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Altamare Gets an E For Exceptional; Quirky Red Light

Lee Klein thinks there was nothing wrong with the old Altamar, sans e, but the move, the expansion and the extra letter "Was a gutsy gamble that appears to have paid off: The new AltaMare is bigger, busier, and better than ever." The redesign was a hit too. "It is also better looking," notes Klein. New chef and Michael Schwartz alum Simon Stojanovic impresses the reviewer, too, who writes that the "daily-changing menu is more a Mediterranean mash than that of his mentor but showcases similar sustainable sourcing such as local organic produce, free-range and organic meats, and line-caught seafood. The chef also baits the hook with the restless worm of intelligent creativity." Ceviches and carpaccios are "so refreshing," salads "singularly sprightly," and pastas "exceptional." Major props go out to Stojanovic for his simplicity, which, says Klein, "Simple doesn't mean simple-minded. Some of these Med matchups' descriptions alone can make the mouth water. " After all around praise for the fish and meat dishes and pastry chef Crystal Cullison, Klein surmises that "No, there was nothing wrong with the old Alta Mar. But somehow [owner Claudio] Giordano fixed it." [MNT]

Kris Wessel, semifinalist for this year's regional James Beard Award, has Victoria Pesce Elliott's "vote as one of Miami's most talented chefs." VPE also notes that "At his quirky Red Light, Wessel melds Old South, Creole, Cajun, Caribbean and Miami seasonings and techniques into an exciting, evolving cuisine that's all his own." Channeling an American Idol judge, Elliott says that "Besides the fact that Red Light is still here after two years, what makes the modest restaurant Wessel's best effort to date is that it is truly his own." As for the decor, "The scrappy, orange and red diner is like a place you'd find in Key West or New Orleans, where Wessel got his chops. It’s got spunk and charm, but only for those willing to overlook the seedier elements, including a sniffly, glassy-eyed valet parker." As for the food, VPE liked a lot: the sweet and spicy barbecue shrimp; the "smoky wahoo fish dip;" a "right-on-the-money local catch, including a brilliant red snapper with leeks and lentils;" "fantastically fresh, wonderous tile-fish;" and more. There were only three things she didn't like: "Gritty oyster pie;" "Hours-long waits for food;" and "Glasses that remain unfilled & tables that remain uncleared." Two and a half stars later, VPE says that "Anyone who expects good service to go along with the fine cooking may find their patience sorely tried, but diners who bring bug spray, a sense of humor and a laid-back attitude might just put this quirky Little River spot in their little black books.?" [Miami.com]

Red Light little river

7700 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33138 Visit Website

AltaMare

1223 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139 Visit Website

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