I’m just going to cut to the chase: Miami needs more places like Oak Tavern. Imagine a love child between Michael’s Genuine and River Seafood Oyster Bar and Oak Tavern is exactly what you get. In fact, Oak Tavern is David Bracha’s, who also happens to own River Seafood Oyster Bar, most recent concept. Located on 40th st off of North Miami Ave, Oak Tavern offers a contemporary ambiance that somehow manages to maintain its rustic appeal. A transplanted giant oak tree sits amidst the outside dining terrace, giving inspiration to the name that so aptly describes the restaurant. A relaxed décor gives an impression of subtle casualness, but the food coming from the kitchen is anything but.
Small plates seem to be the norm in the culinary world during recent times, and this place is no different. While some may baulk at the small plate movement, it encourages sharing and the ability to try many of the kitchen’s creations. If this is the route you decide to go, I urge you to order the Rabbit Sausage Gnocchi over most things on the menu. Although the rabbit sausage was moist and flavorful, the gnocchi easily stood out as the best part of the dish. Never in my life have I encountered such tender, light, and pillow-like gnocchi. The petite dumplings absorbed the truffle and taleggio cream sauce applied to the dish in order to create a moist and flavorful bite of food that I will continue to think about for weeks to come.
Another standout was the Fava Bean Agnolotti with brown butter and truffle. As soon as the plate is placed in front of you, the smell of browned butter permeates the table and your mouth begins to salivate. The caramel-like and nutty flavor from the butter leads to a simply complex sauce that pairs perfectly with the al dente pasta. The fava bean interior is somewhat subdued compared to the rest of the ingredients, but the combination of truffle and brown butter is just divine.
Where Oak Tavern really shines is with its seafood. Since Bracha has access to some of the best seafood in Miami, Oak Tavern takes of advantage of this fact and manages to provide some of the freshest seafood plates I’ve had in recent memory. A larger plate of Sea Scallops served with lentil ragout, crispy leeks, and lemon butter was a standout. The scallops were cooked to tender accuracy with a sweet and buttery taste. The mild nature of the shellfish paired well with the creamy and hearty ragout, which was offset with the lemon coming from the butter. The kitchen truly knows how to handle their seafood and make the best of its ingredients, which leads me to trust blindly in their food pairings. Speaking of seafood, do not leave Oak Tavern without trying the Oyster and Whiskey flight. The concept is a foreign one to me, but it is basically three incredibly fresh and succulent oysters paired with a combination of whiskey, rye, or bourbon to compliment the flavors coming from the naturally sweet bite.
Although the spectacular food and drinks coming from an incredible staff including Chef de Cuisine Curtis Rhodes, Head Mixologist Megan Bardoe, and General Manager Gary Sanon-Jules is what draws you to Oak, the embracing atmosphere and superb service is what makes you come back. The staff is genuinely inclined to help you and guide you throw your meal, making for an overall dining experience that Miami needs to begin embracing more freely.
35 Northeast 40th Street, Miami, FL 33137
By food contributor, Santiago Cardona