Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr taste-tested five rice-paper sushi rolls at his new Continental on Monday, the Miami Beach restaurant’s third day of operation, before declaring a tuna-crab combination the winner that will go on the menu.
Starr’s retro-mod diner, adjacent to the new Aloft South Beach at 2360 Collins Ave., is a spinoff of his original Continental in Philly, now celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The Continental is Starr’s fourth restaurant in South Florida, joining Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Makoto in Bal Harbour and Verde at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. And it isn’t his last: Starr, a 2015 South Florida Food 50 winner, has a French restaurant coming this fall to the Shops at Bal Harbour.
He talked Monday — between test bites of shrimp cocktail, tuna tataki and angel hair pasta — about his bullishness on the South Florida food scene and his philosophy behind what makes a successful restaurant.
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Starr said he’s still ironing out a name for his French-leaning concept in Bal Harbour’s luxury mall. The restaurant is going into the former La Goulue space, neighboring Makoto, which Starr opened in 2011.
He hinted that he won’t be finished after that, but he’s still sniffing around for the right neighborhood, with Wynwood, the Design District, Brickell, South of Fifth and Surfside all on the table.
As for the next concept? Buddakan, Starr’s temple of modern Asian cuisine with locations in Philadelphia and New York, could play well here, he said, with perhaps more of an eye toward the food of Southeast Asia. In the next breath, Starr pondered aloud whether an Italian spot — not too casual, not too fancy — would be a good fit.
At all of his 36 restaurants, Starr said, he tries to strike a balance between nostalgia-evoking foods and dishes that stimulate modern diners.
At the Continental in Miami Beach, that means throwback dishes like Chinese fried rice with jumbo lump crab and scallions or elevated diner favorites like the Foie Gras “McGriddle”: maple-infused griddlecakes sandwiching a fried egg, seared foie gras, thick-cut bacon and tangy hollandaise.
“I’m not a fancy guy with the best palate,” Starr said. “But I think I know what tastes good and what people want to eat.”
Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor; on Twitter: @EvanBenn.