Foodie Find: AVRA
The restaurant transports Greek Island tavernas to an upscale and impossibly stylish level of dining.
Avra estiatorio is the upscale restaurant to open in Surfside – following three New York locations and one in Beverly Hills – that’s successful in bringing the concept of hand-selecting fresh ingredients at a Greek market to an upscale and impossibly stylish level of restaurant dining. Yet only the Miami spot can boast a backdrop of the wall-to-ceiling water views that soundly compliment the selection of fresh and displayed seafood.
Avra cofounder Nick Tsoulos is from the coastal Greek village of Nafpaktos, where he grew up fishing from local waters, preparing the day’s bounty with fresh olive oil and enjoying it with salads of produce from the family’s garden. The Miami diners he now serves can – after passing through a lobby designed by Karl Lagerfeld and attached to the notably luxurious hotel, Estates of Acqualina – select the exact fish cooked for their plate. That’s because the modern dining room dressed in clean white linens and light beige woods – all under a ceiling of greenery — also boats an open kitchen and an aisle of ice trays displaying huge quarter-pound prawns, branzino, snapper, Spanish langoustines and black sea bass. Selections can be grilled, baked in salt or sliced into carpaccio.
The menu is inspired by the tavernas of the Greek islands and includes items where the main ingredients – the vegetables, the fish, meats and cheeses – take center stage. Start with a salad of tomatoes, Persian cucumber, peppers, onions, kalamata olives and barrel-aged arahova feta cheese, a traditional Greek variety. There’s also an Israeli salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage and parsley. And Roasted Beets marinated with evoo, garlic and almond puree.
There’s a raw bar with east and west coast oysters, shrimp or lobster cocktail, or a sampler, and a caviar selection of kaluga, amber osetra, gold osetra or imperial osetra.
The appetizer selection makes decision-making difficult. Don’t miss the Avra Chips which are thinly sliced and friend zucchini and eggplants served with tzatziki. The classic spreads served with pita bread include tarama, melintzanosalata, htipiti, tzatziki and fava. The tartare of Hawaiian bigeye tuna is prepared with just evoo, lime zest and micro cilantro, while the Portuguese sardines are charcoal grilled with lemon, capers and evoo. The Chilean seabass souvlaki is grilled with roasted red pepper sauce and the grilled octopus is sashimi grade with Vidalia onions, capers, bell peppers and red wine vinaigrette.
There’s also a sashimi and ceviche selection –fresh fish is meant to be flaunted – staring the Avra preparation made from the day’s catch, ‘leche de tigre,’ crispy chickpeas, red onion, seasonal fruit and micro cilantro. As well as a Hamachi with red peppers and jalapeno, branzino with yuzu kosho and pepper, Faroe Islands salmon with cucumber chimichurri and whole fish sashimi.
For mains, try the lamb chops, thick and grilled or the wagyu eye of ribeye aged for 28 days. The salmon reappears again, this time grilled with vegetables and the Chilean sea bass plaki is oven baked with Vidalia onions, potato, light tomato fish broth and fine herbs.
Desserts are baked daily. Don’t miss the Orange Cake, which is excels over its name by being served moist and sweet. The baklava is traditional but exceptionally flaky on the top and dense by the plate.
Brett Graff is SocialMiami.com’s managing editor and has been a journalist covering money, people and power for over 20 years. Graff contributes to national media outlets including Reuters, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Maxim, and the PBS show, Nightly Business Report. A former U.S. government economist, her nationally syndicated column The Home Economist is first published in The Miami Herald and then on the Tribune Content Agency, where it’s available to over 400 publications nationwide. She is broadcast weekly on two iHeartRadio news shows and is the author of “Not Buying It: Stop Overspending & Start Raising Happier, Healthier, More Successful Kids,” a parenting guide for people who might be tempted to buy their children the very obstacles they’re trying to avoid.