Editors note: Sadly, our return to Upland a few weeks ago was a surprising disappointment. Service was unprofessional and poorly trained, and food arrived undercooked or cold. This inconsistency has been reported to me numerous times by other diners and I can only hope that the team at Upland listen and correct both the kitchen and the front of the house.
Stephen Starr is the shining “star restaurateur” right now. His New York City, Le Coucou has topped all of new restaurant lists, and in Miami we have been lucky to boast three Stephen Starr restaurants, Makoto, Le Zoo, and The Continental.
Now, his most anticipated and ambitious Miami restaurant, Upland, joins that list with it’s opening at 49 Collins just this past December. Chef Justin Smillie, helms both Upland NYC and the new Upland Miami and brings his California roots to the creative and flavorful cuisine.
Charcoaled and wood fired grilling is his signature style and the dishes which range from wood oven pizzas, rustic and seasonally influenced fare, seafood and charcoaled steaks and short ribs are well prepared in full view of diners in the bright open kitchen.
Situated at the southernmost end of Collins Avenue, Upland features indoor and outdoor seating in a sleek modern bistro setting. Design elements -- including walls lined with wine and preserved lemons and artichokes pay homage to Upland’s New York City counterpart.
On the evening we visited for dinner, Chef Smillie was in full control, conducting a well organized “orchestra” of what looked like no less than 25 chefs and assistants. As I watched from our well-positioned table, I could see each cook had his/her station and assignments and dishes came out quickly and efficiently into the waiting hands of the servers. A “front row” of seats in view of the kitchen is available for those looking to watch the action first hand.
The menu is divided into Raw, Pizzas, One (Appetizers), Two (Pastas) and Three (Meat and Fish) and Vegetables. The Raw Bar selection included Wahoo Crudo and Bigeye Tuna Tartare, Raw Egg with Puffed Wild Rice.
Pizzas are wood-fired and feature a crispy, bubbly crust with the Pistachio, Fontina and Stracciatella cheese being our favorite.
Under One can be found the salads including a colorful Little Gem Salad,
and my favorite dish, Wood Fired Florida Prawns, which even at $27 was a shareable four large prawns in a tasty olive oil and lemon sauce. The Whole Crispy Hen in Woods Mushrooms was also a large enough portion to share and delicious propped on top of creamy cloumage cheese.
Both Two and Three are entrée portions with Two representing the pasta dishes including Fusilli with lobster and Pappardelle with sausage ragu. Three includes a Smoked whole Branzino for two, Tuscan style lamb chops, and our server's recommendation, the chef’s signature, Coal-Roasted Short Rib for Two.
Our choices; Coal roasted Salmon with Florida grapefruit, pickled beets and faro salad, and a garlicky charcoaled Creekstone Farms skirt steak with romesco and grilled onions were well prepared and presented, with the grapefruit adding just the right amount of tartness to the coal roasted salmon. The skirt steak was a bit too rare for our liking and was returned for further cooking, but returned promptly cooked to perfection, crispy on the outside and pink on the inside.
We passed on the veggie sides, although Chef Smillie is known for his California-inspired fresh vegetables and which included crispy potatoes, charred broccoli and rainbow carrots. All were fire-grilled and looked very good.
An extensive wine list including California, Italian, French and South American wines are available by the glass , ½ bottle or full bottle.
Upland offers NYC-style prices in a beautiful setting, and another reason besides Joe’s and Prime 112 to explore SoFi for dining.
49 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL
305 602 9998
( photo credit: Upland Miami and MIAbites )