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Monday, March 19, 2012

A Little Slice of Haven!

  Just West of Alton lies a lounge that really is a cut above the rest.  It's got the uber-South Beach vibe you expect from the area, and yet manages to deliver some seriously cool music and even better food.  The interior space reminds me of a cross between a trendy lounge and Space Mountain at Disney World.  Tiny lights on the ceiling pulse, the bar change colors, and the walls are in constant flux, with images of Graffiti art, a library and even Miami.   The music is an eclectic mix of upbeat tunes with some cool indie rock thrown in for good measure.
   In order to optimize dancing space, the tables inside are closely packed together, with little cubes for seating.  If you don't quite feel comfortable sitting this way for prolonged periods you can grab a seat by the bar (which also means the bonus of entertainment watching the bartender or sushi chefs do their thing).  If you've got a larger party though and this doesn't work for you, just head outside to at one of their larger tables where you can people watch.
    Later at night it gets packed with gyrating bodies, but if you've got some time to kill and want to head out a bit earlier, I'd highly recommend their happy hour which goes from 6-8. Truly, it is nothing short of fantastic!  Each day the specials change so you won't know till you get there, but you can choose one of their XL sliders or a sushi roll for $5, any beer for $5, and their featured specialty Stoli drink for $7.
   The first time I went the drink being offered was a passionfruit martini, an ethereal combination of sweet and tart, in which you could not taste even the slightest hint of alcohol.  Unfortunately, this meant it went down way too easily and far too quickly, we were slightly buzzed and ordering a second round before we even knew what happened.  The next time it was a cherry blend, made with puree from real cherries.  If you're not there during happy hour, I'd recommend trying one of their liquid nitrogen cocktails.  They might not come cheap but they are expertly made and go down quite smooth!
   When feeling peckish I'd recommend starting off small.  You'll be surprised by how filling the tapas-style plates can be.  Gone are the days of basic bar burgers and fries as Chef  Todd Erickson has really gone above and beyond to create sophisticated and creative twists on each item to make it a true culinary experience.  While some items are better for sharing (like the tater tots), other items such as the sliders are better to get your own.  During one happy hour I was lucky enough to have the choice of a quail slider, which was juicy and full of flavor, with pillowy buns.  Off the main menu, the lamburger (which is served with lavender-coriander honey, apple-fennel slaw & ouzo mustard) too is succulent and tangy.

Amongst the skewers, I found the Mahi mahi skewer to be one of the best.  There is a nice char to the outside, while the fresh meat remains incredibly tender.  Plus the addition of lots of colorful veggies helps keep things light.
Another fabulous and filling option is their Rock Shrimp, which are covered in a slightly sweet coconut panko and are served with a tangy wasabi-sour peach marmalade for dipping.  I've never had fried shrimp before that were so non-greasy and that managed to maintain so much moisture inside!  Even with the breading, the shrimp were incredibly succulent and the sauce added a great kick.
If you've ever been served tater tots once upon a time in grade school, then you'll appreciate the nostalgia factor in this hedonistic version for grown-ups.   A massive pile of tots, they are topped off with maytag bleu, chives and ribbons of balsamic ketchupThey are very good and definitely filling, although I do think the bleu cheese might have been a bit of a sharp choice for my liking, overpowering the other flavors a bit much.  Don't get me wrong, we still demolished these pretty quickly!
 The sushi is another superb way to go, as beautiful in presentation as it is in taste  Their version of the California Roll, the Santa Monica, is prepared with lump crab, yuzu tobiko, hass avocado, and cucumber.  The execution is almost so exquisite you don't want to dig in, but you'd be remiss to miss out on the chance to enjoy such fresh and well-prepared sushi.  It may be a tad pricier, but if you'd like to venture into more unique territoty, the Maki Peru fuses Asian and Peruvian cuisine with tempura shrimp, red bell, hass avocado, and tai ceviche.
Santa Monica roll
Maki Peru
If you've still got room for dessert the liquid nitrogen ice cream is often raved about for a reason.  The flavors are constantly changing, so you never know quite what to expect, be it a chocolate truffle or a maple with candied bacon.  Whichever options they have, the treat is incredibly rich and the thick.  The creamy custard coats your tongue, allowing you to really savor each spoonful.  The portions are pretty generous, so the small is definitely enough for 2, while the larger size would be enough for 3-5 (depending on how greedy everyone is).
Liquid Nitrogen Maple Ice Cream with Candied Bacon
    Sure to please foodies and party revelers alike, Haven is the quintessential South Beach atmosphere serving up decadent and inventive creations that will satisfy both tourists and locals.  I've only barely scratched the surface on everything they offer and I'm constantly surprised with each new option I find.

    1237 Lincoln Road  Miami Beach, FL 33139
    (305) 987-8885
Haven on Urbanspoon

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