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Food

Coral Gables’ only waterfront restaurant is finally reopening. Here’s how to get a table.

 

One of Coral Gables’ most storied, scenic and romantic waterfront restaurants is ready to reopen.

Red Fish in Coral Gables’ Matheson Hammock Park will reopen on June 23 after more than a year of renovations. The restaurant, which has been closed since Hurricane Irma damaged it in 2017, begins taking reservations today.

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Adrianne Calvo, known for her Kendall spot Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar, signed on to take over Coral Gables’ only waterfront restaurant as chef and partner.

“You can see the most amazing sunset vistas. They’re unparalleled,” Calvo said.

Originally opened as Red Fish Grill in 1996, the restaurant completes a long road back from a history of clashes with Mother Nature.

Chef Adrianne Calvo was chosen as the restaurateur and chef to reopen Red Fish, where the inside dining room and outside seating areas were completely overhauled. Danilo Gonzalez Handout

Hidden deep inside the bayside county park and twice shuttered by hurricanes, Red Fish’s mostly outdoor dining gives wide views of downtown and Biscayne Bay. It was a restaurant for memorable special occasions.

Over the years, diners forgave its forgettable food, stifling inside seating and valets who regularly had to roll up their pants to retrieve cars as the low-lying restaurant’s parking lot flooded.

The restaurant was originally set to open in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew pushed back the opening four years. And a caved-in drain pipe later made the restaurant’s parking lot a perpetual high-tide flood zone.

Red Fish’s main feature is its outdoor seating overlooking Biscayne Bay. These cabanas are part of the ocean-front appeal. Handout

Still, it became a South Florida favorite for more than 20 years.

Now, Calvo said, none of those things will be a problem.

The Barreto Group, which took over the property’s lease in February 2019, partnered with Calvo to be the new chef. The restaurant has been renovated from the ground up, from a state-of-the-art kitchen and air-conditioning system to a multimillion-dollar municipal investment to resolve flooding across the park. The restaurant now has covered areas, an observation deck that Calvo said will one day be a rooftop bar and slips where diners can arrive by boat.

Outdoor dining has become important for restaurants trying to create areas that are less of a risk for contracting coronavirus than indoor seating, which CDC studies showed put diners at a higher risk for infection. The restaurant will have at least 60 outdoor seats with a smaller dining room that held about 40 before safety guidelines restricted it to no more than 20.

Red Fish’s scenic view of Biscayne Bay and its outdoor dining play an important role in the restaurant’s identity and safety during the coronavirus outbreak. Handout

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“People are looking for outdoor dining and that is exactly what Red Fish is,” Calvo said over the phone, standing on the sand at the restaurant’s edge. “It doesn’t get more al fresco and waterfront than this. A little more and you’re on the water.”

Calvo has rethought the menu for what she’s calling a classic American fish house.

Ahi tuna sashimi with chipotle aioli and avocado cream is one of the dishes from the tuna and oyster raw bar at the new Red Fish restaurant. Handout

Appetizers include fried garlic and sofrito little neck clams, Pacific grilled sardines in salsa verde, mussels Parisienne and a raw tuna and oyster bar. Mains range from a take on fish and chips with grouper and caviar fries, brown butter almond-crusted scallops, and whole fried snapper. Prices range from $16-$24 for appetizers, $35-$45 for most entrees.

The restaurant was set to open in March before the pandemic shuttered dining rooms. But even then, it was months behind schedule as the old building, originally built in 1930 as a bathhouse at the county’s oldest park, sustained constant buffeting from storms and surf. Hurricane Irma in 2017 submerged it under five feet of water.

Still, it was the jewel of the park, built on land donated by the Matheson family, the end point for hiking trails and a natural atoll that refills with ocean water and sea life at high tide.

Red Fish

9610 Old Cutler Rd., Coral Gables. 305-668-8788. RedFishMiami.com

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