Milos, the South Beach outpost of a Montreal and New York seafood temple that set up shop a few months ago across from Joe’s Stone Crab, represents simple old-school, Greek-style decadence. The kind where exotic ingredients are Fed-Exed from faraway locales and described poetically by servers in floor-length black aprons who have spent hours studying the details.
Guests choose their dinner from a grand, three-tiered display of seafood that rests, clear-eyed and sweet-smelling, on a mountain of ice. John Dory, Dover sole, fagri, tsipoura, milokopina, sargos, skorpina, scallops, anchovies, shovel-nose lobster, soft-shelled crab and more are shipped in from Morocco, Tunisia, Portugal, Nova Scotia and, of course, Greece, joining a stunning row of black grouper from Florida waters.
Is all that effort, expense and fossil fuel worth it? Mostly, yes. Seasoned with nothing more than a splash of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, a squeeze of lemon and a shower of fresh parsley in most cases, each bite is bliss.
The experience is all about the food. As pretty as the space is, it has the stark feeling of a museum. Two vast, white-on-white rooms and a well-stocked market are decked out with gray marble, industrial wood beams and sparkling globe chandeliers. Mini-bar-sized amphoras, double-laid white tablecloths and classic Greek music contribute to the stiff atmosphere.
It also must be mentioned that — except at lunch, when an amazing prix-fixe goes for $20.12 — it’s possible to pay as much for a piece of fish as a pair of the Gucci loafers that seem to be required footwear for guys here.
This is still Miami, and servers are not as polished as their New York counterparts. Ours stumbled on the names of fish, had us over-ordering and brought a single wedge of lemon for our perfectly fried slips of sardines.
Octopus, a Greek staple and personal favorite, reaches its Platonic ideal here. The charcoal-grilled tentacles are gorgeously charred with a crusty edge but also a touch of tender pink without being mealy. They are tossed with a tangy, vinegary dressing and dotted with bits of red onion and briny capers.
Another standard is the Milos special, a tower of thinly sliced zucchini and eggplant coins fried until barely gold and served with a refreshing tzatziki dipping sauce.
Salads, including an heirloom tomato stunner takes advantage of the color and flavor of the moment, and, like most dishes here, get only a slight assist from salt and oil. A side of broccoli was emerald green, crunchy and drenched in butter.
Prawns gently scorched in their shells are sweet and perky with a hit of lemon and oil. Lavraki (aka European sea bass, loup de mer or branzino) is sweet, white-fleshed and velvety.
It’s tough not to give a little snicker when a server comes around with a tiny terracotta pot of oregano and scissors to snip over your plate, but despite a bit of pretension and the over-the-top pricing (seafood is $49-$90 a pound), Milos is serving the most pristine seafood in town.
As a concession to land lovers there are steaks and a gorgeous rack of Colorado lamb chops beautifully seared and served with lemon and oregano.
The straightforward, a la carte menu is well matched by a wine list of more than 300 labels, including many unfamiliar but well-worth-exploring Greek bottles.
For dessert, a silken dollop of house-made yogurt with golden honey and a slice of walnut cake were worth the calories, but the baklava on our visit was sweeter than it was nutty or flaky.
Despite minor service glitches, this opulent feast should be on every serious seafood lover’s list — especially if someone else is buying.