SouthFlorida.com
Hungry for a good conversation? Join our Facebook group "Let's Eat, South Florida" where our readers and writers share tips about restaurants, recipes and more.

Review: St. Roch Market in Miami is a fine, refined food hall | Video

 

★★★

Food halls and avocado toast are two of the biggest food fads going in South Florida. Things almost have gotten to the point where one cannot throw a piece of avocado toast without hitting a food hall. I’m not sure if avocado toast is offered at St. Roch Market in Miami, because I became too distracted (and stuffed) eating other things on recent visits: tuna tiradito from Itamae, foie gras dumplings from Yuzu, roasted chickpeas with sumac from Jaffa, and freshly made fettuccine with poached lobster from Dal Plin. I could live 10,000 years without seeing another hunk of avocado toast, but similar boredom should not soon set in for those who take the food-hall plunge at St. Roch.

The market has enough tasty diversity and intrigue to keep the culinarily curious coming back. St. Roch, which opened earlier this year in the swank Miami Design District, is a spinoff of a historic New Orleans food market that reopened earlier this decade after being shuttered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Miami outpost features a dozen vendors tucked in a comfortable, utilitarian room, including a central bar with cocktails and wines (the Mayhaw), a premium coffee shop (Sabal) and a vegan bakery (Chloe). Each restaurant features at least a dozen dishes. You can do the math — there are more than 150 items available. Many dishes are creative and well prepared.

The other nine eateries include Elysian Seafood, a raw bar and fish house from New Orleans; Itamae, a Peruvian-Japanese restaurant with quality sushi and tiraditos from talented chef-owner Fernando Chang and his children Nando and Valerie; Yuzu, a Japanese-Asian eatery with ramen, dumplings and bao buns from chef Andrew Zarzosa; Jaffa, an Israeli-Mediterranean eatery with exotically spiced hummus and vegetable dishes from chef Yaniv Cohen; Dal Plin, an Italian kitchen specializing in fresh pastas; and the Coop, a Southern restaurant featuring deviled eggs and chicken sandwiches. There is also a Vietnamese restaurant (Tran An), a Latin restaurant with tacos and ceviches (Hot Lime), and a juice bar-acai bowl-salad joint (Sweetblendz).

If an eater does things correctly at St. Roch, a satisfying feast awaits. Even if your group does things incorrectly, putting the puzzle pieces together and knocking back a few cocktails at the Mayhaw should make for a fun evening.

For those who enjoy contrasts, you can go from cool — a $17 ceviche bowl with raw fish, leche de tigre and zucchini noodles at Itamae — to hot, a $14 Lil’ Hottie spicy fried chicken sandwich at Coop. I was hot and cold on Yuzu, admiring the duck bao buns ($12), but disappointed in the foie gras dumplings ($14), which had good, firm wrappers but a filling that was more like minced pork or duck (with barely a hint of foie gras) and a sauce that was too heavy on grapefruit. I was expecting a fattier, more luscious dish.

I liked many things more than expected, including all the flavorful hummus spreads and vegetable dips with pita at Jaffa, and a vegan cupcake ($4) from chef Chloe Coscarelli with rainbow sprinkles, moist batter, and “cream cheese” frosting made from oils and other thickening agents that had good consistency and flavor. Unlike many vegan baked goods, this one wasn’t sickly sweet.

A meal at St. Roch Market will come in dribs and drabs. Instead of getting walloped with a huge bill at the end, one can eat (and spend) as much or as little as one wants. Most dishes are priced in the $10-to-$20 range. Diners order and pay for their food at each stall. In most cases, the vendor will deliver the dish to your table if you point out your seat when ordering. Sometimes, when things are busy, a diner may have to go back to a counter to pick up food. It a loose, free-flowing arrangement, fine dining rendered palatable for an impatient, informal world. Those who hate waiting for a check after eating (such as my teen daughter) should appreciate the freedom. Those who enjoy loafing, sipping more wine or eating another cupcake (or a dozen more charbroiled oysters from Elysian) can take as much time as they want.

A food hall, for the uninitiated, is somewhere between a New York hot dog pushcart and a 10-course tasting menu at Per Se. The concept goes back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Asian street markets featuring dozens of vendors and communal seating are the blueprint for the wave that is now consuming South Florida and much of the U.S. As a college student in the 1980s, I used to stroll Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace eating freshly shucked cherrystone clams and scalding slices from Pizzeria Regina. That, too, was a food hall, albeit in primitive form.

The newer generation of food halls is getting fancier, fussier and more focused. In South Florida, we have seen a narrowing by niche with an Asian food hall (1-800-Lucky in Wynwood) and Italian food (La Centrale in Brickell). We also have a glorified, mall food court rebranded as a food hall (Treats Food Hall at Aventura Mall) after it welcomed a Shake Shack from restaurateur Danny Meyer and designer pizza from chef Todd English. In some circles, Sbarro and Burger King no longer cut it.

Roughly a dozen food halls have opened or are being built in South Florida, including one announced for Delray Beach next year. The Time Out Market near Lincoln Road in Miami Beach is set to open in early 2019, with offerings from top-flight talent such as chef Jeremy Ford (Stubborn Seed). One food hall has already shuttered, the health-minded Jackson Hall at the Jackson Hospital medical complex in Miami.

Of the food halls currently operating, I like St. Roch the best. Its range and quality are impressive, and the vibe is clean, sophisticated and spacious. Dishes are served on proper plates with silverware. Wine and drinks at the bar come in glasses. St. Roch is a bit hard to find, hidden on the second floor of the boxy and tony Palm Court in the Miami Design District. Do not be intimidated by all the burly bodyguards wearing earpieces standing sentry outside luxury stores bearing names such as Bulgari, Hermes, Givenchy and Cartier. Act like you belong, and make your way past the giant sculptures up the escalator, one floor above Estefan Kitchen.

Walk past the swing seats and patio tables, and you’ll find St. Roch, which can be pronounced “saint rock” (N’awlins style) or “san roque” or “sain roach” (French). When it comes to saying it or devouring it, St. Roch provides many options with few wrong answers.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail. Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/LetsEatSouthFlorida.

St. Roch Market

140 NE 39th St., Suite 241, Miami

786-542-8977 or Miami.StRochMarket.com

Cuisine: Upscale food hall with diverse offerings including Japanese, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Israeli-Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican and American.

Cost: Moderate to expensive. Most items cost $10 to $20, with some more expensive.

Hours: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday). Hours at individual stands may vary, with some opening at 11 a.m.

Reservations: No

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Craft cocktails, beer and wine at central bar, the Mayhaw

Noise level: Subdued, with mild clatter when crowded

Wheelchair access: Elevator or escalator to second floor, ramp to bathrooms

Parking: Valet, garage and metered street

Copyright © 2018, South Florida
65°