Eat, Drink & History
Area 31 at the Kimpton Epic Hotel
The name derives from Fishing Area 31, an international zone designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a sustainable fishery, which explains the accent on local ingredients. By Aurea Veras
The views from the 16th Floor terrace at Area 31 are simply spectacular. We go often for happy hour, but it’s been a while since we stayed for dinner. “Given the proximity to the ocean, we take a little extra pride in our seafood, sourcing ingredients from our favorite local vendors,” observed Chef Sezer Deniz, a native of Turkey. He blends his international culinary expertise with products from local farms and ranches to create an experience that’s casual and elegant at once.
The official brochure reiterates the concept: “Area 31 creates a cuisine that’s elegantly approachable.” What does that mean, exactly? The answer came with the menu. We had for appetizer grilled octopus, seasoned in black garlic, lemon aioli. $28.00. Main course: Risotto with parmigiano reggiano, and the choice to add steak, chicken, salmon or shrimp. $32.00, plus $15.00 for the added salmon. Cuban mojo ribeye. 16 oz., prime cut, served with yucca mash, and mojo sauce. $70.00.
Elegantly approachable? Deliciously elegant might be a better choice of words. I loved the octopus, grilled to perfection. My husband loved his risotto, and the mojo ribeye reduced the table conversation to monosyllables.
A little Googling shows some people did enjoy the place as we did. One gentleman judged his prime ribeye perfectly done. Another recommends highly the Area 31-line catch. A lady visiting from New York was not overly enthusiast about the lobster nor the service. I don’t know about the lobster, but our waiter was knowledgeable, friendly without being intrusive, and diligent. Worth the extra tip.
I do have a sweet tooth, or to put it more succinctly, without dessert culinary art is a misnomer. I ordered the warm chocolate lava cake, served with a scoop of vanilla or pistachio ice cream. My husband ordered for dessert a bourbon neat.
“The view is conducive to meditations about great historical ironies,” my husband points out. We were out on the terrace, just above the spot where the Miami River and Biscayne Bay converge. “Ponce de León discovered the Tequesta back in 1523 at this precise point. The Spanish explorer ventured to present-day Miami in search of gold, but not finding the precious metal, he concocted the theory of eternal youth. He sailed off in search of a mythical fountain of youth. Alas, a poisoned arrow to his neck ended the adventure prematurely.”
According to Miami Herald’s Andres Viglucci, the Tequesta were not the first South Florida inhabitants, but they were here for a long time, more than two thousand years, and could fairly lay claim to being the paradigmatic South Floridians: They went about barely clothed, lived by the water, and spent their days hunting and fishing. (Source: Downtown Miami History.)
“It so happens that a contemporary of Ponce de Leon, a teenaged survivor of a Spanish shipwreck, lived for years under a Tequesta Chief named Carlos — yes, even captive Spaniards gave people and things whatever names they wished,” added my husband, savoring his bourbon. “He lived to tell the tale, and from his autobiography, we know the natives’ diet was rich in seafood, especially lobster.”
Well, the tradition lives on at Area 31.
Ending the Evening
I also had an after-dinner drink, a bourbon old fashioned, contemplating the moon’s reflection on the Bay, contemplating the fountain of youth myth, such a great metaphor for the possibility of reinvention that Miami has always represented.