First Bite: Villa Azur Brings the South of France to SoBe

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All photos by Laine Doss
The lounge area at Villa Azur has built-in fireplaces.
Villa Azur is striking, though familiar. Sixteen foot high drapes, reminiscent of those at the Delano welcome guests as they stroll into the open white doors.  White leather couches meet French country touches in the lounge/bar area, complete with stylish fireplaces built into the walls. White French doors open into a courtyard dining area, which also includes a seating area for cocktails and light bites, looking as inviting and rustic/elegant as Casa Tua.

Azur, which opened last Saturday to much fanfare, celebrity sightings, and an engagement announcement (actor and Azur co-owner Olivier Martinez announced his engagement to Halle Berry at the opening party), is the 6,000-square-foot attempt by Martinez and partners Jean-Philippe Bernard and Michael Martin to bring the French Riviera to America's Riviera.

The restaurant will also feature a French deli/wine bar, accessible from a next-door street entrance. The little 12-seat room will offer French meats, cheese, and sandwiches by day, tuning into a wine bar and tasting room when the sun goes down, and is scheduled to open today.

We're not sure why DJ booths are built into restaurants, but Villa Azur has one -- complete with French DJ imported, we're sure, from the best clubs in the South of France.

Hearing English as a second language is old hat in Miami, but this time around, the language is French. Both staff and patrons are French, laughing and being generally fabulous..and beautiful. Seated in the courtyard, the atmosphere was romantic and date-worthy except for one thing. A large European contingent means large population of smokers. Almost everyone was lit up in the outdoor area, which reflected on our clothes and hair by the end of the night.

The food, like the decor, patrons, and staff, was beautiful. The menu features an extended fruits de mer section, meat, pasta, and seafood sections.  Chateaubriand for two ($85), and Bouillabaisse for two ($70) are available, as well as a whole fish of the day for sharing. The kitchen was out of many key items like caviar, crepes Suzette, and the above mentioned Bouillabaisse.

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Calamari ($18) was lightly breaded and tender, served with a mixed green salad.

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A selection of blue points, royal miyagi, and malpeques on ice ($2 each)

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Seared tuna ($21) with blistered grape tomatoes was fresh and light.

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Beef tartare ($22), wasn't the usual ground beef, topped with egg. The meat was chopped into larger pieces, served with a tiny quail egg on the side.

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Grilled branzino ($32) with roasted pepper coulis and artichokes.

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Twelve-ounce rib eye steak ($38), served on a bed of blistered grape tomatoes.

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The best part of the meal were the simply gorgeous house-made macarons in strawberry, pineapple, chocolate, and pistachio ($12).

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Location Info

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Villa Azur Restaurant & Lounge

309 23rd St., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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