There was an apology, of course, as the plates were whisked away and new ones prepared. The lobster looked great, and had the server brought it instead of the hogfish entrée, I might have kept it. But the large, luscious scallop and petite, melting-soft cheek nugget were worth the wait. It was a delectable offering not only for the sharply contrasting surf-and-turf aspect but also because of a unique set of accompaniments and flavors: wilted chicory leaves, beech mushrooms, and a puck-sized toasted oat cake accented with cumin and moistened with a broth flecked with capers and golden raisins. This brilliant composition bounces off and lights up the senses like a pinball.

Other main plates include a thick rack of Colorado lamb with guanciale and charred lemon jus ($53); market-priced Dover sole ($69 the day we dined); a duet of Wagyu tenderloin and Black Angus short rib with foie gras, truffled taro, and bing cherry bordelaise sauce ($89); sage-roasted farm chicken with a ramp-and-morel fricassee ($34); and pan-roasted local hogfish with eggplant, olives, garlic chips, tomato confit, and yellow piquillo peppers stuffed with fennel sausage — a somewhat mundane Mediterranean medley relative to the aforementioned items. Sausage and peppers should not be fussed with but rather seared on fiery grills with gusto like the Argentines and Italians do it.

Luis Vasquez of Venezuela has replaced Luc Buisson as the Villa's pastry chef. A Key lime "fantasy" arrived at the table compliments of the house, in atonement for the earlier mix-up. Round pillows filled with sweet lime custard come piled atop salted graham crumbs and crowned with a puff of Chantilly cream. There is a nice sweet/tart/salty conflict at play, but a decadent meal calls for a similar finish: chocolate praline mousseline — a rich, creamy melding of Valrhona ganache, hazelnut mousse, and caramel. It's simple, yet the first spoonful yielded one of the most memorable moments of the evening.

Snapper ceviche: Like a psychedelic garden.
Snapper ceviche: Like a psychedelic garden.


The Villa by Barton G., 1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Call 305-576-8003.

The Villa still delivers a singular dining experience, and Jeff O'Neill continues to plate sensational tastes. Those are two things you can bank on — if you can afford to.

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Had dinner there last Saturday. The food was disappointing and subpar. I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world, and some of the priciest, and I have never been disappointed before. I would not recommend and I would never go back.