Monday, December 11, 2017

Not Your Grandpa’s Diner

 Sean Connery’s favorite North Miami breakfast spot is now Mignonette Uptown.

Flo and Alice are no longer behind the counter pouring coffee at the shiny aluminum North Miami Beach diner where Sean Connery would pop in for breakfast while in town. The casual eatery was all but boarded up until Chef Daniel Serfer and business partner Ryan Roman seized upon the opportunity to open a second location of their popu­lar downtown oyster bar and seafood eatery, Mignonette.

Appropriately dubbed Mignonette Uptown, the new res­taurant retains its diner-like appeal, with elegant, understated additions, including 22-karat gold etchings on street-side windows aglow under a neon sign. Indoor pearl LED lighting over tan banquettes lends a glamorous-dining-car-inside-a-grand-European-train effect while “French Quarter” copper lanterns made in New Orleans throw beautiful ambient lighting over the dining counter and its 24 tufted bar seats that span the length of the restaurant. It’s an ideal place to eat solo, with the action of the open kitchen, an oyster-shucking station and two-ice filled oyster displays creating non-stop motion. Background music changes throughout the evening with classic Beastie Boys, Luke Skywalker and Biggie Smalls morphing into Terence Trent D’Arby and some old-school jazz as the night progresses. This isn’t your grandpa’s diner.

Front and center on Chef Serfer’s menu are, of course, oysters—12 different daily varieties in fact; six East Coast and six West Coast. It’s how Mignonette acquired its name, from a sauce made typically with vinegar, pepper, and herbs and served especially with oysters. Thanks to years of experience at the downtown location, Serfer says he knows “enough not to mess with them,” letting the natural flavors of oysters shine through.

Following the success of his Blue Collar and Mignonette downtown restaurants, Chef Serfer selected a stellar team, which includes Chef de Cuisine Anthony Ciancio and his only on-site pastry chef, the tremendously talented Devin Braddock, who reprises the Butterscotch Heath Bar Bread Pudding ($8) from Blue Collar, adds a daily pie to the menu ($9) and created the knock-me-down-this-is-so-delicious Nutella Milkshake with candied hazelnut and chocolate streusel ($7) in case extreme decadence is on your mind.

For the rest of the menu, Serfer and his team have put together mouthwatering selections of the freshest seafood in town, artfully and creatively prepared in true mignonette style without masking natural flavors with heavy sauces. Buffalo Scallops with gorgonzola, crisp chicken skin and hot sauce ($15) have a distinctive barbecue overtone as the name would suggest, with a kick to them that will appeal to anyone walking on the spicy side. Barbecue Octopus ($16) is simply, yet flavorfully prepared and not to miss. Oysters Rockefeller ($19) are delicately prepared with herbs, butter and Pernod. The most addictive appetizer may be the Mussels, served either red (spicy tomato) or white (white wine, garlic and butter) for $17. Paired with a salad, it makes a lovely light dinner selection.

Mains are divided into either “Plain” or “Fancy,” the former served simply with beurre blanc and a choice of side veggie. The Crispy Skin Snapper ($26) is sublimely de­licious. “Fancy” preparations include Faroe Islands Salmon with orzo, peas, tomato and saffron broth ($29), Grilled Lamb Chops with zucchini and gruyere gratin demi-glace ($33), Branzino with fennel-potato hash and scampi pan sauce ($23), and the perennial favorite, Warm Lobster Roll on a brioche bun with butter and curly fries ($26). Light options include three types of salads (Greek, Gem Lettuce and Caesar), all reasonably priced at $10 each, as well as a robust assortment of veggies bursting with flavor, all for $6 apiece. Don’t miss the Grilled Peaches with peanuts and vinaigrette. Although it’s listed in the vegetable column, it could almost be a dessert (if you have enough willpower to forgo the Nutella Milkshake).

One new addition by chef Daniel and his “crew” is the Cruise Ship Special, a four-course menu that includes Shrimp Cocktail, Caesar Salad with white anchovy, parme­san and grilled sourdough, a choice of grouper or prime rib, and either Butterscotch Heath Bar Bread Pudding or Nutella Milkshake for dessert, all for $39 per person.

As if that’s not enough to make you do a happy dance, Mignonette just unveiled Happy Hour with “$1 oysters twice a day every day” accompanied by specially priced ap­petizers, $3 beer and $5 glasses of wine from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. to close daily.

Mignonette is open for lunch seven days a week, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday Brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are recommended by calling 305-705-2159. 13951 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami Beach;