By the time dinner at Stiltsville Fish Bar concluded, I felt optimistic and a little nostalgic too.
This new Sunset Harbour resident, who took over the (old favorite) PB Steak spot, means business. Opening a seafood restaurant in Miami is not necessarily the most novel of concepts, right? But chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth are all hands on deck with this one. And it shows.
Nautical-inspired motifs throughout the space anchor the theme. I especially love the playful #manmaid brass purse hooks: Poseidon meets mermaid. The open dining room includes an inviting bar and lounge area in sandy beige shades with sprays of sea greens and blues. Drop-in shoppers are encouraged to ring the large brass bell for service, at the strategically placed blink-and-you-miss-it charming retail area. Talk about constant good “ding” chi: Feng Shui 101!
TIP: If possible, visit with a large group so you can sample the most items possible, as I did.
What I tried:
Under a cloud of smoked rosemary, hidden inside a glass dome, the Smokin’ Havana Scallop arrived causing quite an aromatic stir. Nearby diners rubbernecked to see just what was going on at my table #truestory. Combined with Cuban tobacco smoked plantains and crispy ham chips, the exquisite scallops deserved all the hoopla. The sweet. . . The salty. . . The crunch. . . The oohs and ahhs. Sold! Another stellar dish, for me, was the Buffalo Fish Wings and accompanying chili lime hot sauce. Think of it as fried chicken- of the sea. Do not attempt to eat these with a fork and knife. Put that pinky down, the elbows up on the table, and have at it. Really. It’s all edible too, right down to the wings.
Deceivingly listed under ‘Small Plates,’ the Sweet Corn Spoon Bread was the gift that kept on giving. Especially with the Butter Poached Lobster supplement. Slowly, I repeatedly scooped out sinful spoonfuls of the tender chunks of lobster, layered over the hot and creamy corn. Order one to share or keep it all to yourself; I know what I will be having next time.
Now, here’s a confession. Although I love to eat fish, I’ve stopped ordering it. Even at the most upscale restaurants. Too often, I’m disappointed with its execution: too dry, too fishy, or too bony, and usually saved only by a great sauce. Needless to say, I really wasn’t expecting much this time either. The Daily Catch menu specials featured the Cast Iron Seared Black Grouper, Golden Tile, and the Grilled Striped Bass. One bite and I knew I’d entered a new dimension. When they said “simply prepared and fresh,” they meant it. Sauce? What sauce? I’m pretty sure several containers out of their ten available sauces sat somewhere on the table, but I didn’t care to try any of them. Of the three specials, I enjoyed the bass the best. I also loved the sides of each course (sweet plantain “mofongo” bacon & garlic sofrito, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, and ground local grits with grilled sweet corn).
With its warm decor, laid-back vibe, reasonably-priced and varied menu, Stiltsville Fish Bar (named after Miami’s unique historic structures) has that oomph needed to succeed in the very tough market that is Miami. As a Browardite, I’m truly jealous I don’t have anything resembling this restaurant nearby. If I did, I would be there every single week!
I plan to navigate the rest of the menu soon: the Surf N’ Turf Burger, Lobster Risotto, Pimento Cheese Croquette, and of course the Bayleaf & Citrus Crusted Fried Chicken. Additional motivation to return? The promise of magnificent harbor and sunset views once the upstairs deck is completed in 2018. Anchors aweigh, friends. See you there!