A deluge of rain cascaded over our car as we drove toward the Spanish restaurant Costa Mar (18250 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach, 305-933-5900). We continued past the gigantic, glitzy condos that have effectively severed the beach from Sunny Isles Beach along this strip of Collins Avenue (suggested neighborhood motto: "Las Vegas living without the fun") until we came upon our shopping-center destination.
Costa Mar's Chef Juan Adames was formerly personal chef to Venezuelan Presidents Rafael Caldera and Carlos Andrés Pérez. Adames hails from Spain; his roots are reflected in a mostly coastal Mediterranean menu anchored in seafood. My wife and I shared a pair of specialty dishes for two: caesar salad and the touted signature dish of "paella Costa Mar." Two deep, white bowls of salad studded with crisp white croutons was superior to the mayonnaise-laden versions commonly encountered, but for $15, one might have expected shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano rather than a particularly cheap and malodorous powdered parmesan.
I didn't take literally the menu boast about the paella's containing "all the delicacies the sea has to offer." There are, after all, more than 25,000 species of fish (not including mollusks and shellfish). I did, though, envision more than the three seafaring representatives of shrimp, mussels, and squid, considering the $48 price (for two). Squishy, army-green peas, canned red peppers, and enough slightly mushy saffron-yellow rice to feed four rounded out the routine rendition.
The kitchen bounced back with red snapper in clam sauce, by which I mean the fish was so rubbery that if dropped from a reasonable height, I believe it would have literally rebounded. It didn't help that the thin red skin underneath the filet hadn't been slit before cooking, so the snapper curled under itself and resembled a white tube. No need to wonder if the clams were in the shell or not -- there were no clams, only a white cream sauce with just a rumor of clam flavor. White rice came on the colorless plate; vegetables are a rarity here.
There are probably as many desserts in this world as there are fish in the sea. Costa Mar offered three (I have friends with more choices in their home fridge): chocolate bombe with vanilla ice cream, "pancake" with dulce de leche, and créme brûlée with chewy sugar crust and grainy custard. This dinner was decent but not worth the dough.
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