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Area 31: New Chef, New Menu Items, Same Great View

Area 31's Caribbean Snapper, photo courtesy Area 31Shellfish Platter at Area 31, photo courtesy Area 31Octopus tentacle at Area 31, photo by lee kleinCurried Shellfish Cioppino at Area 31, photo by lee kleinDessert Trio at Area 31, photo by lee kleinTraffic Below, photo by lee klein

Alex Olivier is the new Executive Chef of Area 31, the seafood restaurant that's been holding court on the 16th floor of Kimpton EPIC Hotel for ten years. From opening day, Area 31 has been known for fresh, sustainable seafood and a bird’s-eye panoramic view of downtown Miami. The food has undergone subtle changes over the years, and downtown Miami looks a whole lot different now, but Area 31 remains all about great seafood and seductive vistas.

Chef Olivier, a native of the small, historical town of Vryheid, South Africa, brings a new perspective to the menu. An apprenticeship at Cape Town’s acclaimed Sol Kerzner’s Beverly Hills, led to work in highly respected kitchens such as London’s famous Blokes Hotel (under renowned Michelin Chefs Tom Aikens and Neville Campbell). Frank Petitto, Area 31's Food & Beverage Director, calls Alex’ cooking “representative of Miami’s melting pot of flavors; it’s refreshing and approachable.”

Highlights of the dinner menu begin with the classic shellfish tower, which includes pretty much everything you might want (lobsters, oysters, clams, langoustine, ceviche…). Equally impressive, if less grandiose, is a thick, grilled octopus tentacule with Peruvian succotash, fried olives, confit tomatoes, saffron cream, and herb pesto. Don't miss this one.

Octopus tentacle at Area 31, photo by lee klein

Shellfish Platter at Area 31, photo courtesy Area 31

Main course highlights include Caribbean snapper with lemon verbane and purple cauliflower couscous; whole fried fish; a fantastic coconut/lemongrass-accented curried seafood cioppino with cilantro jasmine rice; and charred, succulent lamb chops -- along with other alluring meat options (sous chef Carlos Ferreiro is an alumni of Gotham Steak).

Area 31's Caribbean Snapper, photo courtesy Area 31

Curried Shellfish Cioppino at Area 31, photo by lee klein

An active social scene pulsates to the bass beats of a DJ at the patio bar (and goes on later than the dining). There are innovative cocktails available that've been created to match the seasonal cuisine, but I didn’t try any. I can, however, attest to an impeccably crafted Manhattan.

Dessert Trio at Area 31, photo by lee klein

The takeaway: Chef Alex Olivier reels in diners with his new spins on the fresh cuisine at Area 31. 

Traffic Below, photo by lee klein