Something happens to restaurants when they migrate from Manhattan to South Florida. Some lose their edge. Others seem content to give up a little of their New York polish and replace it with what I call resort-style disdain.
The two hostesses who greeted us on a recent evening at Lure Fishbar suffer from this malady. Hostesses should be nice to people when they tell them that the table they reserved won't be ready for 10 minutes — especially when there's not room for an elbow, let alone another body at the impossibly small 10-seat bar. But we did as we were told, and sat in the awkward anteroom, watched a dozen parties get seated and wondered if Lure would be worth the wait.
Ten minutes is a very long time in a restaurant, especially when you're not eating, drinking, mulling the menu or doing the things you came to do. Finally, we were seated at a striking banquette with a wonderfully big view of the room that's done up like a vintage, wood-lined yacht. Unfortunately, the table — no lie — was about a foot wide and even narrower on either end. It's perfect for three size 2 women who've come to nibble on sushi rolls, but not three regular folks, one of whom eats for a living.
By the time we were seated in the regular folks section, we were anxious to start seeing some food arrive from the something-for-everyone seafood menu. It includes sushi and oysters, a $30 lobster roll and several strong fin-fish preparations. It lists lobster bisque, but not clam chowder.
The restaurant offers the best of an old-time fish house crossed with the very modern skills of chef Josh Capon, one of three partners at Lure Fishbar — this one and the decade-old SoHo location — and two other New York restaurants, B&B Winepub and El Toro Blanco.
The menu starts with oysters, as any good fish house should. The other night, there were Blue Points ($3.50) from New York, WiAnno oysters ($3.50) from Massachusetts, Kumamotos ($3.75) from Washington and Kushi oysters from British Columbia ($3.75). I'm always delighted to see dressed oysters on a menu, and each offering here is served with a different sauce. We had sweet and diminutive Kushis ($16 for four) that were topped with jalapeno ponzu.
Clams, shrimp, crab meat and stone crab claws are available individually or as part of larger shellfish plateaus. Lure also serves sushi and sashimi. We couldn't resist the Lure house roll ($19), an expertly executed combination of shrimp tempura topped with spicy tuna.
Tuna tacos ($18 for three) are another reminder of the quality of seafood served here. Raw cubes of tuna are nestled in crispy shells and amplified with cucumber, avocado, soy vinaigrette. Sea bass ceviche ($16) is similarly delicious, with cherry tomato, citrus and cilantro.
Crispy Blue Point oysters ($18) are perfectly breaded and lightly fried until dark golden. They're then plated on empty oyster shells atop a spoonful of remoulade coleslaw. Very nice.
Bucatini with butter-poached lobster ($38) is a creamy pasta lover's dream. The crema is ever-so-delicately flavored with uni. The menu says the sauce also gets red fresno peppers and scallions, but it also tasted too much of thyme.
While the pasta was steaming hot, a grilled whole daurade ($38) was not. It was expertly filleted and grilled, but it had started to cool so that the oil from the fish began to solidify. I wish I had received it three or four minutes earlier. Surf and turf ($72) is priced for folks on vacation. The filet mignon was superb, but the lobster tail was smaller than the langostino I'd recently ordered in another restaurant. As with the daurade, there was a problem with the entree's temperature, especially the accompanying potato gratin.
Temperature was not a problem with the rich, white-cheddar orzo ($9), a side dish that puts ordinary mac and cheese to shame. Be sure to order it. Likewise, garlic chili spinach ($9) is a fresh take on the creamed version.
A roving manager saw that we were unhappy with the temperature of our entrees and offered dessert ($12 each) on the house. Aside from the hostesses, the staffers at Lure were superb. Key lime pie, with house-made graham cracker, whipped cream and roasted white chocolate, is on the tart side. And devil's food cake is even richer than most with the addition of dark-chocolate mousse and warm chocolate-raspberry sauce.
Lure ups the ante on the traditional seafood restaurant.
1601 Collins Ave., Loews Miami Beach Hotel
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Tolerably loud when full
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: $16 valet