first thoughts: Mignonette Uptown - North Miami Beach


For years, we were regulars at Hanna's Gourmet Diner, a shiny aluminum-sided diner along Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami Beach. Though it changed hands from the original owners some time in the 90's, Gourmet Diner maintained its quirky mix of retro Americana atmosphere and rustic French cookery. With its casual setting and several kid-friendly items on the menu, it was a place we could comfortably bring the whole family. And while the kids ate penne with pink sauce, I could have celery root salad, French onion soup, trout meuniere, tenderloin tips in bordelaise sauce, or their reliably good roast duck. Always with a side of the vegetable souffle of the day, and sometimes, a fruit tart for dessert.

Gourmet Diner moved out of the space a couple years ago. Happily, Daniel Serfer and Ryan Roman, chef-owner and co-owner of Mignonette oyster bar near downtown, spotted it and had a good idea. Now, it's Mignonette Uptown. I was there for "friends and family" last Thursday.[1] It was great to see the old diner back in action, and even more so, as a second iteration of one of my favorite Miami restaurants. (You can see all my pictures in this Mignonette Uptown flickr set).



They kept a lot of the good "old bones" of the place, while still sprucing it up considerably. So the long white marble counter in front of the kitchen is still there (a perfect fit for an oyster bar), but there's a movie theater style marquee above it, like in the original Mignonette, displaying the rotating daily selection of oysters. The same old marble tables also line the windows facing Biscayne Boulevard (or maybe they just bought the same exact ones), but a comfortable leather banquette has been added.

The menu is similar in format to the original Mignonette: there's an assortment of freshly shucked oysters, seafood towers, a CBGB (chowder, bisque or gumbo) of the day, a crudo of the day, and an assortment of mostly fish and seafood dishes, done either "plain" or "fancy." But the details bear the imprint of chef de cuisine Anthony Ciancio, who's done time in some very good places: Michael's Genuine, 27 RestaurantAlter, as well as Sean Brock's McCrady's in Charleston.



So you can get a classic like Oysters Rockefeller, done with watercress, Pernod and a dusting of parmesan.[2] Or you can get Buffalo Scallops, napped in hot sauce butter with crumbled gorgonzola, quartered radishes, ribbons of celery and shards of crispy chicken skin.



The "fancy" main course options are perhaps even more finessed than those at the downtown location. A fat tranche of cod, which flakes into broad, silky ribbons, is served over batons of yuca and napped with a champagne beurre blanc dotted with caviar and then crowned with twirls of fried yuca and wispy dill sprigs. Pan-seared striped bass is served over a creamy onion soubise; its accompaniment, "peas and carrots," sounds pedestrian but surprises with dark purple roots and subtly minted peas nestled over a carrot purée garnished with pea shoots and fancy flowers.


Those with no appetite for such indulgences can get a generously stuffed lobster roll (but where are the knuckles and claws?), a choice of plain grilled fish, fried chicken, or a dry-aged bone-in NY strip steak.



Serfer may be one of the only guys in town with a more finely honed sense of dining nostalgia than myself. So he got pastry chef Devin Braddock, another MGFD alum who worked with the wonderful Hedy Goldsmith, to create a "GD" fruit tart just like Gourmet Diner used to serve, only better. Also pretty great: her chocolate pie with a brown butter Oreo crust, which surprises with a refreshingly dark, bitter undercurrent of coffee to balance out the sweetness.


Mignonette Uptown officially opened on Friday for lunch and dinner service. So I'm now in the happy position of having a Mignonette within ten miles of home in either direction.

Mignonette Uptown
13951 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami Beach, Florida
305.705.2159

[1] I don't normally do such things, but – full disclosure – Danny and Ryan are indeed friends. Plus, Frod Jr. is a former employee, having spent summer before last busing tables at Mignonette downtown.

[2] I meant to get the "Oysters Ciancio," done with melted beef tallow, garlic and shallot, but our order got mixed up. Given that this was a F&F dinner, the night before the restaurant officially opened, it's much too early to talk about service. But all the staff had the right attitude and eagerness, and frankly I was floored that the kitchen was cooking the entire menu for a friends and family night. It was a trial by fire, and from where I was sitting, everyone passed.

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