There’s something elusive and fascinating about Downtown Miami’s outdoor parties after dark. The air is thick with fog, humidity, and construction dust (the vast rise of the current Magic City building). Street lights glow green, catching the palm trees that line the surrounding streets and lots. There’s an electric buzz, in noise and feel, that runs through the sunset. It feels like you’re on the threshold of something deep that’s fueled by the heat and doesn’t get in the way. This area is home to Mignonette, chef Daniel Serfer’s nine-year-old oyster bar and seafood restaurant, which is the only one in this area.
Located at NE 18th Street and NE 2nd Avenue, Mignonette is across the street from the Miami City Cemetery, one block north of a popular one. he fell club, and one block south of an Advance Auto Parts. Basically, this place is a transitional area between Downtown itself and the commercial and residential district known as Edgewater. But it’s the unique location that adds to the restaurant’s unique appeal: dimly lit and sparse but very intimate, the atmosphere alone is exciting, if a little exciting. “The building is very old, from the 1920s, so it has a lot of natural charm,” says Serfer. He says he hopes the guests will “appreciate the uniqueness of the building”. [the team and I] do it.” Continually great food boosts the mood.
The selection of oysters is deep and varied. Current stocks are displayed at any given time in the movie-letter marks above the bar. The servers are fine with the list—but, as it happens, I don’t like oysters, so I go for the Mignonette for the entrees.
But if you like them, as Serfer says, “oysters are our first place. We take great care to equip them and lean them and let them speak for themselves.’ My the recommendation, with or without seafood, is to start with the fish fry, a Florida staple that’s nice and hot with pickled cherry peppers. The freshness of the pepper, butter and toasted salt adds an element of home. Take a pinch of salt, add the sauce and finish with a vinaigrette. Eat and repeat (the servers will refill your pickles and pickles if you run out).
As for the entrée, Serfer and his team have presented the Black Grouper fillet prepared on top of Carolina golden rice, French ham and a pea emulsion. It’s terrific, the ham gems adding a distinctly earthy balance to the tender grouper. I really liked it, and I will order it again. If you’re looking for something a little more casual, the Lobster Roll Mignonette is a classic.
Finally, a note about one side of Mignonette, of which there are many: For some reason, I always get the green peas, lots of butter, and served with shallots. So do my friends. This is done by the server who served us this past week, deployed without advertising. They’re very simple, but they somehow ring the whistle of Mignonette: it’s a classy place, but also low-key and unpretentious. And that fascinating feeling – the place, the atmosphere – amplifies it to memorable levels.