UPLAND UPS THE ANTE
Upland Miami is the second outpost of the Upland restaurant, with the first and original being in New York. The name derives from Upland, California, the town in which partner and executive Chef Justin Smillie was born and raised in. The interior leans into this Cali vibe with rows and rows of bright preserved lemons in jars. The quirky décor choice gives the whole room an uplifting, calming glow— setting guests into the right mood for a night full of impeccable cuisine. The menu reflects Smillie’s upbringing as well, with its Southern California-inspired dishes and flavors.
There’s hardly ever been a time where I dine at a restaurant and think to myself, “Wow, everything sounds amazing,” but that’s exactly what happened when I studied the menu at Upland. With the help of my knowledgeable waiter, I decided to go with two appetizer-type dishes in the section titled “One.” First, the Little Gem Salad arrived with avocado, cucumber, ricotta salata, and walnut vinaigrette all arranged in a pleasing, neat design. Simple, refreshing flavors of healthy greens were balanced out by the creamy avocado, the exciting vinaigrette, and the powerful ricotta—it just melted in my mouth! Next, I was excited to try the Crispy Squash Blossoms. It sounded sunny, festive, and delicious, and when it arrived, I realized that my preconceived notions were delightfully right. An impeccably crispy fried exterior complements the fluffy, soft, and explosive flavor of the interior. Parmesan, soft herbs and lemon make this starter a garden-y, fresh, citrusy experience. It will remind you of spring, and definitely invoke a smillie out of you!
THE GRAND BRANZINO
I took my waiter’s suggestion yet again with the Truffle Fettucine— it arrived smelling heavenly and looking just as irresistible. Shaved black truffles and parmesan covered this buttery fettucine dish, and I didn’t hold back from eating it all! For the last dish of the evening, I went for the Smoked Roast Branzino for Two; perfect since my guest and I are both big fans of fish. The whole branzino was placed on my table, the skin crispy and smoked, topped with lemon, herbs, and fennel leek vinaigrette. At first, we were unsure how to tackle eating the huge fish, but once our stomachs began to rumble, we figured it out. After biting into the crispy, perfectly seasoned skin, it was clear that the flesh falls right off the bone. Definitely the best way I’ve enjoyed branzino in a long, long time. Upland can only continue to go up from here!
49 COLLINS AVE., MIAMI BEACH