The menu at the new Lure Fishbar in Miami Beach reads like an inventory list from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. Some two dozen kinds of shellfish and other saltwater swimmers compose the embarrassment of fishes.
Many make multiple appearances, so you can have your salmon sliced into sashimi, diced into tartare or tucked into a roll with cream cheese and mango. And those are just the raw preparations.
At a lesser restaurant, this many options might foretell a subpar dining experience; better to perfect a few great dishes than churn out a plethora of mediocre ones.
Not so at Lure, where the kitchen gives all manner of marine life the treatment it deserves.
Unadorned oysters are terrifically fresh, their briny liquor bracingly cold. Whole dorade sizzles from grill marks as deep as tire treads, its ocean flavor punched up by peppery watercress and charred lemon. Generous hunks of buttery Maine lobster complete a creamy risotto spiced with chorizo.
Before any food arrives, Lure puts patrons in a relaxed, nautical state of mind. The dining room is designed to resemble a yacht’s interior, servers wear fish-hook tie bars, and the bar-stool cushions look like small life vests.
Order a martini, and an affable bartender will ask for your gin of choice, whether you’d like that shaken or stirred (stirred, always stirred), if you have a preferred gin-to-vermouth ratio and if you’d rather have your drink garnished with a lemon twist or cucumber slice. The dining room wait staff is equally professional and attentive.
Pristine seafood and top-shelf service come with a price, of course. Before you cast off for dinner at Lure, be prepared to shell out $18 for a spicy tuna roll, $19 for a burger and north of $32 for seafood entrees.
The prices, like many of the dishes, are imports from the restaurant’s original location in New York’s SoHo district. Lure’s South Beach outpost opened late last year in the St. Moritz tower at the Loews Miami Beach, in the space previously occupied by Emeril’s.
Lure’s owners said they opened here in part because it’s an easy air commute from New York. Chef-partner Josh Capon has certainly accumulated miles on the JFK-MIA route: He was a big presence in the dining room on my visits, delivering plates and hamming it up. Executive chef Jeff Raider helms Lure’s South Beach ship in his absence.
Big prices come with big expectations, and Lure mostly meets or exceeds them.
That $19 burger: Try to find a better one in Miami Beach. It’s an impeccably cooked patty of Pat LaFrieda beef, schmeared with bacon-onion jam, topped with thin-sliced pickles and melted American cheese, all of it hugged in a Martin’s potato roll. Every bite is crunchy, juicy, beefy bliss.
Bay scallop ceviche gets a lift from the clean flavors of a mango-cucumber salsa, which amplify the scallops’ sweetness and make it worth its $16 price tag. And I’d happily pay the full $12 just for the perfectly fried, perfectly salted calamari in the Bibb lettuce salad, tossed with an orange-miso vinaigrette.
But disappointment lurks in a few dishes where the supporting condiments overshadow the starring ingredient. A diminutive fillet of steamed red snapper is lost in a sea of weak Thai curry and limp red peppers.
Our table did a double-take when a $42 sirloin surfaced: smaller than expected, cooked beyond our medium-rare order, and outmatched by a soy-mushroom-ginger salt bomb of a sauce. A more-accurate name for the Spanish octopus salad would be arugula and fennel with a promise of octopus.
Avoid those — or better yet, let Lure fix them — and you’re in for a treat of a meal, from start to finish.
Miniature chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream make decadent two-bite sandwiches, but the Pot of Gold — banana pudding with chocolate mousse and candied peanuts — is the dessert not to be missed.
Wine director Marco Chapnick curates a smart list of Old and New World bottles. His tableside manner is engaging and not at all intimidating — ideal for those of us who really want to try a red with fish but are nervous to pull the trigger. He steered us toward the Chronique, an exceptional and fairly priced Australian grenache blend that was a lush pairing with Lure’s food.
On one visit, my stomach happily sated from a martini and burger, Hooked on a Feeling came over the restaurant’s playlist, and I wondered if the nautical reference was intentional. Lure put its bait in Miami waters, and I’m hooked.