I had the great pleasure of dining at Chops Lobster Bar’s sister property Lobster Sea Grille in Miami Beach this past week. I came to Miami for the purpose of building & solidifying new partnerships with restaurants in the Miami market for our new culinary tours and experiences being presented to our cruise line and destination management partners. Exciting stuff going on, I tell ya! Anyway, I had met Dawn Bryan, So Florida Marketing Manager for the Buckhead Restaurant Group, a couple years ago when I was invited for a tasting at Chops Lobster Bar by Chef Sean (who, by the way, creates stunning masterpieces, both visually and in taste).
On this occasion, I was joined by my product development manager, Annette, and Dawn. The place is gorgeous, inside and out. The restaurant occupies the former China Grill spot, for those who need a familiar landmark. Shortly after being shown to our table, Matt approached and asked if it would be ok if he selected the tastings for us for the evening. After confirming we didn’t have any food allergies or specific dislikes, he was given the go-ahead to surprise us. I always enjoy and prefer the tastings to be done this way, actually. To get the evening started, I began with a lovely glass of Cloudy Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which paired exceptionally well with the calamari, tuna tartare and quinoa, and jumbo lump crab cake.
As Miami Spice begins Aug. 1, culinary talk in South Florida will center around “food as art.’’ Nowhere will that concept be more on display than at Canvas, the outstanding restaurant at The Sagamore Hotel on South Beach.
Already acclaimed for the art collection that adorns its walls, The Sagamore should earn equal notoriety during Miami Spice, which runs through Sept. 30, as famed international Chef Michael Smerda brings his progressive cooking style to Canvas.
Set within the hotel’s lobby and its art adorned walls, Smerda’s newly launched menu of multicultural dishes – full of bold and balanced flavors – will be on full display during Miami Spice, which is the ideal time for The Sagamore to show off the renovated Canvas restaurant.
“A large part of my vision was to bring the topic of ‘art’ to the plate, in the way we plate the dishes, the use of colorful ingredients, add fragrance with spices, all interacting with the dish,’’ Smerda told me.
That interaction begins immediately on his four-course Miami Spice menu with a first course of Heirloom Carrots with White Balsamic Ice Cream. That’s correct. Ice cream as a first course. The combination of roasted carrots, carrot gel, sour dough soil, fennel greens, frisee salad and white balsamic ice cream is a piece of art on the plate and a masterpiece of flavors in your mouth.
Undoubtedly it will be one of the more talked-about (and unique) dishes – appetizer or entrée – during Miami Spice. Smerda got the inspiration for the dish from Chef Christian Hümbs, the renowned pastry chef at La Mer, in the Grand Spa Resort A-ROSA in Sylt, Germany.
“He is known for using vegetables as the dessert,’’ Smerda said. “He goes so far that he’ll create the whole meal with his desserts.
“I wanted to create something similar. Call it an ‘Appetizer / Salad / Dessert.’ In a dessert, we are always looking for the perfect combination using different textures, temperatures and a balance between sweet and acidity. Why not in the beginning of a meal? With this dish, I want the guest to experience a carrot salad like they never have before.’’
Smerda’s second course is a tender Atlantic Cod with red and gold beets and caraway oil; the third course is a terrific Wine and Honey Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek, with the fourth course being a chocolate tart surrounded by a banana rum mousse,
“In a perfect scenario, I would hope the guest leaves remembering the entire meal and experience, but I am sure each guest will have their own favorite dish,’’ Smerda said. “It’s just important they leave entertained with a satisfied palette and the urge to return.
“I have the feeling that (Miami Spice) it is a great opportunity for the restaurant to get even more recognition. I don’t want to create a fine dining restaurant or casual dining. Let’s just call it ‘Wellness Dining.’’’
I just call it “delicious.’’
Steve Pike (www.myspiketravel.com) is an award-winning travel and food writer. He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
Come for the mojitos, stay for the food. That’s my advice for guests at the new Mojito Bar restaurant at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla. Renowned Chef Douglas Rodriguez has fused his signature Nuevo Latin Cuisine with the classic Cuban cocktail for a terrific indoor and outdoor dining experience.
Located on the edge of some of Sawgrass Mills’ more popular store, the vibrant and colorful Mojito Bar is an ideal spot for people watching, as well as lunch and dinner.
