A Seafood Lover’s Dream, With a View
Consider it a lucky stroke that Redfish by Chef Adrianne (formerly Red Fish Grill) was always an outdoor venue. The main building itself – a coral stone heirloom from the federal work programs of the Depression – can house maybe six or eight tables. But outside, under a canopy of square umbrellas, there is seating for more than 80 people on the expansive new patio. And on any given night, with indoor dining officially banned in Miami-Dade County, the tables are entirely full.
What draws the diners are several magnets. First, Redfish is literally the only waterfront restaurant in Coral Gables. It sits on the edge of the lagoon in Matheson Hammock Park, with a view of that oval swimming basin, a line of palm trees beyond it, and Biscayne Bay in the distance. You can’t find a more romantic panorama this side of Tahiti. Second is the food. The full name of the restaurant refers to local culinary gem Adrianne Calvo, whose Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar brought civilized cuisine to West Kendall 13 years ago (it just reopened in a vastly larger space in the Town and Country Mall).
It was at the Vineyard that entrepreneur Rodney Barreto approached her with a proposition: Would she like to take the helm of a seafood-driven restaurant in a reborn Red Fish Grill? Barreto was already betting heavily that he could bring back the old favorite, refurbishing a historic landmark that had lain wrecked since Hurricane Irma in 2017. Calvo said yes, so long as she had a free hand to deliver a truly ocean-based menu, something oddly rare in South Florida. The result is a stunning tour de force of seafood fare.
Among the starters are several old school crowd pleasers, like a rich New England Clam Chowder and a fried calamari with lemon zest aioli. We tried the jumbo crab cakes with chipotle aioli, garlic cilantro, and roasted pineapple relish, which were simply perfect. But we also left our comfort zone for Chef Adrianne’s grilled sardines, flown in from the Pacific Northwest, and served with a fried hazelnut salsa verde. A salty, toothsome taste of the ocean.
Among the entrees there is her killer brown sugar-crusted salmon, that comes with sweet and spicy potatoes and garlic sautéed spinach. An explosion of flavors, with deep-sea Pacific salmon at its core, already a house favorite. Another colorful burst of savory seafood flavor is the amazing cioppino seafood stew with fish, scallops, clams, lobster and mussels in a tomato broth. But the showstopper is the whole crispy snapper, presented in all its roasted glory with grilled lemons and a bell pepper vinaigrette. A large, lovely fresh fish (and local, too!), enhanced by a citrus infusion.
Redfish also serves some land lubber food, but the sea is so much the star there that even their amazing honey fried chicken (one of only three “not seafood” entrees) is first brined. Their raw bar is also exceptional, except that for the moment you cannot sit at the bar thanks to the county’s virus restrictions. But you can order oysters from the menu, and they are spectacular, coming from two dedicated oyster beds – one in Maine, the other in Washington – that are exclusive sources for Redfish.
A pleasant surprise is Chef Adrianne’s take on vegetables, something that has spilled over from the Vineyard. Her roasted broccolini with shallots are positively addictive, and her fire-roasted quartered sweet potatoes, with French onion butter, are ridiculously delicious.
Among the desserts is Rodney’s Key Lime Pie, which proprietor Barreto brought to the restaurant with a recipe retrieved from a shop in the Keys. It’s the second recipe that Barreto brought to Redfish; the first is for the fried chicken, a family recipe which is easily among the best we have ever encountered.
Redfish is not inexpensive, so be forewarned. But the level of cuisine and the extraordinary setting make for a delightful experience. This is sophisticated, al fresco dining at its finest, with the sunset and moonrise thrown in for good measure – and a real treat for fans of fresh seafood. The long drive through the mangroves of Matheson Hammock from Old Cutler Road to reach Redfish just adds to the adventure.