Going green: Two sustainable seafood restaurants in Miami

Area 31 restaurant at Epic Hotel, Miami
Area 31 restaurant at Epic Hotel, Miami

In line with the evolution of a more environmentally-conscious and health-conscious society, a select few restaurants have finally surfaced in Florida that care both about resource conservation and healthy body preservation. While scouting out organic food and green products is relatively easy at a place like Whole Foods Market, Florida in general has yet to embrace the locally-sourced , farm-fresh, sustainable revolution that has taken hold in other states like California, Oregon, and Maine. Luckily for the more enlightened consumer, five South Florida restaurants have taken the situation in their own hands, supporting small organic farms, and paying attention to seafood watch guides when sourcing their products.

Here are two of the five Miami restaurants that are doing their part, and should not be missed:

Executive Chef John Critchley prepares Florida’s most sustainable and savory seafood eats in his intimate open kitchen. Critchley takes great pride in his daily sojourns to the local Casablanca Fish Market, perusing the renewable catch from reliable community fishermen in Area 31 (hence the restaurant's name), and then filleting his prized possessions in-house. Upon preparation, Critchely keeps the fresh seafood as the center of attention with delicate and mild sauces, accents, and accompaniments to bring out the most succulent tastes. Much like a French master chef, he focuses on simple preparations for the discerning palate, where each carefully chosen ingredient is easily recognized.

The Setting: On the 16th floor of the gorgeous Epic Hotel in Downtown Miami, in a modern, comfortable space with high ceilings, swaying chandeliers, and an open kitchen.

Specialties: The Ocean to Table fish selection is a fun mix and match of six types of fresh catch and four different light sauces.

Must-Tries: Yellowfin Tuna and Escolar – raw and tender with Peruvian peppers, radish, and mint in passion fruit puree; “Cassoulette” – a mix of seafood prepared in light coconut milk with kalamansi lime, sea beans, served with fresh white clams and topped off with sea foam; grilled yellow snapper in salsa verde; “Chittara” – thin strips of pasta, spicy crab ragout, and fried garlic.

Green Factor: Strict adherence to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and regular conference calls with the Aquarium to discuss menu selections; supports local fisherman with small day boats; veggies from local, organic markets and farms.

There’s finally a reason to visit Weston other than chilling with your panas (loosely translated: bros). The relatively new Ireland Steakhouse brings a slough of new concepts to the South Florida ‘burbs – sustainable cuisine, a non-chain restaurant, and a resto that doesn’t reek of Sisco and Restaurant Depot products. But don’t let the name fool you. While steaks are indeed on the menu, the focus here is on sustainable seafood, and lots of it. Sous Chef Jeremy Miller uses only seasonable products and goes to great lengths to have a menu of mostly “green” items from the Seafood watch guide.

The Setting: Deep in the western suburbs of South Florida , the restaurant is a warm and woodsy enclave behind the lobby and hotel restaurant of the Hyatt Bonaventure, converted from a storage space into a “steakhouse.” The space is a twenty minute drive from the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort.

The Eats: In keeping with trends of other Steakhouses like BLT, STK, and the Forge, hearty main dishes (like the “Orange Glaze Wild Canadian Arctic Char” or the “Cherry Balsamic Yellowfin Tuna”) are paired with loads of decadent sides made for sharing (like “Lobster Mac n’ Cheese” and “Lobster Fries”).

Must Tries: “Lobster Mac and Cheese” – the best mac n cheese concoction I’ve tried to date, with tons of lobster, lots of cream, and a small price tag ($16); “Pan Seared Wild Pacific Halibut” topped and coated with jicama, watercress, and a warm vinaigrette; “Florida Orange Crème Brulee” – Grand Marnier crème brulee with Florida orange segments.

Green Factor: Strict adherence to the Monterey Bay Aquarium restaurant guide and working closely with organic seafood farms in Florida and Texas.

--Paul Rubio of AmazingGayTravel.com

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