First look: Pacific Time

Broiled Cuttlefish Salad. Photo: Andrew Meade.
Broiled Cuttlefish Salad. Photo: Andrew Meade.

The goods: Local celeb chef Jonathan Eismann re-opens his popular Pacific Time restaurant in what is becoming Miami’s new restaurant row: the Design District. Eismann helmed the beloved Pacific Time on Lincoln Road for nearly 15 years, dishing out a sophisticated menu of Asian-inflected cuisine. Rising rents spurred his move across the causeway to his new home in the former District Lounge space. Opening across the street from culinary powerhouse Michael’s Genuine doesn’t seem to phase Eismann, as he intends to create a neighborhood restaurant that caters to Miami’s ever-growing food-savvy community hungry for creative, locally-sourced fare. The spacious indoor dining room boasts a glowing bar, handsome beige banquettes and mahogany tables. In a nod to the restaurant’s furniture showroom neighbors, lighting is courtesy of ’60s-era, Verner Panton-designed hanging fixtures. An open kitchen, which features a wood burning oven, flanks one side of the dining room, providing diners with a view of the chef in action. An outdoor courtyard provides additional seating, but with summer already here, dining indoors is proving more attractive.

The grub: A confident and eclectic menu with plenty of seasonal surprises. Eismann still employs his flair for Pan Asian flavors but has also thrown nouveau American dishes into the mix. The new Pacific Time adheres to an increasingly popular small-plates approach, giving diners more tastes of more things and more control over their meals. In comparison to Eismann’s former white-tablecloth spot, prices here rarely climb above $20 with small plates ranging from $8-$16 and mains $18-$32. The small plates list contains 15 options that hopscotch the globe with dishes like seared foie gras with pomegranate syrup, grilled salmon with a tamarind glaze and sweet corn and leek soup with peeky toe crab dumplings.

The menu strikes a balance between relatively conventional Asian starters or snacks (edamame, crispy crab wontons, tuna tartar folded with avocado and crushed cucumber) and dishes that bring you closer to a full-fledged dinner (roasted leg of Colorado lamb with mango salsa, soft pillows of gnudi stuffed with sheeps milk ricotta, a side of risotto-like farro). One could easily construct a meal of a small plate of grouper in red curry with banana and a side of swiss chard dotted with dried cherries and pine nuts. Old favorites like the miso-rubbed chicken salad and the Peking-style duck have made the transition to the new menu.

A modest selection of wines gloriously free of Miami markups includes wines from sustainable viticulture and Florida-brewed organic draft beers. Half carafe selections like New Zealand’s Fernleaf sauvignon blanc for $16.50 are ideal for the taste-as-you-go odyssey.

The verdict: Pacific Time re-enters the Miami dining scene with a fresh approach, keeping prices low and the menu flexible enough to keep the locals coming back.

Pacific Time, 35 N.E. 40th St.; 305-722-7369

Published: 6/08