Vacationing in South Beach
Every year, for the past twenty years (with time off for the pandemic), we’ve been lucky enough to get a few days' respite from New York’s winter weather to vacation in South Beach in Miami, Florida.
It’s a very low-key vacation. My husband and I do a lot of walking, lying by the pool, visiting art galleries, and going to the beach.
Then there are the meals. I’ve put myself in charge of where we eat dinner. I take great pleasure in researching new and trendy restaurants in the area and checking to see if our old favorites are still around.
For this year’s vacation, I chose 5 restaurants, 4 of them new and 1 that we had been to twice before. All of them are quite distinct and highly rated. No two feature the same cuisine. Here are the highs and lows:
Sweet Liberty - Of the 5, this restaurant was the most casual. It is more like a sophisticated cocktail bar with snack food, except that the snack food is prepared by Michele Bernstein, a renowned chef, whose cooking we’ve enjoyed before in her other restaurants. My main course of lobster ‘mac and cheese’ was so good! I love mac and cheese, in general, and adding lobster nuggets made it even better - like luxurious comfort food.
The Bazaar - This is Jose Andres’ restaurant. He’s a much-admired chef known for his humanitarian actions around the world, feeding people in the wake of disasters.
The menu, which is made for sharing, features both traditional, elevated Spanish dishes and a modern take on Spanish cuisine that uses molecular gastronomy, which Andres learned when he apprenticed with Ferrán Adriá for 3 years at the famous Spanish restaurant El Bulli. We have eaten here twice before. Unfortunately, the waiter informed us that, after ten years, this restaurant will close for good next month.
For an appetizer, we ordered Ferrán Adriá’s Modern and Traditional Olive. The traditional Spanish part was a small can with 4 giant green olives stuffed with a mixture of anchovy and piquillo peppers. They were in a can to symbolize the fact that canned food originated in Spain in 1880. The modern take was represented by spoons with domes of olive liquid. I loved the traditional olives. The filling was salty, spicy, and tangy. As for the olive liquid, I did not care for it at all. Eating it felt like swallowing water into which someone pulverized a small amount of olives.
One of our shared desserts was a deconstructed key lime pie. And although it looked beautiful on the plate, there didn’t seem to be enough key lime taste to it. Mostly it tasted of cream. And instead of a crust, there were some brown crumbs on the plate. As a result, I concluded that I’m not a fan of molecular gastronomy.
Blue Ribbon Sushi - This restaurant is located in a courtyard by a swimming pool in the recently renovated Plymouth hotel. We began the meal with a light, refreshing, fresh hearts of palm and Japanese peaches salad dressed with a yuzu honey vinaigrette. I followed that with a salmon and salmon roe roll. A light, delicious dinner.
It was hard to resist the extensive dessert menu. We decided on a chocolate mousse cake with green tea ice cream and a key lime/yuzu pie with an Oreo crust and vanilla ice cream. We agreed that both desserts were excellent.
Osteria Morini - This is a Northern Italian restaurant. We both chose to have pasta for dinner. Mine was Sardinian (mini) gnocchi with black kale pesto, tomato conserva, and smoked ricotta salata. It was superb - a wonderful mix of intense flavor sensations. My husband’s pasta was rigatoni with wild mushroom ragu, and black truffle moliterno cheese. I tasted some and found it to be complex, flavorful, earthy and just as delicious as my pasta.
Joliet - This is a Southern restaurant, specializing in the cuisine of New Orleans. It’s only been open for two months, but is wildly popular. Although I normally avoid fried foods, and the menu had few things that were not deep-fried, I decided it would be interesting to partake of this cuisine with which I was not familiar. So, I ordered the cornmeal-crusted Florida yellowtail with hushpuppies, chow chow pickles, and a New Orleans hot sauce. Big mistake. Even though the fish proved to be very tasty after I removed the thick fried crust, there was not much left to the hushpuppies when I tried to do the same: they were almost all crust with little inside. Moreover, the chow chow pickles proved to be too spicy for my palate, as was the sauce.
By then, my mouth was on fire and I was hoping they had a cooling dessert (There was no dessert menu online.) The waiter recited three selections, but all had bananas or alcohol, two things I generally avoid in desserts. Luckily, there was a Haagen Dazs nearby.
Full disclosure: my husband, who ordered the same entree, loved it and ate every bit.
I hope we find ourselves in Miami again next winter. I look forward to exploring more new restaurants and revisiting others.