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Florida Cookery Patio at the James Royal Palm Hotel, South Beach

1545 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 786.276.0333 www.florida-cookery.com


 
 
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By Simone Zarmati Diament

photos: Simone Z. Diament

The James Royal Palm’s Florida Cookery is named after a 1940s-era Junior League cookbook that Florida-born Chef Kris Wessel – a James Beard Award nominee − found in his grandmother's kitchen.  This is not to say that you will find his granny’s fare on your table.  But perhaps, in a way, yes.  The chef, whose roots span several generations of Floridians, aims to deliver a regional experience with a farm-to-table menu and “local products that we source from a radius of 20 miles around the restaurant,” assured us Anthony Evangelista, Director of Food & Beverage.

At a recent lunch at the casual poolside Florida Cookery Patio, where the restaurant has migrated for the summer, the menu is prepared by executive chef Nolan Narut, and reflects a multi-national, multi-regional approach, in essence, the melting pot that Miami represents.

It is accessed through the funky hotel lobby and is an outdoors outfit with a covered area. Inside the sparse décor is Scandinavian in style with blond woods and straight lines, including funky geometric designs on the tables. Outside, it is pure Miami with tables and chaises under umbrellas and palm trees.  We ate inside because the sun was hitting hard when we arrived. The only relief from the heat was provided by two side fans. But I can certainly imagine how pleasant it must be at night, under the moon light, with a soft breeze coming from the beach across the hedge.

A great place to sip cocktails ($14 each or $75 for a large pitcher. Take advantage of the summer long special: 50% off all beer, cocktails, and wines, all week, from 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM until August 31, 2013) like the freshly muddled berry mojitos, the orange-accented Floridian; the Lopez batida with cachaça and coco Lopez; the Biscayne with vodka, prosecco, Patron citronge, strawberries and basil; or enjoy a cold beer or that great quaffing drink, Michelada,  like the clàsica with tecate, lime, cholula and salt, the Cubana with tecate, lime, maggi, clamato,  cholula and salt or the Loca with lime,soy, chipotle and modelo negra (all $ 7). The wine list is short but well-chosen with a good by-the-glass offering.

Sides ($7 for one and $17 for three) like conch fritters, white cheddar grit cake and purple and gold papas are definitely worth a try and can be ordered with cocktails or drinks.

The menu, with an emphasis on the fresh and local, sets itself apart from the options other South Beach restaurants have to offer these days, with a couple of exceptions.  It is divided into “Cookery Begins”, “Cookery Salads,”  “Hand Held Cookery” or sandwiches; “Serious Cookery” or main dishes and “Sweet Cookery” for dessert. Light enough for bikini-clad nymphs; each dish is abundant enough for the hungry sports fans.

The lunch menu is shorter but doesn’t sway far from the dinner menu, except for a few items served at dinner only like Sunshine State frog legs, a West Indies stir-fry with orange-almond cress ($17); Foie gras and tropical toast ($18); a toasted cumin and coriander rubbed South American Cowboy Steak in Jerez demi-glace and served with grilled onions, peppers and tomatoes  ($42) or duck confit exotic cheese broil with exploding duck egg, guava and rosemary toast ($17).

Both lunch and dinner menus will serve deliciously prepared local fresh fish from the “serious cookery” section. The Florida Fish plate that day was a melt-in-the-mouth tempura fried snapper, moist and sea-tasting over a medley of delicious Peruvian and Yukon gold papas and arugula and fennel salad, most satisfying – a dish I would definitely go back for. The Creole mahi mahi ($29 for both lunch and dinner) pan-braised with curry, peppers and fresh tomatoes was no less delicious and fresh even though I could do without the bed of pigeon pea rice which I gladly put aside for more interesting sides.

Other  entrées list Vaca frita la ternera – crispy veal, Key limes,  onions and thyme demi-glace ($25) ; pollo la brasa – chicken marinated in hucatey and ajî panca, slowly roasted and served with crispy and puffy purple and gold papas. To make you feel like a Conquistador, or a Cracker, there’s Sapodilla glazed n’ grilled boar chops – provenance: the Pan Handle. Did you know there is boar hunting in Central Florida? – with ginger baby carrots and tortilla española.

The “Cookery Begins,”  soups and appetizers ($12 to $15)  are practically the same for lunch and dinner, from the chilled soup of the day ($12) – that day it was a soup for the brave; too sweet and very hot from an abundance of chiles in a freshly-made mango pineapple gazpacho; conch chowder – an old Florida Cookery recipe dating 1948 with fried conch churros; a refreshing ceviche; three empanadas – one of each with oxtail, oysters and alligator; Kris’s tangy hot BBQ shrimp glistening with sauce that you can sop with slices of toasted baguette and Guanabana-glazed sticky ribs, a huge plate of ribs with green papaya slaw.

Salads ($12 - $14,) are creative and fresh.   Add grilled chicken, shrimp or sautéed fish ($6 to $8) and you will make a complete meal of “Royal” hearts of palm carpaccio;  Roasted garlic and lemon drenched Romaine - chef’s take on the Caesar with a parmesan and green olive tapenade toast; Mediterranean chopped salad with feta cheese and chickpeas and a Hot broiled goat cheese and Heirloom tomatoes over arugula.

For lunch, hefty “hand-held cookery” items ($12 to $18) or sandwiches such as veggie dream burgers with goat cheese and grilled tomatoes; lime-grilled chicken with avocado, fennel and arugula and provolone cheese; Jamaican chicken roti; Guava and smoked pork sliders, Sautéed fish and the famed “Lee Schrager” burger – a huge grilled meat patty with Vidalia onions, fontina, blue, white cheddar or goat cheese, all come with a choice of fries, papaya slaw or quinoa salad.

Desserts

They all follow the Florida Cookery trend with unexpected blends of Americana and Latin Americana.

Our waiter strongly recommended the Boca Negra Bourbon Chocolate cake. Whether it is named after the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, or after Carlos Bocanegra, the American soccer player, or simply refers to the dark, dark chocolate of this nearly flourless cake – a recipe beloved by Julia Child, this Boca Negra comes with Florida strawberries and macadamia nut ice cream.  Then there’s a Puerto Rican Pineapple Rum Cake with coconut ice cream and Dulce de Leche “Hot” rice custard with banana anglaise and Brazil nut biscotti. The Old Miami Beach Key Lime Pie with torched meringue sounded as plain or tart as its title, no surprises there.

But I didn’t order any of those. It was too hot, we had eaten two delicious fish dishes and a couple of good sides and so it was just good, freshly-made ice cream and sorbets which I can recommend.

 

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Florida Cookery Patio at the James Royal Palm Hotel

1545 Collins Avenue,Miami Beach, Florida 33139  786.276.0333 info@florida-cookery.com

 Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon–Thurs: 8am–11pm and Fri–Sun: 8am–Midnight, Sunday Brunch from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM (Complimentary Glass of wine With Your Meal till August 19, 2013)

Valet Parking: $20

 

 

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