December 05, 2011

Mare Nostrum: Modern Mediterranean Dining


In just a few weeks, downtown denizens, foodies and global scene-makers will celebrate the opening of Mare Nostrum, an effortlessly elegant new restaurant located in Miami’s hottest new culinary neighborhood, downtown Brickell. Scheduled to open to the public on Monday, December 12, the restaurant at 1111 SW First Avenue will feature the uncomplicated flavors of the Mediterranean, specializing in rustic dishes bursting with freshness, in a breathtaking yet unpretentious setting courtesy of Miami design leaders Baltus. In an atmosphere that evokes the relaxed vibe of a coastal retreat, guests can design their dining experience by choosing from one of several preparations for pasta and seafood selections on the menu – or just enjoy one of the restaurant’s expertly prepared composed specialties. Destined to be a culinary highlight, as well as provide a visual feast, is the restaurant’s prominent seafood display; an iced raw bar overflowing with stone crabs, red shrimp, langoustines, oysters, whole fresh fish and other seafood specialties from the Mediterranean and local waters.

Encompassing 8,000 square feet, Mare Nostrum still manages to feel intimate with the main dining room divided into two elegant spaces, encompassing a total of 114 seats. The outdoor terrace seats 60 and a private dining room can accommodate 14. Chef Pedro Gallardo – who also serves as the executive chef for the four-star Hotel Intercontinental de la Torre in Murcia, Spain and has spent time in the esteemed kitchens of Arzak and El Bulli – designed the comprehensive and well-priced menu. Slated to open daily for lunch and dinner, the menu is built around freshly caught seafood; augmenting local catches with daily shipments from the Mediterranean of red tuna, langoustines, dorada and other European specialties.

Although perfectly executed seafood is the star at Mare Nostrum, there is something to please all palates – from grilled meats to homemade pastas, paellas and risottos, which are all made from scratch in house.

Something to start with ($6.95 to $15.95): Croquetas made with Iberico ham and gruyere cheese; fried eggplant with organic honey; and Bluefin tuna “Toro” tataki, all tempt taste buds. Guests can also dive into items from the gorgeous seafood display table ($14.95 to MP) including seared Mediterranean red shrimp, freshly shucked blue point oysters, or a bountiful seafood platter of tiger prawns, langoustines, oysters and stone crabs.

Green and fresh: Salads ($9.95 to $14.95) such as heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, basil foam and extra virgin olive oil or a simple arugula, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan dressed with a tangy citrus vinaigrette are light and refreshing, while Soups ($6.95 to $13.95) include a classic gazpacho, a fresh and tasty bouillabaisse and a hearty minestrone, among others.

Fresh pastas, paellas and risottos: Mare Nostrum’s state of the art kitchen is loaded with upscale European equipment, including Italian pasta makers that give them the capability to make a wide variety of fresh pastas in-house, including spaghetti, fettuccine, capellini, linguini, bucatini, tagliatelle, pappardelle and gnocchi. Guests will be able to match any one of six freshly prepared sauces – pesto, Alfredo, Bolognese, puttanesca, tomato and basil and olive oil, garlic and parmesan ($10.95) for a simple yet satisfying starter or main plate.

There are also specialty pasta dishes including a decadent fettuccine with white truffle oil and shaved parmesan; spaghetti with sautéed clams and four cheese ravioli with sage butter ($22.95 -$24.95). Paella stations offer traditional paellas, risottos and Spanish seafood stews ($22.95-$24.95 per person, minimum two people) to round out the roster of grains.

Fish by portion and from our market: Seafood lovers will exult in Mare Nostrum’s pescetarian quality and variety; the exceptional ingredients and flavors shine in signature specialties ($15.95 - $22.95) from salmon a la plancha finished with saffron salt to seared branzino with sea salt. Red snapper, lubina (Spanish sea bass) and dorada are offered by the pound ($28-$32 per pound) for a shared dining experience, with traditional Spanish preparations. Choose lubina covered in rock salt and baked whole, a succulent dish that transports you to the sea; or soulful red snapper dusted in chick pea flour and lightly fried in olive oil.

Meat Specialties include chicken, pork and grilled lamb chops as well as the classic 24 hour slow baked cochinilo asado. Tender cuts of beef ($15.95 to $36.95) include USDA skirt steak, New York strip USDA Prime Angus tenderloin and USDA Prime Angus rib eye; all served with a vegetable side.

Desserts ($8.95) all prepared in-house offer tantalizing temptations with inspired creations including the classic Spanish flan with caramel sauce and candied Marcona almonds, Manchego cheesecake with crème anglaise and a dense, delicious olive oil cake with dark chocolate cream, citrus sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Mare Nostrum’s beverage and wine program is overseen by seasoned sommelier Bernard Riviere, who is well-known to South Florida oenophiles from his distinguished tenure at Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort. There he was renowned for his award-winning selections. Riviere plans to bring the same attention to Mare Nostrum’s list, which will encompass about 250 selections and is housed in a striking floor to ceiling glass cube at the restaurant’s entry. Riviere promises to showcase many wines unique to South Florida with a strong representation of Spanish, French and Italian vintages. Cocktails ($12-$14) are carefully considered and include a specialty martini and creative signature cocktails including the Brickell Cosmopolitan, Moscow Mule, Matador and Isla Morada, among others.

Design of the restaurant was assigned to internationally renowned Miami showroom/studio Baltus Collection, the premiere furniture division of Polaris World Development, the Spanish company responsible for bringing the Mare Nostrum concept to the United States. Mare Nostrum is the first U.S. restaurant venture for Polaris, which owns golf resorts, restaurants and hotels in Europe and has real estate holdings and design/furniture studios Baltus Collection and Yedra in the United States.

Baltus’ aesthetic defines Mare Nostrum’s design – modern, sophisticated yet inviting. Dining chairs are upholstered in deep blue cotton which contrasts nicely with the contemporary white tables and marble topped bar. Stunning mosaics complement the bar as well as the central seafood display, while handmade Moroccan tiles enhance the floor. Bleached white bamboo ceiling insets, shimmering curtains and frosted glass accents, all reinforce the calming and subtle oceanic palette. Signature artwork and photography from acclaimed international artist

Javier Martin commissioned especially for the space, add to the ambience that provides the perfect backdrop for the equally stunning cuisine.

Oscar Suarez, a seasoned industry veteran, who has held management positions with the BLT Restaurant Group, Lago Mar Resort in Fort Lauderdale and Sonesta Hotels, is the restaurant’s Miami-based director of operations, overseeing a talented team of culinary and hospitality professionals.

Mare Nostrum is scheduled to open for lunch and dinner on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 1111 SW First Avenue, right off of Brickell Avenue; directly across the street from the Brickell Avenue Metrorail MetroMover station. Valet and street parking are available. For reservations, call Mare Nostrum at 786-691-2770. More information can be found at

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