If you ever had a yen to step back in time and spend a few rarefied hours in a 1940s-era supper club, Queen is your place. Restaurateur Mathieu Massa had the inspiration to open his latest endeavor in an actual theater: the historic Paris Theater in South Beach, where you enter via a lobby adorned by plaques and film posters that immediately tell you where you are: the movie hall that premiered with Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion.
That was back when the venue was called the Variety Theater; it was renamed as the Paris in 1961. (You’ll also see poster art from Vertigo, To Catch a Thief and Sunset Boulevard.) The building carries a true piece of Miami Beach’s architectural legacy. It was conceived by Henry Hohauser, a prolific and revered art deco craftsman who built more than 300 homes, apartment buildings, hotels, stores, restaurants and theaters.
Massa, who knows a little something about movie culture—he was born in Cannes, site of the famed international film festival—was not the first person to employ the site’s vast possibilities. The Paris Theater (where a stage, a mezzanine and box seats set under Roman Colosseum-style arches remain), has appeared in music videos and on album covers, courtesy of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.
“Being in the Miami market for over 15 years, and witnessing the city’s rapid growth, I saw an opportunity with the historic Paris Theatre to create an uber-luxurious, selective, one-of-a-kind fine dining and nightlife destination,” says Massa, who is also the CEO and restaurateur behind Marion Miami and El Tucán, both in Brickell. “Our goal will be to create the most beautiful, interesting, diverse, and fun mix of people possible, on any given night.”
Accordingly, every detail is designed to excite: The sense of arrival is heightened by a winding corridor, the curving walls clad in vertical wooden slats, where you are guided by indirect lighting—footlights, really—that lead you to a commanding dining room of plush banquettes and romantic tables. Carlos Rodriguez of ModPlay Studio transformed the interiors; the renovation cost $40 million. The lighting is nearly as edible as the menu.
It’s not easy to direct attention away from the lavish interior design and the beautiful-people crowd, but chef Julien Jouhannaud, with his Japanese-inflected menu, is more than up to the task. The culinary director of Massa’s company, Mr. Hospitality, has overseen several Michelin-starred eateries; Alain Ducasse’s restaurants—Adour in New York and Washington, D.C.—are well-represented on his resume.
Several dishes seem inspired by midcentury haute cuisine, such as the lobster Thermidor, which is served inside a split shell under a crispy pecorino skin. You can opt for either a half or whole order; the latter is perfect for sharing. You can taste the subtle traces of cognac and truffle. The Robata duck “a la orange” also carries a whiff of midcentury gastronomy. For dessert, the baked Alaska likewise delivers
echoes of the World War 2 period, and is presented, dramatically, with the traditional Italian meringue lit aflame.
Some of the most satisfying menu items feature unfussy presentations—and brilliant flavors. A pair of raw preparations—the tuna pizzetta (adorned with watermelon radish, serrano pepper and truffle) and the carpaccio surf n’ turf (thin slices of beef and king crab, dressed with crème fraîche and caviar) are so good that you’ll feel nostalgic immediately after the sensory experience of your first bite. The steamed sugar snap peas make a bright complement to whichever direction you go on the menu.
Queen also offers an ample sashimi and sushi menu, from maguro to shima aji (striped jack), a raw bar (from oysters and bigeye tuna tartare to caviar with blinis, chive, eggs, yuzu crème fraîche) and Japanese Wagyu beef (as well as USDA) selections. You can even enjoy a Wagyu roll: the tender beef is complemented by truffle sauce, onion confit and takuan, a pickled preparation of daikon radish. Steak eaters will delight in the 6-ounce Wagyu filet served in a delectable truffle sancho au poivre sauce.
As the experience at Queen suggests, Massa’s ambitions are boundless. His theatrical endeavor has raised the bar so high that both Marion and El Tucán will undergo total renovations by the end of the year. For this impresario, there’s always another opening, another show