Pied-à-Terre Restaurant at The Cadet Hotel, South Beach

1701 James Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139


Outstanding menu served in a world apart with all the quaintness of a posh private home












































 by Simone Zarmati Diament

photos: SFG

In 1986, before Miami Beach turned into an Art Deco mecca or was even dubbed South Beach, and when many buildings were derelict and hotels along Ocean Drive were boarded-up,  breast cancer specialist Dr. Vilma Biaggi bought The Cadet Hotel on James Ave.

Built in 1941, it had been requisitioned by the US Air Force Cadets until the end of WWII – hence the name – and its claim to fame was Captain  Clark Gables, you know…  Rhett Butler  in ‘Gone with the Wind’ whose discharge papers were signed by Captain Ronald Reagan (the former Pres).

But construction did not begin until much later.  Not unlike the many unconventional characters that have made Miami a special destination, Dr. Vilma Biaggi wanted it to be a little Taj Mahal where guests could bask in the hedonist pleasures of the beach, the spa, the nightlife of South Beach while enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner in a quaint, luxurious perfectionism.

The Cadet’s guest rooms on the ground floor were turned into an elegant French-style dining room – the Pied à Terre Restaurant, and a Whisky room that would make any British gentleman feel right at home. A parking lot in the back became a magically peaceful  Zen-like Spa with a gurgling pool and the front garden was transformed into a Mediterranean haven shaded by a lush pergola where breakfast is served on hand-embroidered doilies.   Prominently set in the lobby, there’s a shiny baby grand Steinway that Dr. Biaggi, a classically-trained pianist, plays now and then for her guests .

Perfectionism carries through into the kitchen at Pied-à-Terre where a highly-motivated team turns out menus designed by visiting 2 and 3-Michelin Star chefs from France.

Patrick Gruest, the manager and wine director who oversees the food and beverage operation, formerly from  Pascal’s on Ponce, makes sure that the cuisine evolves in the French Contemporary Mediterranean style set by the latest visiting Michelin star chef from Hyères in Provence:  fresh, light and flavorful with a focus on spices, herbs, seasonal products, good olive oil, little or no cream and a minimal use of butter.

His encyclopedic knowledge of wines translates into a huge and unusually well-priced selection from small boutique wineries  that garnered the 2013 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.

I like to think of the Miami Spice dinner menu for $ 39 as one of the best ways to discover the vast menu this little gem of a restaurant has to offer.  Interested in the full menu? Click here 


The actual menu – they change every other week –  begins with Gazpacho of the day with Vegetable Sticks Tempura. The cold liquid salad made with puréed juicy, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, garlic, Espelette pepper and a good, hearty Olive Oil is served with hot crispy vegetable tempura sticks. But you can also request, if it is on the menu, a bowl of silky smooth lobster bisque, fragrant with drops of sherry and flavors of the Mediterranean, did I detect some pastis?

Duck Confit with Lentil Salad. We all know that duck confit is one of the best things in the world. At Pied-à-Terre, it definitely lives up to its reputation, with skin encasing tender meat that pulls away from the bone. In France it is traditional served with potatoes cooked in duck fat, in cassoulet or with a Salade Lyonnaise (with lightly crunchy bacon and poached egg). Here it is served alongside leafy greens and a no less French lentil salad prepared with green Puy lentils cooked to perfection so they retain their bite, with carrot, onion, thyme, bay leaf and a rib or two of celery, then dressed in red wine and Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

And what’s a French restaurant in Miami without a Terrine of Foie Gras (Add $15)? The melt in the mouth richness of Hudson Valley foie gras is paired here with a mango, apricot and grape chutney  and Côteaux du Layon gelée you can actually spread on the toasted brioche.  A treat.


Even though this is the ultimately romantic setting, I recommend that you go with friends because second courses are all so good that you will want to taste each other’s selection.

The Duo de la Mer (Seafood duo), a seared Diver scallop and fillet of Mediterranean Dorade are drizzled with a light saffron sauce and set over a bed of braised spinach.

Both the Magret de Canard – a Muscovy duck breast scored and seared to moist tenderness –served with a rich, earthy mushroom risotto and the  Lamb chops à la Provençale (add $15) served with Eggplant Caviar, Grilled Fennel and Roasted Tomato Provençale are wisely  paired with a hearty Châteauneuf du Pape 2006

Vegetarians can opt for a Vegetable Tart ($19): a parmesan crust heaped with mixed greens dressed in tarragon sour cream, tender yet crunchy steamed asparagus and haricots verts, fresh green peas, all topped with a delicious homemade Green Pea sorbet. Or  the Quinoa Salad  ($16) an intriguing and beautifully presented avocado Dome topped with a cherry tomato, covering a center of  fragrant Peruvian Causa/ Quinoa Tabule drizzled with avocado vinaigrette.

The kitchen at Pied-à-Terre prepares its own ice creams, gelatos and sorbets so you will find dishes like the one described above topped with green pea sorbet, or a Maine lobster salad with avocado, grapefruit and Guacamole sorbet, among others.


But it is with desserts like Mocha Fondant ( Valrhona chocolate) with Caramel Ice Cream or Fruit Sorbet of the day ending the Miami Spice feast that their creativity really shines. If you’re up to something else, such as the abundant assortment of French cheeses tray ($16), the lavender crème brûlée, a pot of delicate creamy richness reminiscent of Provence’s vast lavender fields, under a browned sugar crust, served with a crispy almond tuile, or a deconstructed Vacherin, ask for the dessert list

Pied à Terre Restaurant also offers a 5-course tasting menu ($115) paired with wines (add $65)

An unusually good menu served in a world apart with all the quaint embellishments and exquisite service of a posh private home in the heart of South Beach will definitely beckon you to return for more.


img_1654Pied-à-Terre Restaurant at The Cadet Hotel, South Beach


1701 James Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139

An unusually good menu crafter by Michelin starred French chefs, served in a world apart with all the quaint embellishments and exquisite service of a posh private home in the heart of South Beach will definitely beckon you to return for more.



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