TB_Azul_Clay-.jpgWhile in Miami last week for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, I slipped across the causeway for a sampling of the creative cuisine of Clay Conley (a Todd English protégé) at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Fine dining with service the way it should be – there when you need it, but not hovering.

Don’t let his boyish charm fool you, Clay Conley’s mature talent comes through in each of his unpretentious dishes where he adds an Asian twist to Mediterranean flavors.

Two of my favorite combinations included a delicate braised veal shank ravioli with caramelized onions, Parmesan cheese and black truffle butter. I opted to top it with shavedTB_Azul_veal.jpg truffles. Truly ethereal. $21, with a $15 supplement for the addition of the truffles. (Served with Philippe Colin ’04 Premier Cru, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes)

TB_Azul_scallop.jpgThe other was a delicately seared Nantucket bay scallops in a hazelnut infused butternut squash soup, topped with ginger foam. $22. (Served with Luigi Ferrando, Nebbiolo, Carema, Piedmont, Italy 2003)

Sommelier Cynthia Betancourt perfectly matched those listed wines to each course. Interestingly, the first woman sommelier I had met — Annie Turso — was on the opening team of Asiate at the New York City Mandarin Oriental. She’s now at Thomas Keller’s Per Se (NYC).

Next time you’re in Miami, don’t miss Azul — especially if you’re on an expense account.

Azul in the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, 500 Brickell Key Drive; 305. 913.8254

Azul on Urbanspoon