When the mind goes to “fresh seafood,” it’s easy to turn to our region’s oceanside staples. In Miami though, there’s a riverside stretch that should be equally as top-of-mind.
Along Northwest North River Drive between Fourth and Fifth streets, you’ll find a handful of riverview restaurants that run the unassuming to totally upscale spectrum, including Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market, Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill and the Seaspice Brasserie & Lounge.
Among them, Kiki on the River has established itself as much so as a “place to be” (and be seen) as one of the best spots in town to indulge in a seafood spread. Six years in, this hotspot on the Miami River dishes up a bountiful, toothsome servings and a memorable waterside ambiance. Its entrance sets the nightclubby tone, with a suited-up gent on an iPad checking for your reservation from behind a velveted rope. Once you’re granted entry, the Mediterranean journey begins.
During the dinner hour, the ambiance is very much open-air, mildly bumpin’ bliss—as the most tranquil of sailboats and the periodic raucous party boat coast by on the Miami River. For people watching, it’s tough to beat a table perched right on the River’s shore. Otherwise, the vibe inside evokes Little Venice in Mykonos, with red bougainvillea climbing the trees, Cycladic style.
It’s a space that clearly turns up as the hours go by; things don’t shut down until 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday (it’s open until midnight Friday through Sunday). You can get a taste of the party any time, though, as someone is bound to be celebrating a birthday—you’ll know when the tiered cake-shaped light with a giant Kiki gets danced over to a table nearby.
Ambiance aside, it’s all about the Mediterranean essentials and freshest catches at Kiki on the River. “I’m a firm believer when offering a luxury item such as lobster, you should keep it simple and showcase the lobster itself,” says chef Steve Rhee. “I’m a big proponent of sustainability, believe it is the key to our future, and am all about sourcing the freshest seafood possible.”
And when it comes to lobster options—with Greater Maine area-sourced creatures as the dazzling ingredient—Kiki on the River does not disappoint. Among the musts are a market-price seafood tower stacked with lobster, Alaskan king crab, jumbo shrimp, oysters and mussels. It’s enough to feed three on its own. The Whole Lotta Shells platter is equally as bountiful, with grilled jumbo prawns, tangy lemon potatoes and—the showstopper—a whole lobster stuffed with crab and feta cheese. The portions are so generous that glossy take-home bags start popping up on many tables. Lobster is not to be wasted.
Between these two platters, a group of four may easily be full, but you’ll want to save room to share a lobster pasta. It includes a whole lobster doused in a perfected garlic-meets-San Marzano sauce. The waiter, in this case, the energetic, punctual and stellar Javier, swirls and serves up a portion to each diner.
To complement the main courses—which also include land options like honey truffle-topped lamb chops and massive 40-ounce Tomahawk steak—Kiki’s appetizers and spreads provide a decided Greek flair. Its pikilia is an assortment of four spreads—the best being a red pepper and feta dip that should be sold by the gallon. For tzatziki fans, opt for the delightfully crisped eggplant and zucchini chips. On the cocktail front, make sure to get frisky with the One Night Stand. Served in a glass pink pig, this concoction of Grey Goose Le Poire, falernum, guava, mango and lime is a tangy ride.
How to Make Sure Your Lobster Dish is Fresh
Sourcing, preparing and cooking lobster is an art. Unfortunately, the process doesn’t always equate to the best end result. Average diners might have use their senses to know that something is wrong. The signs of a lobster-gone-bad include:
• An ammonia-like smell. Lobster should naturally have a delicately sweet aroma with hints of the ocean.
• A mushy texture. Lobster in its prime should have a firm-meets-spongy consistency.
• A hint of green. Fully cooked lobster meat is a creamy white.