Just like in Chef, that sweet pastelito of a summer movie, a food blogger has partnered with one of his favorite subjects to become a restaurant owner.
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This Miami/New Orleans-inspired oyster bar caters to seafood fans who like their fin fare both plain and fancy. The menu features, of course, lots of oysters paired with the classic, namesake sauce as well as simply cooked local catches, fried conch and po’-boy sandwiches, in addition to pricey seafood towers and Russian caviar.
Most of the dishes are throwbacks like clams casino, oysters Bienville, deviled eggs and shrimp cocktail, plus some land-based offerings like slow-roasted prime rib.
The space, a converted gas station, has a retro feel. A vintage marquee over the open kitchen notes daily oyster arrivals, and cozy, caramel-color vinyl booths beneath hanging globes of light make the dining area as comfortable as it is handsome.
Raw oysters are sourced from both U.S. coasts and are worth a visit alone. Of the cooked varieties, try the oysters Rockefeller — a buttery, crunchy, breadcrumb-topped classic.
An exemplary red fish is seared until crispy-skinned and juicy in its piquillo pepper- and brandy-spiked sauce, served alongside snappy haricot vert.
A fantastic crab cake is as big as a first-grade bully’s fist. It’s moist and flavorful with nibs of red and green pepper, but slightly off-putting in its Worcestershire butter sauce that would pair better with steak.
At lunch, dishes tend toward fried and flattened, as in po’ boys stuffed with cornmeal-encrusted shrimp or oysters and a nice, creamy cocktail-mayo sauce on toasty Portuguese rolls. A brilliant turducken burger features two sausage-like patties of turkey, duck and chicken piled on a pressed bun and spiced up with a tangy mayo.
Sides include some gorgeous vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach, roasted cauliflower, corn on the cob and other fresh options in addition to some grease bombs like pimento-cheese macaroni salad and fried potatoes. Request less salt if you don’t want to risk post-meal dehydration.
Salads can lighten things up, including a mustardy chopped version with crunchy red cabbage and lots of cucumbers. What’s billed as a Boston lettuce salad is equally fresh, but mine was made with iceberg instead of the promised velvety leaves. I had a chance to examine said leaves for a long while, since our busser never wiped up a sizable spill that remained on the table through dessert.
Service is of the chatty, diner variety; casual and kinda fun, like Mignonette itself. But it can veer toward the sloppy. Dishes arrive bingo-style: “Who’s got the snapper tonight? Anyone?” Oops. Wrong table.
But the food-o-phile diners here are laid-back — and the dishes, when the right ones arrive, are satisfying — so no one seems to mind the occasional service hiccup.
A thoughtfully curated list of wines and craft brews is well-suited to the menu. And desserts are as sweet as YouTube kittens.
Homey blueberry pie and lemon bars like we made in home-economics class were on the menu recently, as well as bourbon-soaked bread pudding, a Blue Collar import that has people going nuts. I liked its cayenne-spiced whipped cream, though I find the bread too dense and uniform in texture to warrant its description — more like a cake than pudding.
Despite a few missteps — yes, that was a piece of bone in my burger, and why are there a dozen grease stains on my menu? — this endearing new hangout deserves a try.
Roman and Serfer’s welcoming, charming Mignonette is as simple and refreshing as the shallot-and-vinegar sauce it is named for.
Critics dine anonymously at the Miami Herald’s expense. Follow Victoria Pesce Elliott on Twitter: @VictoriaPesceE.