With great change comes both excitement and disappointment. That’s why I had mixed feelings when news broke that chef-restaurateur Daniel Boulud would be revamping his signature French eatery DB Bistro Moderne. On the one hand, it was time; DB had been around since late 2010, and it was practically elderly in the eyes of regional diners. On the flip side, I knew what turning DB into Boulud Sud Miami would mean: no more DB Burger, Boulud’s mouthwatering combination of ground sirloin, short rib and foie gras.
Fortunately, this singular frustration over what has disappeared is far outweighed by the benefits of what has arrived. After all, the DB Burger, though thrilling to the palate, was far more likely to have inspired a nap than a jaunt to the beach. With its current emphasis on what the team, which includes onsite executive chef Clark Bowen, calls “coastal cuisine inspired by flavors from the Côte d’Azur, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Turkey and beyond,” Boulud Sud is actually a better fit for Miami’s climate, roster of global visitors, lengthy fall-to-spring growing season and aquaculture.
The sophisticated yet inviting redesign by CallisonRTKL also seems more reflective of the city’s tropical pace and grace. Boulud Sud is spacious and vivacious, distinguished by latticed walls, a Moroccan tile floor, natural woods, off-white hues and original artwork by Vik Muniz. It’s exactly the kind of place where you want to relax with a platter of mezze: piquant Moroccan-style hummus, smoky baba ghanoush and a quartet of crisp falafel balls that steam when broken open. If you request it, the server will also bring a ceramic dish of refreshing tzatziki. This is one of four sauces that partners the simply grilled yet exceedingly high-quality proteins—Madagascar prawns, spiced swordfish, lamb chop, filet mignon—on the main course portion of the menu. But the real treat is the muhammara, which is available on the bar menu but not the dinner menu. Ask for a bowl of this spread, which mixes the sharp sweetness of roasted red peppers, pomegranates and spices like cumin into a base of ground walnuts.
Adding depth to this attractive array, lamb flatbread is an open-faced oval of lightly toasted dough, strewn with meaty nuggets, eggplant, pine nuts and dollops of creamy labneh. The octopus a la plancha, which is served over a fluff of baby arugula, Marcona almonds and a backdrop of tahini, also gels well with this, especially given that the whole dish is tied together with a lacing of sweet-tart sherry vinegar.
While starters span regions from southern France (terrine de campagne Provençale, less dense than you’d expect with both chicken and pork in the mix) to Miami (stunningly fresh yellowfin tuna crudo with lemon confit and local radishes), it’s fairly easy to order complementary dishes for sharing. For instance, if you go the Italian route, source the artichokes alla Romana from the menu’s Share section and a plate of burratina with arugula pesto and heirloom tomatoes from the appetizers (medium-sized dishes). A very well-trained waitstaff, maître d’ and sommelier are eager to assist if you have trouble with anything from where to sit to what to drink.
The kitchen has already gone to the trouble of offering half-portions of homemade pastas for secondi courses so that you don’t have to split with a companion. Take advantage of this and order two half-portions for dinner if you like. Sometimes it’s just too hard to choose between the rich, full-on flavor of orecchiette with lamb ragú and lemon ricotta and the less heavy but equally satisfying plump pumpkin agnolotti with sage and delicate cubes of just-salty ricotta salata.
Aside from the simply grilled options, entrees only number six. These include a fragrant chicken tagine with cauliflower and turnips; a beautifully seared branzino served skin-on over freekeh (roasted green durum wheat) with apricots and artichokes; and some of the best wine-braised osso buco I’ve had in a while—complete with marrow cutlery for extracting the good stuff from the roasted bone.
Given that Boulud and his Dinex Group are old-school enough to employ a full battery of staff, including executive pastry chef Saeko Nemoto, it’d be foolish to forego sweets—especially if you’re into not-so-sugary desserts. The grapefruit givré, for instance, is a scooped-out grapefruit skin stuffed with pulpy sorbet, then topped with sesame foam and Turkish cotton candy for a palate-cleansing ending.
If after dining at Boulud Sud you’re still missing that DB Burger, try returning for lunch, where there’s a Frenchie Burger on the menu. With tomato jam, raclette and rillon (tender, slow-cooked cubes of pork belly), you’ll find you can still eat yourself into a delightful midday slumber.
BOULUD SUD MIAMI
255 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami, 305.421.8800
Lunch: Mon.-Fri., noon-2:30pm; dinner: Mon.-Thu., 6-11pm; Fri.-Sat., 6pm-midnight; Sunday brunch: 11am-3pm
Small dishes, $3-$28; appetizers, $12-$21; mains, $28-$34; pasta, $16-$32; grilled dishes, $19-$36; sides, $8; desserts, $13; cocktails, $15; wines by the glass, $10-$248; wines by the bottle, $34-$5,500.
As summer brings on the heat, look for the ice. Boulud Sud’s cocktail list offers a pair of sophisticated frozen drinks that include the Frosé, made with Lillet Blanc and Lillet Rosé, and the Ouzo, a mix of ouzo, Turkish coffee, cinnamon and cloves that packs quite the punch.
Ranging from a 3-ounce pour of Château d’Yquem (at $248) to half bottles to hard-to-source Grand Cru Burgundies, the stellar wine list, under the direction of head sommelier Haunah Klein, is one of Miami’s finest.
Pull Up a Seat
If you don’t want a formal meal, try the comfortable, expansive bar and lounge, where a compressed menu with selections from both lunch and dinner are served all day.