Just as Art Basel has become almost a tradition now in Miami; the art festival is also now synonymous with not only the celebration of works of art but also by a weekend-long extravaganza of good food. This year the private dining room at Area 31 located in the Epic Hotel was our destination. An oval wooden table set for ten with views of Brickell and Biscayne Bay, created an excitement for dinner with new friends and a chance to sample some of new chef Wolfgang Birk’s cuisine.
Area 31 has been one of this author’s favorite “go-to” destinations, and a chance to update it with an award winning chef sounded tantalizing. Our server, started everything off right with a sample of the Boyd and Blair potato vodka for our serious cosmopolitan girls and I settled into a Vueve Clique with cassis. Our server did a wonderful Job of describing what the name Area 31 means. It is the international fishing area designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, encompassing the marine waters of the Southeast Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and South America's northeast coast...
Service at Area 31 would prove to be uneven. The first order of drinks took more than 30 minutes to arrive and then bread was never brought to the table. When asked for said bread we were quickly brought one basket with 5 rolls for ten people and no bread plates. After suggesting another basket and plates our server quickly had more brought out but already in my thoughts I was beginning to worry. After ordering wine, which was quite easy as one of the author’s favorite bottles (Emeritus) was offered on the wine list. Unfortunately, after a good 20 minutes are server came back to say that they were out of that particular bottle. So I placed a second order on a French varietal and after another 10 minutes I was told that bottle was also sold out. Quite discouraged now I ordered 3 bottles of my 3rd choice and was happy, at least, that the restaurant had 3 bottles.
Now for the food; soaring spectacular highs and a few low points. The crab salad was light with citrus notes and excellent. The almond crusted crab cake was a winner amongst the table and the scallop and corn puree appetizer was everyone’s favorite. The rib eye with marrow bordelaise sauce was perfectly cooked, seasoned and juicy and the marrow bordelaise itself is a masterpiece. One sublime dish is the lobster wonton. Usually a lobster ravioli is in a pink sauce, is slightly undercooked and often times the ravioli gets in the way of the lobster (usually not always). The lobster wonton is perfection, the lobster was masterfully done, the wonton just thin enough and the butter was, well, like buttah!
The swordfish that or server had boasted about came out dry, tasteless and almost unappealing. This was a big disappointment. The cobia with white anchovy (powder not fresh anchovies) came out so fishy that it was returned (the scallop dish replacement was excellent however). The grilled snapper was tender and seasoned well but the sabayon side sauce was bitter and inedible.
Our server knew some things had fallen short and offered the table a dessert tray which had a spectacular chocolate and caramel creation and very tasty cheese cake and key lime pie. The three dishes that missed make it hard to say the evening was perfect but the high notes hit on some of the dishes undeniably show the talent in the kitchen. This author will reserve judgment and return again, and encourages everyone to go to Area 31, at best guess is that Area 31 will maintain its excellent status once some service and consistency issues get ironed out.