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Postcard From Tom: Miami Beach

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Washington Post's Tom Sietsema's Monthly Report From the Road

The trend of the moment in Miami is fusion cuisine ("trans-ethnic," explained one server), a detail I encountered again and again during a recent restaurant tour there. Some highlights:

GARCIA'S SEAFOOD GRILLE (398 NW N. River Dr., 305 - 375-0765)

Average Joes frequent this scrappy tribute to fish on the Miami River, well removed from the tourist zone. Satisfying catches from the regular menu include piping hot conch fritters, grouper chowder and grilled dolphin. Specials embrace whatever whole fish is fresh (yellowtail is sublime) and South Florida's stone crabs. Request a rough wooden table on the rear deck, where the view captures a steady stream of pleasure boaters. Entrees $11.95-$14.95.

MOSAICO (1000 S. Miami Ave., 305-371-3473)

What used to be a fire house has been transformed into a handsome stage for modern Spanish cooking. Barcelona native Jordi Valles trained with some of Spain's top chefs, tutelage that reveals itself on every plate. Gazpacho gets updated with razor clams and cucumber "Jell-O," duck breast is tickled with a frothy sauce of pink peppercorns, and tapioca arrives on a spoon topped with sweet carrot foam. Fine Spanish wines and suave service -- a rarity in Miami -- round out the enchantments. Entrees $27-$32.

THE RESTAURANT AT THE SETAI (2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-520-6000)

No expense was spared to create an environment that whisks visitors somewhere far away and very seductive. The bar is smooth with mother of pearl, the floors are paved with teak, and tree-size bronze panels lend regal richness to the walls. Chef Shaun Hergatt dazzles diners with a personal style that bridges Asia and India--but includes pizza. Not to be missed: sliced wild prawns tossed with pink citrus, toasted coconut and chilies, and coriander-spiced chicken buried beneath a mountain of fried cascabel chilies. The prices will take your breath away, but so will a few hours at Miami's most compelling new dining destination. Entrees $24-$68.

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