Mar 13, 2010

Finding Nemo... Again

One can find all kinds of great food in Miami - a vast array of ethnicities are represented, many high caliber, famous chefs, the finest ingredients of any type and most beautiful scenery and dining rooms imaginable. But for land-locked midwesterners - especially Kansas Citians who live among the best beef money can buy - seafood is the natural draw.

Finding this true for ourselves, Elizabeth and I planned our first dinner in South Beach at Nemo, a fantastic seafood restaurant owned by the Myles Restaurant Group who also owns other South Point luxe/glam spots like Prime One Twelve. This is a beautiful, relaxed little area with some of Miami's best food. And outstanding seafood.

Finding the weather unseasonably cool (upper 50's - thanks a lot, el nino), we opted for indoor seating. Not a downgrade by any means, but a slight hindrance to kicking off our vacation the way we had imagined. Thankfully comfortable, we were seated in a perfectly dim room with just the right ambient noise level, at a table large enough to provide space for the bounty of bread, water, wine, salad and seafood we ordered, but small enough to allow our surroundings to fade away, cheshire grins gleaming toward each other.

Not wanting to blow our entire vacation budget our first night in town, we shared a salad to start (not pictured - sorry) which was good but nothing special, and then dove straight into our entrees which were  perfection on (two) plates.

Now and then one is fortunate enough to walk into the right restaurant for their mood with the right menu for their appetite, and walk away knowing that dinner was a perfect "10". That's what happened for us at Nemo.

Elizabeth is a scallop freak. With good reason. They're delish. So she naturally gravitated toward the pan seared diver scallops. This was an appetizer listing, not an entree, but the waiter seemed to think it would be enough food to feed one person as their entree, so she trusted him. She was not disappointed.

(He was a good waiter, by the way. One of those career waiters - a "cool uncle" kind of guy who probably could have been a corporate America cog like us, but opted for a cash-on-hand, SoBe lifestyle with few responsibilities and a high fun factor. He was attentive but not annoying, friendly but not trying to be our friend. Just right.)

A gorgeous looking plate arrived with a large mound of mashed potatoes (spiked with truffle oil - Miami's favorite $5 entree additive - every restaurant in Miami uses truffle oil wherever they can to increase entree prices). The potato fluff was studded with three beautiful seared scallops and a hunk of rich short rib meat on top. Scallions and red-brown pools of pinot noir sauce surrounded the heavenly hill of food and complimented the flavors quite nicely. The scallops were rare on the inside with a delicious seared exterior. The short rib shredded effortlessly and the potatoes were the penultimate starch filler. Elizabeth isn't a huge truffle fan but enjoyed the burly depth the truffle oil added to the dish.

I opted for what I'm guessing is a hot item on the menu's entree list. Listen to this: Jumbo Lump Crab Crusted Grouper. I could have been sold on any one of those words alone.

This plate came with an extremely generous bed of creamy sauteed forest mushrooms, thin but al dente asparagus sliced beautifully on the bias, atop which sat a tantalizing jumbo lump crab-crusted fillet of grouper. One may question whether jumbo lumb crab-crusting anything is really a beneficial culinary technique or just an unthoughtful piling-on of decadence, but in reality, it's a measure of genius.

The crab crust creates a shell that traps sweet moisture into the grouper, making the fish succulent and juicy on the interior, but lending a contrasting texture outside. The end product is a large piece of meat that provides what I found to be bite after bite of meaty, heavenly seafood. The mushrooms, asparagus and white wine-cream sauce added an unctuous base of flavor that made the dish even more complex and luxurious.

Chefs often criticize garnishes like the little flower blossoms you see pictured above, but when one is vacationing to a warm weather climate in late February, these kinds of things nail home a certain vacationers' satisfaction that we both appreciated very much.

Having consumed paradise's lunch earlier in the day, and seemingly the perfect dinner, one may think dessert would have been impossibly overwhelmed and, ultimately, useless. Oh contraire.

We knew, going into our dinner at Nemo, exactly what we were hoping to have and were delighted to find it still available. This dessert is, quite simply, the best dessert I have ever had in my life. You can take your molten chocolate souffles, your tiramisu, your cheesecakes, bread puddings and creme brulee's and stuff them in a sack. Nemo's got homemade donuts.

Fresh, fluffy, light, chewy, and dusted in fine granules of white sugar, reminiscent of the beach you came to lay upon, these things are my heroes incarnated as food. One needs not the decadent chocolate and tangy raspberry dipping sauces that come with the donuts, but one is fiendishly happy to employ them... you know, for some variety.

WARNING: we were already full when we ordered the donuts, but we did it, anyway. Not ordering them would have been like travelling to the city where your childhood best friend now lives and failing to meet up with him/her for a drink. We had to get them. And we had to eat them. But whilst we were living our lives back in KC, Nemo did something utterly insane. They increased their donut serving size from six to *gulp* TEN. The affable grin and shrug our waiter gave us when imparting this news after setting the giant bowl down on our table was hilarious and pathetic all at once. It was like we had won a two-seater sports car and when he dropped it off he said, "oh yeah, it's a convertible, too." Jackpot!

As  you can imagine, we rolled out of Nemo embarrassingly full, but with grins on our faces that indicated the indulgence was exactly what we had planned. With our seafood needs satiated and our ultimate dessert improved upon, the night's dinner was perfect, setting the stage for a fantastic vacation.

Rating: four napkins

Nemo on Urbanspoon


Christy said...

Well I am drooling now. The food looks and sounds amazing. The flower garnish on your entree is just a mere glimpse of the beautiful food presentation I am blessed to see in China. Asia by far wins that competition over the U.S., but it's nice to see restaurants here putting in the effort.

abruce said...

Nemo sounds amazing!! Whets my appetite for some good seafood! What are your recommendations for where to buy fish in Kansas City? (Not restaurants, but grocery stores)

Jmeg said...

As a fellow scallops freak - that dish looks amazing!

Foodie32 said...

Hey Amanda, thanks for the comment. I don't have any strong recommends for seafood around here. The bottom line is that it'll never be as fresh in Kansas City as it would be on the coast.

That said, I've always heard Whole Foods has good seafood. Brookside Market does, but not always. You just have to browse for what looks the best. McGonigle's always has great looking salmon but some of their other stuff looks like it gets frozen.

Best thing to do is see if you can get the inside track with the seafood dept manager and find out when their stuff is the freshest.

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