An all-around treat up­town

Con­verted diner keeps it sim­ple, yet el­e­gant

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - DINING - By Michael Mayo

Hash is be­ing slung in a con­verted diner on Bis­cayne Boule­vard in North Mi­ami Beach, but this hash has pota­toes, fen­nel, caramelized onions and shrimp in a de­lec­ta­ble scampi sauce. It is the stuff of seafood dreams, not greasy spoons, served be­neath a per­fectly cooked piece of branzino with crisp skin and moist flesh. The fish and hash are served on a large, white plate. The $29 en­tree comes from the por­tion of the menu la­beled “fancy,” but the dish en­cap­su­lates the phi­los­o­phy of Mignonette Up­town and its chef-owner Danny Ser­fer. The restau­rant is un­fussy and un­pre­ten­tious, sim­ple yet el­e­gant. Seafood is the star, but there’s no need to ham any­thing up.

Ser­fer and busi­ness part­ner Ryan Ro­man opened Mignonette Up­town in Jan­uary in what used to be the Gourmet Diner, which had a three-decade run. The struc­ture was as­sem­bled from a de­funct diner shipped in pieces from New Jer­sey. When I en­tered Mignonette Up­town at dusk, with its cool-blue neon sign, sil­ver steel frame and dim light­ing, I felt as if I were en­ter­ing an Ed­ward Hop­per paint­ing. The vibe is re­laxed and ca­sual, with a neigh­bor­hood feel. Yet the food aims high and de­liv­ers, even when the in­spi­ra­tion is hum­ble.

Con­sider, for ex­am­ple, the buf­falo scal­lops ($15), an ap­pe­tizer that sounds as if it could be some night­mar­ish fu­sion of TGI Fri­day’s and Red Lob­ster. In­stead of deep­fried bar food that over­pow­ers, I found a re­fined dish with per­fect bal­ance and fla­vor. Seared sea scal­lops with golden crusts and juicy sweet in­te­ri­ors were served with lit­tle, square sheets of crisp chicken skin. They were nes­tled atop a sub­tle red-vine­gar sauce and cel­ery-root puree blended with blue cheese. It was won­der­ful.

“Un­der­promise and overde-

Mignonette Up­town

13951 Bis­cayne Blvd., North Mi­ami Beach 305-705-2159 or Mignonet­teMi­ Cui­sine: Seafood Cost: Moder­ate to ex­pen­sive. Sal­ads and ap­pe­tiz­ers cost $9 to $19, oys­ters $32 a dozen, caviar $17 to $90, main cour­ses $19 to $35, sides $6, desserts $8. Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Din­ner 5:30-10 p.m. daily (un­til 11 p.m. Fri­day-Satur­day) Reser­va­tions: Ac­cepted Credit cards: All ma­jor Bar: Beer and wine only, with in­ter­est­ing and rea­son­able wine list Sound level: Con­ver­sa­tional and pleas­ant Hand­i­capped ac­cess: Ramp to el­e­vated en­trance Park­ing: Free lots liver,” Ser­fer, 36, says in a fol­low-up in­ter­view. “The menu de­scrip­tion doesn’t say that the scal­lops are seared, so it’s a lit­tle bit of a sur­prise.” It has be­come one of the restau­rant’s big­gest sell­ers.

Mignonette Up­town of­fers six daily va­ri­eties of raw oys­ters from two coasts, three types of caviar and high-qual­ity fish pre­pared sim­ply but not skimpily. In a nod to retro diner kitsch, it also has pas­try chef Devin Brad­dock’s pies fea­tured in a ro­tat­ing dis­play case near the front. The front counter has 23 seats over­look­ing the open kitchen, and the restau­rant seats another 60 along the front win­dow and a side room. Things can get cramped and un­com­fort­able in the small­ish leather booths, one of my few quib­bles.

The only other glitch: a long wait for the whole yel­low­tail snap­per spe­cial ($37) to be fil­leted and served. The bone­less fish ar­rived long af­ter the other en­trees, partly be­cause lim­ited staffing and space re­quires servers to debone the snap­per in the kitchen af­ter pre­sent­ing it whole ta­ble­side. Oth­er­wise, the ser­vice was flaw­less and friendly.

Score Mignonette Up­town as another win­ner in Ser­fer’s grow­ing restau­rant col­lec­tion. It joins Blue Col­lar, which opened in 2012 in the Mi­ami Mod­ern district, and the orig­i­nal Mignonette in down­town Mi­ami, which opened in 2014. Ser­fer is my kind of restau­ra­teur, mixing high­brow and low­brow in ways that are de­li­cious. At Blue Col­lar, his ro­tat­ing “Parm of the day” and “braise of the day” are homey and hon­est, and I can’t get enough of the braised ox­tail and chicken Parm.

The Mignonettes have ro­tat­ing soups, crudos and whole fish. Down­town has New Or­leans ac­cents, while Mignonette Up­town hits some Greek notes, with lamb meat­balls and grilled lamb chops, cour­tesy of chef de cui­sine Mi­halis “Mo” Tzo­varas, a vet­eran of Blue Col­lar. Ser­fer also pays trib­ute to his Jewish roots with potato latkes topped with smoked salmon and other seafood treats at week­end brunch.

I re­ally ad­mire the way Ser­fer has evolved, both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally, since his days work­ing for the great Allen Susser at Chef Allen’s. Ser­fer has bat­tled al­co­holism and sub­stance abuse and is open about his re­cov­ery, start­ing sup­port groups geared to­ward restau­rant in­dus­try work­ers. He has set­tled into fam­ily life


Oys­ters in a half dozen va­ri­eties, served raw or cooked, are of­fered at Mignonette Up­town.

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