Area 31 serves up the best of downtown miami

Terrace Dining at nightAs downtown Miami becomes increasingly cosmopolitan and urban, the Kimpton Epic Hotel is a part of that gentrification. Located on Biscayne Bay Way (the former DuPont Plaza location), Epic reaches to the sky with spectacular views. Area 31, located on the 16th floor, offers a seafood-centric menu that puts local ingredients first.

Named after Fishing Area 31, an international zone in the west-central Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico designated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization as a sustainable fishery, Area 31 embraces and advances the vision of sustainability. From the kitchen, led by executive chef Wolfgang Birk, to the bar, the restaurant prides itself on sourcing local—so local, in fact, that Birk sometimes doesn’t even have to leave the premises.

“We pride ourselves in sourcing local and sustainable ingredients as much as possible, from our fish to our smallest ingredient,” he says. “We work with some amazing local fishermen and farms, but we are also very lucky to have a beautiful on-site herb garden on our spectacular outdoor Terrace Lounge, which provides fresh ingredients to both the kitchen and the bar.” Adding to Area 31’s commitment to sustainability, the restaurant is certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

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We started our meal with a glass of Prosecco and a bluepoint oyster served with avocado cream and caviar. It was the perfect starter. We tried several appetizers, including the Ceviche Mixto—made of the day’s catch (halibut), octopus, shrimp, calamari, choclo (Peruvian corn) and cancha (roasted corn kernels), set off with leche de tigre (a citrus-based marinade)—which was served in a chilled stone bowl from Colombia. The combination of fresh seafood with a hint of heat made for a memorable ceviche. The seared scallops in romesco were perfectly cooked and served with a nutty quinoa and heirloom tomatoes. Grilled octopus is a favorite of mine, and Birk did not disappoint. Served with olives and fingerling potatoes, it was briny, smoky flavored and tender. Area 31 is seafood-forward, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fabulous crispy pork belly appetizer—citrus-glazed with roasted fennel and pickled persimmon. It was rich and intriguing; I ate every bite.

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Entrées come from both the sea and the land at Area 31, but the focus is on fish. The Skuna Bay salmon, cooked perfectly and with the skin crisped, came with middleneck clams. For meat lovers, there is a 16-ounce ribeye, local chicken and lamb. We finished our meal with two desserts: Black Forest cake with chocolate ice cream and poached pear with a pear sorbet. The lightness of the sorbet and the palate-cleansing pear made this a standout dessert.

Birk brings an array of experience to Area 31 after working in some of the top kitchens in Miami, Europe and the Caribbean. The German-born chef opened Casa Casuarina in the former Versace mansion in 2005, the same year he served in the coveted position of opening host chef at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. A four-time Food & Wine magazine Best Chef nominee, Birk graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute for Hotels and Restaurants in Pescara, Italy. His vast international knowledge of sustainability, finesse with local ingredients and passion for vibrant, healthy cuisine inspire the menu at the Area 31 kitchen.

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The hotel and its restaurants are all about sophistication and comfort. The inviting 56-seat restaurant is intimate and cozy—the perfect place to spend a romantic meal. The open kitchen is directly across from the small bar and on a Tuesday night, the bar and restaurant were comfortably full of guests enjoying the food, ambience and spectacular views. Our service was excellent. Each table has a head waiter, but it is certainly a team effort at Area 31—each table was visited by at least four staff  members throughout the meals. There are two private dining rooms: one for a party of six and another for 16 with floor-to-ceiling views of downtown Miami and the Miami River. The smaller dining room even has a private balcony. You would be remiss if you didn’t go out onto the patio after your meal, to linger and enjoy the cityscape and gentle breezes of Miami.

Area 31 Kimpton Epic Hotel

270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami 305.424.5234; epichotel.com