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Lounging in South Beach

Baraka, Chez Papa, and Chez Maman welcomed a new sister restaurant in October 2006 when the exotic French-Asian restaurant-lounge Sutra opened in the space that was once La Suite (and Slanted Door before that). Sutra is a decidedly different endeavor for Jocelyn Bulow, and after a somewhat rocky start with chef switches and name changes, Sutra has emerged with seductive décor and a menu that offers a bit of something for everyone.

Arriving through the tomato-red doors on a Wednesday night, we noticed that there were only a handful of people at the bar and throughout the restaurant. Our hostess led us through the lounge, past plush banquettes, low-lying tables and chocolate-brown sofas to the elegant dining room with teardrop chandeliers and dark polished wood tables. Upon being seated, we received three menus each -- a double-sided cocktail and drink list, a menu with sushi on one side and sake on the other, and (finally) the dinner menu. With all of this reading material, it took us awhile to narrow our selections.

Japan-native, chef Yo Matsuzaki, most recently from Ozumo and kitchens such as Farallon, Rubicon, and Nobu in New York before that, shows his range in the extensive menu. That he replaced chef Mike Yakura at the start of the new year and that chef Yakura recently took Matsuzaki's post at Ozumo is simply interesting trivia that does nothing to diminish the quality preparations and dishes that were set on our table.

Not without difficulty, we settled on three small plates, two entrees, a side, and dessert. First out was the ahi tuna tataki ($12), with six thinly sliced medallions of seared ahi under a bed of a soy onion vinaigrette relish with micro shiso and kaiware for hints of green. Next came the trio de carpaccio ($11) -- sea scallop, Atlantic salmon, and Kobe beef drizzled with ginger, scallions, citrus soy and hot sesame oil. We agreed that the salmon was the runaway winner, as the beef was sliced way too thick to be a delicate carpaccio.

The last of our small plates, and one that's quickly becoming a signature item, is the Dungeness crab wontons ($9). Golden fried triangles bursting with crab, potato and cilantro, with a side of miso aioli for dipping, were a nice balance thanks to the crispy wonton wrapper and soft meaty filling.

One of the few items that link Sutra to Bulow's other restaurants is the steak and frites ($22). Even this classic French dish has an Asian flair, as the Kobe-style flat loin was marinated in a traditional kalbi marinade of garlic, ginger, scallions, sugar and soy. On the lighter side, the classic Japanese-influence miso-marinated black cod ($18) is quick to remind you that this restaurant is not like any other in the Maktub Group. The fish, which melts in your mouth like butter, rests on a bed of grilled eggplant with a sweet miso sauce topped with crispy fried onions. Since portions are on the small side, we had room for a dish of sweet, garlicky Chinese long beans ($8) that were a nice change from the traditional spicy green beans found elsewhere.

We polished things off with a roasted apple tart ($7). A single scoop of walnut ice cream added a decadent, velvety touch while a handful of candied walnuts provided the right amount of crunch.

This South Beach newcomer features a global wine list, about a dozen different bottles of Champagne, and various cocktails such as the lemongrass drop, Shanghai sidecar, and lychee sake. With a full bar, loungey vibe, DJs on the weekend, and late-night hours this restaurant-lounge makes for a good date spot or an ideal destination for a large group.

French-Asian Fusion
South Beach