south beach: wish and mark's south beach.

So yesterday we decided to get our inevitable massive disillusionment over with and visit what had been our two favorite South Beach eateries in the past, Wish and Mark's South Beach. Actually, we didn't really decide this, it just sort of happened, the way things do when you head up the beach at night without a plan in your head.

We stopped at Wish first, for what we knew would be an embarrassingly pricey drink and to see what was what food-wise. I'd forgotten that it's almost a perfectly beautiful restaurant outside; I'd also forgotten that the bar is just (for me) all wrong. It's tiny, sterile, and expensive, with bad EuroMiami lounge music setting a vibe that I would ordinarily run away from fast. It's so much an afterthought to the rest of the restaurant that one wonders why they bothered with it at all. I being that one.

We had such an indelible (you know, aside from the stuff I just said I'd forgotten) experience at Wish last time largely due to the atmosphere: we sat outside in the barely bearably romantic garden on a tremendously humid night that finally erupted into big warm raindrops and everyone had to run inside under the porch for a bit...so we had drinks on the porch and watched the downpour drench all of the white linen tablecloths and gradually fill the empty water and wine glasses left behind in the rush, just like in that Guns 'n' Roses video...and someone told me I should "hold on to this one", and I said "I married her"...I'm pretty sure he meant Mara.

Back to 2007: while the menu looked good, the bar was killing my mood, so we had to bail. Luckily, Mark's was a few blocks away. Mark's was a perfect illustration of why you want a good bar scene in your restaurant. Whereas the vibe at Wish was of a lackluster hotel bar, Mark's felt like...well, foodies hanging out insulting each other in a hotel bar.* I knew everything was going to be OK when Mara and our Italian-Irish bartender Damien started busting each other's balls immediately, then unfurling entire paragraphs of actual Goodfellas dialogue while I just sat there wondering if I'd blacked out and somehow missed portions of the conversation:


Amsterdam? Wow, I almost moved there with my...
Mara: Boyfriend?
Damien: I like you.
Mara: But it didn't work out.
Damien: I'm not changing my religion for nobody.
Mara: Jew broad?
Damien: I can't believe this. This day and age, a Jew broad, prejudiced against Italians.
Mara: I'm trying to bang this broad, you gonna help me out or what?
Me: Huh?


So while Damien reminded us why we love good American bartenders so much, we ordered some food.


Pan seared foie gras over white peach cobbler.

Jumbo scallops, purée of calabaza, passion fruit butter
and plantain crisps.

Chocolate souffle with vanilla creme anglaise.


The foie gras was just what I was looking for, though serving anything remotely sweet alongside a good peach cobbler will probably work out just fine for me. Mara thought her scallops had way too much of the calabaza puree on board, giving the dish a pumpkin pie feel that was seriously distracting...I like sweet stuff with my seafood more than she does and it was way too much for me too. However if you portioned out the puree appropriately, the scallops were great and everything made sense. The chocolate souffle was a nice, not-too-sweet finish, but paled in comparison to the amazing apple/maple syrup souffle we had at Mark's during our legendary visit in 2001.

Overall, very good food, great service, rumours of a decline in quality proved to be unfounded thus far, at least while dining at the bar. We're going to sneak in another visit before we leave.

* Our evening was greatly enhanced by Damien's performance; little did we know that it was to be one of his last at Mark's: we subsequently found out from Josh at Nemo that, 48 hours later, Damien would walk out of Mark's during his Saturday night shift. Apparently the "good bar scene" only existed when we were there; word on the street is that the bar was normally desolate and bar staff usually made 20-30 legitimate dollahs on an average night.

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