I waited for the dust to settle before visiting the new Habitat by José Mendín. The space, formerly occupied by Chef Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft, seemed untouched. And that’s a good thing. The interiors, in sandy neutrals and beachy woods, remain as stunning as ever. Now, I’m hopeful this new venture by the Food Comma Hospitality Group (Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Pubbelly Sushi, Baja Bao, PB Ysla, and PB Burger) can survive Miami’s temperamental dining scene. Offering a sea to table experience, Mendín’s new dishes showcase varied flavor profiles drawing from Spanish, Latin and Asian traditions.
The first thing fans of the Pubbelly empire will notice is the price difference from the group’s other casual spots. With its prime location inside the 1 Hotel South Beach, the ritzy tourist clientele comes practically built in. This shouldn’t come to a surprise to us locals. When in South Beach…
As I wearily looked around, I wondered how the night would progress. Service started almost immediately and delivered a casual, yet agreeable experience. Our waiter was not the most knowledgeable, but he made up for it with a genuine smile and eagerness to inquire and learn: so very refreshing. As if they knew the way to my heart, a box arrived with a couple of Truffle Fritters to kick off dinner. Hot. Buttery. Fried. OK, you’ve got my attention. What’s next?
I started with the Japanese Amberjack (topped with a citrusy yet hearty lemongrass romesco, morrones, and hazelnuts). The presentation lacked finesse, but wowed on taste. As I blissfully lingered on a generous serving of the Salt Cured Foie Gras (crusty milk bread and a tomato chutney), a server mistakenly brought a second plate of the Japanese Amberjack our party did not order and insisted we keep it. How do I say no to that? Yes, twist my arm and bring it on. A crisp and savory Snapper Chicharrón closed out the appetizer portion.
The sumptuous 10oz Iberico Skirt Steak, with a just-right shiso chimichurri, followed: different than a Secreto cut, but equally intense in flavor. The accompanying Risotto with creamy black truffle shavings satisfied like only a carb-rich dish can. All. The. Feels. Not sure how it happened (blaming it on the wine), but the Habitat Egg with even more truffles and a manchego foam appeared, and then promptly also disappeared. Magic.
Intrigued by photographs I’d seen before dining at Habitat, I ordered the Petit Fours dessert cart. There’s something about sugar on wheels that brings out the child in us all, admit it. Perhaps it’s the excitement of discovery and adventure. Macarons, bonbons, and chocolate bark, displayed in separate metal bins, atop chocolate sprinkles and surrounded by hay gave me just that. . . sweet emotion. And because I’m a hoarder when it comes to desserts, I tried the Apple Pie Ningyo-Yaki (soft and doughy brown butter streusel, egg-shaped mini cakes) and the Croissant Bread Pudding (sweet banana custard, salted caramel, and chocolate ice cream). Nothing else. Promise.
This luxe location, right on Collins Avenue, will take a lot to maintain and cannot go on name recognition alone. With Mendín’s talent, outstanding supporting staff, and the right focus on detail, it has the potential to become a long-timer. Now get to it, South Florida. Go show this one some love.
Habitat by José Mendín
2341 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139