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Chef Julie Franz is no longer at Essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach.IMG 3306

She is replaced by chef Venoy Rogers who is a disciple of the natural, fresh produce and farm-to-table philosophy Chef Franz put in place at Essensia. The restaurant with the charming wrap around terrasse at the beautiful Palms Hotel and Spa Hotel retains the tropical charm and character of luxury constructions of the beginning of the 20th century.  

The Miami Spice menu ($39) which will be offered as of August 1 begins with creative cocktails ($10)  hand-crafted from fresh fruit blended with high-end spirits such as the Black Mamba made with blackberries, lemon, agave nectar and American Prairie Whiskey; the spicy passion fruit margarita with Milagro tequila, Ancho Reyes liqueur, lime, agave nectar, passion fruit and jalapeños; or the Hemingway mojito with Caña Brava Rum, lime, cane syrup, plenty of fresh mint and prosecco.

The Miami Spice menu sizzles with flavors and fresh flavors. At a preview dinner we sampled a choice of three starters beginning a Yelo tomato gazpacho with avocado, basil and cucumber. "That's actually the name of the tomato," said chef Rogers who is very particular about the provenance of his products. "It is a special type of yellow tomato grown in Canada that tastes like a real tomato should taste."   Then come two salads: a spinach and grilled watermelon salad with cucumber, mint and local goat cheese drizzled with lemon tarragon vinaigrette; and a "megene" salad, slices of sweet potato layered with an edge of sharp Maytag blue cheese softened with slivered tomato, sweet red grapes and livened by a Champagne poppy seed vinaigrette.

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For mains there's a vegan splurge: a grilled cauliflower "steak" over sweet potato fettucine, yellow bell pepper purée, with a kick of garlicky chimichurri. The Florida citrus brined natural chicken is juicy, plump and flavored with citrus and fennel and accompanied with grilled onions, roasted pee wee potatoes and wilted arugula. Then comes a hearty Florida-raised Angus beef short ribs richly braised in red wine and set over soft yellow corn polenta hemmed with sweet confit baby carrots; or a choice of saffron-poached flaky black grouper with seared Brussels sprout leaves, a zesty Spanish chorizo studded farro and squid  aioli.

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There's a choice of three desserts, quite different from the sweets fare one expects from hotel restaurants. Dolce de Abacate: a coconut sponge cake with sweet avocado cream and candied green mango; chocolate "bar" with rich dark chocolate covered with a raspberry glaze and toffee popcorn; passion fruit cheesecake with mango, passion fruit gel and cinnamon Graham crumb. 

Essensia, 3900 Collins Avenue inside the Palms Hotel & Spa Hotel. 305-908-5458www.essensiarestaurant.com

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