129 // ON THE UP AND UP

Ocean Drive - - Contents March 2017 - BY CARLA TOR­RES

At New York trans­plant Up­land, Stephen Starr and chef Justin Smil­lie are mak­ing Mi­ami­ans swoon over clas­sic Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine.

AT NEW YORK TRANS­PLANT UP­LAND, STEPHEN STARR AND CHEF JUSTIN SMIL­LIE ARE MAK­ING MI­AMI­ANS SWOON OVER CLAS­SIC CAL­I­FOR­NIA CUI­SINE, THE NEXT BLOOM­ING ONION, AND SWEET DREAMSICLES.

It’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to walk by Up­land in the heart of the quaint South of Fifth neigh­bor­hood and not be lured in­side. A warm, en­chant­ing glow akin to Mi­ami at dusk draws you in, as the smell of wood with a hint of citrus per­me­ates the copper-clad din­ing room be­decked with gar­gan­tuan jars of pre­served lemons.

On a Fri­day night, ev­ery table in the 250-seat res­tau­rant is oc­cu­pied. Zak the Baker eats pis­ta­chio-topped pizza with the same hands he uses to make his sour­dough. DJ Irie snaps a photo be­fore cut­ting into a coal-roasted short rib for two crowned with Castel­ve­trano olives, wal­nuts, and horse­rad­ish. Even Karolina Kurkova, Court­ney Love, and Di­plo have stopped by. But then, would you ex­pect any­thing less from a Stephen Starr res­tau­rant helmed by a na­tion­ally ac­claimed chef?

“It was time to bring Up­land back to its palm tree roots,” says chef Justin Smil­lie, who honed his culi­nary skills work­ing un­der greats like Jonathan Wax­man at Bar­b­uto and Danny Meyer at Gramercy Tav­ern. A nod to his home­town of Up­land, Cal­i­for­nia, the Golden Statein­spired eatery opened its first out­post in New York City,

where Pete Wells, food critic for The New York Times, dubbed Smil­lie a “vegetable sage” and “pasta sa­vant”— la­bels best ev­i­denced by the chef’s per­fectly al dente and pep­pery bu­ca­tini ca­cio e pepe. “That and the car­bonara have been with me for 14 years, since Bar­b­uto,” Smil­lie says, which must be why he’s per­fected them and the short rib that goes wher­ever he goes. Or the crispy and tangy duck wings sear­ing with heat that beckon for the bones to be bared of ev­ery last shred of meat.

“Cal­i­for­nia cui­sine is re­ally a melt­ing pot,” notes the chef. “Up­land touches on all those parts while stick­ing to my phi­los­o­phy of fresh­ness and pre­serv­ing the har­vest.” Ex­hibit A: the Mi­ami­cen­tric, wood-fired Flor­ida prawns erupt­ing with olive oil and lemon. There’s also the coal-roasted salmon sit­ting over a bed of farro, burst­ing with acid by way of Flor­ida grape­fruits and pick­led beets. “[The salmon] and the branzino are at the top,” Smil­lie says of the smoked and roasted Euro­pean sea bass whirling in fennel leek vinai­grette. What­ever you do, don’t for­get to or­der the whole crispy hen of the woods mush­room, paired with an herb Cloumage that’s the equiv­a­lent of ri­cotta tzatziki. “It’s our gen­er­a­tion’s bloom­ing onion,” he says, clar­i­fy­ing why ev­ery party or­ders one (or two).

No Cal­i­for­nia-style meal would be com­plete with­out fine wine, and Up­land’s cel­lar boasts plenty for oenophiles to dis­cover, from the Golden State to Italy and France. Dessert, too, daz­zles with a moist and dense car­rot cake topped with cin­na­mon ice cream; pink grape­fruit gar­nished with Cam­pari zest; and choco­late mousse dusted with fennel pollen. None are as nos­tal­gic, how­ever, as Up­land’s blood or­ange and vanilla twist Dream­si­cle, a grown-up ver­sion of the child­hood clas­sic. 49 Collins Ave., Mi­ami Beach, 305-602-9998; up­land­mi­ami.com

“IT WAS TIME TO BRING UP­LAND BACK TO ITS PALM TREE ROOTS.” —JUSTIN SMIL­LIE

Up­land’s pis­ta­chio pizza and crispy hen of the woods mush­room are just a few of the knock­out dishes at Stephen Starr’s new­est eatery.

Chef Justin Smil­lie helms the kitchen at Up­land, the eatery lov­ingly named af­ter his home­town.

Up­land’s bar. ƥƞɵƭ Ɵƫƨʀ ƭƨʃ: The lit­tle gem salad keeps it sim­ply green with av­o­cado, cu­cum­ber, ri­cotta salata, and wal­nut vinai­grette; crispy duck wings are doused in lemon, olive oil, and yuzu kasha.

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