By Mitchell Nover
One of the (many) reasons I love the Miami Spice program is that it gives Miami foodies permission to step out of their comfort zones and experience restaurants that they might not visit on a regular basis. Once you break down the wall of price obstacles, suddenly other taboos fall by the wayside as well. Such is the case with my recent trip to Villa Azur (309 23rd St, Miami Beach). The chic French-Mediterranean restaurant and lounge is a place where people go to see and be seen, and that, in general, is not my regular scene. However, emboldened by my new Spice season sensibilities, I decided to give Villa Azur a shot, even if only for the people-watching.
Menu highlights: Villa Azur’s Miami Spice menu showcases 18, yes 18 (!), delicious dishes to choose from. Right off the bat, the menu offers up the chance to enjoy a unique meal with dish combinations that feel very extravagant. Case in point, the Lobster Roll (kind of like a crispy rice) with fried buns, lobster tartare, yuzu, and black aioli; Lamb Shank Confit with 18-hour lamb confit, sauteed mushrooms, polenta cake, crispy baby spinach, and garlic chips; and the Caramelia Chocolate & Pineapple Panna Cotta or the Vanilla Red Berry Cake for dessert.
If you don’t mind an upgrade charge or two, you can also enjoy a plethora of other dishes, including the Pan Seared Octopus (add $8) with citrus glaze, baby frisee salad, and caramelized onion pearls and the Roasted Seabass (add $18) with fingerling potatoes, green asparagus, rossini sauce, and pan seared foie gras.
Standout dish: Did you miss the part above where I said the seabass was topped with FOIE GRAS?!?!? If you did, let me give you a closer look. Case closed.
Are we boozing? First of all, when you get a complimentary glass of Champagne placed in front of you upon being seated, yes, yes you’re boozing. Secondly, Villa Azur actually also features a number of $10 Spice cocktails with delicious options like the Fever and Lemon (made with Ford’s gin, Elderflower liquor, fever tree tonic, cucumber, and lemon) and the Summer Mule (with choice between Ciroc Apple vodka or Mount Gay dark rum, lime juice, ginger liqueur, and a hint of ginger beer).
Mitch’s take: Villa Azur surprisingly (at least to me) brings a different sensibility to the South Beach dining scene as well as the Miami Spice program. Combining excellent cuisine with a vibrant atmosphere, it’s very Saint-Tropez, but in a fun, over-the-top, “more is more” kind of way. It’s a great option for a special occasion or a date night if you want to break free from your regular routine, and to top it all off… the food is actually good! Win-win for everyone.