The experience begins, of course, with the mojitos. Mojito Bar has a deep selection of mojitos, led by the Classic served with DonQ Cristal rum; the robust Coconut mojito features DonQ. Try them each in Mojito Bar’s 24-ounce glass and you might never want to leave. If you’re looking to take the experience up another notch, Mojito Bar serves its namesake cocktails in a souvenir 32-ounce light-up tower glass.
Now on to the food. Start with the Smoked Pineapple Guacamole that has unbelievable flavor thanks mostly to the pineapple that’s smoked for up to eight hours before being served.
“Not your typical guacamole,’’ said Mojito Bar Manager Bar Jose Reigosa.
The Smoked Pineapple Guacamole is just one example of Rodriguez’s menu that also features dishes such as Cuban Sandwich on a Stick, Short Rib Soft Tacos (my favorite), Mojito Shrimp Ceviche and Brazilian Coconut Seafood Casserole.
“Douglas brought us a menu to match who we are,’’ Reigosa said.
It’s a perfect match.
Steve Pike is an award-winning food and travel writer at Spike’s Peek’s: The Art of Travel (www.myspiketravel.com). He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
Today’s feature takes us back down to Miami, to the uber artsy & trendy Wynwood district specifically for a tasting at RUST Wynwood. Founded by Uruguayan owners Juan Ignacio Fraschini and Julio Wolman, RUST Wynwood is located at 2621 NW 2nd Ave., inside the neighborhood gathering hotspot, Wynwood Block. Executive chef Diego Medina serves globally inspired, sharable dishes and pairs them with a unique wine menu that showcases an exceptional list of emerging brands. RUST’s menu features innovative interpretations on traditional cuisine, many of the items are meant for sharing.
My husband and I ventured there to try their Sunday brunch. To get things started we each ordered a cocktail; I ordered the passion fruit sangria and hubby ordered the peach sangria. Lately I seem to be on a passion fruit kick and this one did not disappoint. They (I couldn’t resist having a second one) went down waaaaaaay too smooth. Didn’t realize the potency until later when I got home and had to take a mid day nap, lol!
Julio, one of the aforementioned owners, was sitting at the table beside us and came over to say hello and share with us some info about himself, the restaurant and made some suggestions on what items to try. One of his suggestions was the Provoleta Benedicta which was an eggs benedict with a Uruguayan twist. Quite unique and very tasty!
Whenever I see octopus on the menu I am inclined to order it. That’s a given, just like truffle…you can be assured that if there’s a truffle dish on the menu, I will order that too. The char on this octopus looked perfect and the dish was presented beautifully. Octopus is one of those dishes that you have to be so precise with when it comes to cooking. It can be the most amazing bite ever when prepared right. But when over cooked, it becomes tough and “rubbery”. I had high hopes for this one but unfortunately it was a bit over cooked and fell into the rubbery zone for me.
Julio had also recommended the Chivito Uriguayo which he claimed was one of the most famous sandwiches known all around the world. It consisted of beef tenderloin, ham, mozzarella cheese, bacon, green olives, roasted bell pepper, boiled eggs, alioli, french fries. Well I have to say that this sandwich did live up to the high expectations that had been set after hearing Julio rave about it!
I’ll be honest here. I must have been feeling the sangrias pretty good by this time because when it came time to ordering the mushroom fries, I must not have read the description and had something a bit different in my mind when this plate arrived at our table. For some reason I thought they were going to be like portabella mushrooms that were treated as fries and not actual fries being served in this dish. The truffled gorgonzola sauce was delicious but something about those mushrooms were very unfamiliar to me and a taste that just didn’t resonate with me, I’m afraid.
This was one of my favorite dishes (this and the Provoleta Benedicta). Tartines are basically oversized bruschettas or open faced sandwiches and the toppings are endless. This one, the mahi mahi was nicely seasoned and pan seared to perfection. It came with capers, aioli, sweet tomatoes, arugula and tossed with a complimenting lemon dressing.
RUST: A hidden gem with 120 seats in an ever-expanding area full of street art and fashion; RUST pays its creative tribute with its rustic mix of worn metals, wood, cork and brick textures that adorn the restaurant.
RUST is located at 2621 NW 2nd Ave., inside Wynwood Block open: Mon – Wed 11AM-12AM; Thu – Fri 11AM-2AM; Sat 10AM-2AM & Sun 10AM-12AM
For more info on RUST, visit their website or call (305) 576 6811.