds, from aggressive waiting staffs manning the sidewalks to drag queens lip syncing to Cher, you just can’t quite find a vibe like this anywhere else in this country.

The bright teal and magenta blended into the city’s signature stucco, but this time with some more mod marble structures mixed in than what I remembered from four years ago. It’s at one of these beautiful Greek-like palaces – The Tides – where we found La Marea for dinner along the strip.

We started with a half dozen raw oysters with two sauces – one a tangy vinaigrette and the another with a lemony tequila base. These were generally larger than ones we’ve had in New York and the sauces on the side reminded me of the unique gourmet concoctions at Desnuda oyster bar in the East Village. At three bucks a piece, it was pretty on par with the smaller dollar half shells in New York, considering all the oil issues going on around the gulf.

Then we shared a seared scallop appetizer and side of barbeque fries. The jumbo scallops were intensely juicy and drizzled in a sweet miso glaze. There was a great crunchy texture at the top with a soft, spongy feel on the inside. The central flavor was a bit sweet for Jay, but it was perfect to me, just like the miso cod at Nobu.

The barbeque fries were a bit trite, though – just some ordinary fries sprinkled in the barbeque powder found on Lays potato chips. The barbeque sauce on the side, however, was thick, chunky, and even a bit on the sweet side, complementing the dryness of the powdered flavor.

Then came my favorite dish of the night – our dessert! It was a chocolate lava purse with espresso ice cream and maple pecan crumbles. A thin, crispy, hardened crepe was molded into a pouch-like compartment with a twisted bundle at the top.

It was heartbreaking to cut into this gorgeous work of art, but as soon as we did, the chocolate lava oozed out like from souffle. The thick warm fudge paired perfectly with the light, airy crepe. The espresso ice cream was also delicious, tasting of true coffee beans in luscious, frozen form.

These four dishes to share plus two $6 mojitos were enough to fuel us for the night. The humidity had given way to a nice cool ocean breeze by the time we finished our late dinner, and the sidewalk was fully congested with party-goers ready for a Saturday night out. La Marea probably offers the best balance of quality food, South Beach feel, and outdoor seating among the plethora of restaurants along Ocean Drive. Happy with our decision, we lounged around for a bit after dessert, then made our way to the Delano.

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