When we hear the name Jose Mendin, we immediately think of Pubbelly. Over the years, the beloved brand has taken over the city’s food scene and it shows no signs of stopping. In fact, Pubbelly just opened two new locations of its popular offshoot Pubbelly Sushi — one in Dadeland and the other in Aventura Mall.
While the Pubbelly brand has been busy expanding its reach, Chef Mendin has been busy at Habitat. The restaurant, which replaces Beachcraft at 1 Hotel South Beach, is an exquisite showcase for Mendin’s creative culinary chops. Unlike its now-shuttered predecessor, you’ll find style AND substance here.
Sharing is encouraged at Habitat, whose influences lean Spanish. If the Fifth Element-esque logo didn’t give it away, the elements — fire, air, earth and water — also play a big role in the menu. Sections include Land, Sea and Fire, and each section is full of options for hungry diners. The bites are substantial, too: Items like the Hamachi Aguachiles and the Wagyu Milanesa Carpaccio are packed with flavor and the perfect size for splitting.
For most of the night, we stuck with seafood. The aforementioned aguachiles were a highlight as was the Cobia Sashimi; the latter came with a layer of salty foam that mixed nicely with the fish. Once we finished eating it, we debated putting in another order — it was that good. The Yellowtail Snapper “Chicharron” is a dish that turns heads. When it was walked over to the table, guests couldn’t stop looking. Can you blame them, though? Look at the photo. If you want a fun take on regular chicharron, definitely check it out.
We were also impressed by simple dishes like the Habitat Caprese. At first glance, there’s not much complexity to it, but IT’S SO GOOD. The mozzarella spheres are addicting; one bite and we were sold. Same for the Burrata. Seriously, the cheese here is spectacular. As for our entree, we got a Branzino, which is served whole. The crispy skin and succulent protein comes with a spicy sauce and a bittersweet one on the side; you can’t go wrong with either. When it comes to sides, get the Broccoli Rabe and Maitake Mushrooms — trust us.
Should you have room for dessert (unlikely), reward yourself with the Ningyo Yaki. The apple pie balls explode in your mouth, and the progression of flavor takes your palate on a joyride. Prefer something more traditional? Habitat’s take on Chocolate S’mores is a solid choice as well. Again, there are no wrong choices here.
Going into this dinner, we didn’t know what to expect. Our experiences at Pubbelly restaurants have always been great, but we were curious to see what this non-Pubbelly-branded concept was all about. In the end, it was another quality experience and one that we wouldn’t mind revisiting over and over again.