Strokes of Culinary Genius at Verde Miami
by jordan melnick
Stephen Starr’s new Verde restaurant at PAMM frames the breathtaking setting of Miami with perfect brushstrokes, a masterpiece of a culinary experience.
Executive Chef Nicolay Adinaguev plating lunch.
A filet of snapper served with cucumber yogurt, whipped avocado, and pickled tomatoes may pale in comparison to a Wifredo Lam painting, no matter how crispy the fish’s skin. And an Ai Weiwei installation—say, a towering arrangement of bicycles symbolizing the breakneck pace of industrialization in modern China—might trump a crunchy pizza topped with locally sourced squash blossoms, goat cheese, tomato sugo, and zucchini rounds
It all depends on what you’re hungry for.
That’s one of the many challenges facing museum restaurants. There’s also the atypical schedule, tied to the organization’s hours of operation, and the imperative to satisfy the tastes of a diverse clientele, as museums generally strive to draw visitors from all walks of life.
Verde’s terrace provides a view of shimmering Biscayne Bay and PAMM ’s hanging gardens.
Verde, the restaurant inside the new Pérez Art Museum Miami (better known as PAMM), handles these challenges with a deft touch, offering diners nothing but crowd pleasers. There’s the satisfyingly savory snapper (sourced locally), the selection of thin-crust pizzas (gourmet enough for an adult, familiar enough for a kid), the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” bacon cheeseburger, the palate-invigorating hamachi sashimi, and, to lure the execs from downtown’s office towers, a roasted New York strip steak served with fries and a pat of chimichurri butter on the side.
The menu may sound faintly generic, especially when you consider the exciting culinary scene across Miami these days. But Verde’s food in fact makes a lot of sense for a restaurant whose patrons include art world socialites, grade-school field trippers, and everyone in between.
“Our food is approachable [and] Miami-inspired while still maintaining the creativity that you would expect being surrounded by so much artistic inspiration,” says restaurateur Stephen Starr.
Diners enjoying a casual meal on a recent visit.
Starr’s eponymous company runs scores of restaurants in the Northeast, including Granite Hill at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. From experience, he knew Verde had to meet a lot of needs.
“On one hand, Verde is a gathering place for those who will or have enjoyed the museum,” he says. “In the latter [case], it’s a place to continue a conversation about what you have just experienced. But it’s more than that. It also serves as a scenic power lunch spot for executives in the area. Dining alone, it can serve as a bit of a creative escape, or with others for lunch brainstorming sessions.”
In accommodating so many scenarios, Verde still manages to have an identity. Most of its menu is light and refreshing, not the kind of fare that would make walking through the museum’s galleries feel like a chore. This kind of food fits well within the Herzog & de Meuron-designed building, with its light-filled rooms, hanging gardens, and bay views. Sporting wood-slatted tables, green glassware, and potted succulents as centerpieces, the restaurant itself presents an expansive vista of Biscayne Bay and the ships cruising toward Government Cut, perfect scenery to gaze upon while sipping a passion fruit caipirinha off of Verde’s cocktail menu.
Squash blossom pizza with zucchini, goat cheese, tomato sugo, and roasted garlic olive oil is both approachable and sophisticated.
“Verde means ‘green’ in Spanish,” says Starr. “We wanted to choose a name that reflected the Pérez Art Museum’s design, environment, and, of course, the city of Miami itself with its lush and tropical views.”
Verde’s name also implies that the restaurant will continue to grow, and indeed Sunday brunch service is slated to begin in spring with the possibility of extending it to Saturday as well. For now, Starr says, both restaurant and museum “hope to set the tone for future ‘green’ growth in the downtown Miami area,” a tasty victory for the art world and beyond. 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-375-8282
photography by gary james