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"Without the freedom to criticize, there is no worthy praise." Beaumarchais

Essensia,
The Palms Hotel & Spa
Miami Beach
**


Address: 3025 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, www.thepalmshotel.com
Phone: 305.908.5458.
Hours:   open daily  for breakfast, 6:30am to 11:00am;  lunch, 11 a.m. to 3:00pm.; and dinner  6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and till 11 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays.
Valet Parking:  Complimentary
Liquor: Full bar, cocktails 
Wines: A varied list of 100% Sustainable, Organic & Biodynamic Wines
Cuisine:  Healthful, vibrant Mediterranean and spa dining
Prices for dinner: Appetizers $10-$15; entrees $12-$28; desserts $8- $12
Service: Friendly and eager
Ambiance: tranquil and casual,
Cards: All major

 



food

 


Essensia at the Palms Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach
**

Essensia is a calming antidote to today’s stress, 
a place where you can have
a delicious meal prepared with wholesome, healthful
seasonal and organic ingredients,  at a reasonable price. 
The charming architectural details, the palms trees, the curtains, the wood and the soothing setting work in harmony with Chef Frank Jeannetti’s emphatically market driven menu with dishes meticulously conceived and plated.

by Simone Zarmati Diament

 

The gleaming old Mexican tiles in the lobby of the boutique Palms Hotel & Spa evoke other eras, oblivious of the turmoil raging in the world at the onset of WWII, circa 1939, when the beach front property was built.

The landmark beachfront hotel, a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of South Beach, today still retains the serenity of an oasis after - and perhaps because - The Krause family who also owns the National Hotel in South Beach  has recently completed a $20 million renovation of the property including the addition of the luxury Aveda Spa and  of the natural gourmet restaurant and lounge, Essensia.

Whether it is the jazzy Essensia lounge bar, the elegant 65-seats indoor soft-lit white-table-cloth restaurant or the more casual 120-seats outdoor dining terrace - a curved veranda with dark wooden floors, billowing white curtains and well-spaced tables under the lazy spin of ceiling fans, overlooking  the lush foliage and the pool beyond which lay the beach and the infinite blue of the sea - Essensia, more Key West and Caribbean than Miami Beach, rather than being imposing is a calming antidote to today’s stress as well a place where you can have a delicious meal at a reasonable price.  

The charming architectural details, the palms trees, the curtains, the wood and the soothing setting work in harmony with Chef Frank Jeannetti’s emphatically market driven menu with dishes meticulously conceived and plated.

Chef Frank Jeannetti – formerly of The Biltmore, Pacific Time, Nemo, and Pearl –  and sous chef Vince Bienich have created dishes prepared with sustainable seafood, hormone-free meats, detoxifying ingredients and organically grown products for which they have established relationships with local South Florida purveyors, such as Paradise Farms and Triggerfish, “that allow us to have fresh and seasonal ingredients at our fingertips,” says Chef Jeannetti  

The wine list is stocked with a fine selection of sustainable, organic & biodynamic wines at reasonable prices. Our choice; a McMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2007 from Sonoma Country ($53) - also sold by the glass - paired nicely with every dish, starting with the amuse-bouche of Scottish smoked salmon wrapped around a crunchy pea shoot sprout with wasabi mayonnaise topped with black Tobiko caviar, and with the outstanding basked of organic breads and the delicious freshly made house dips: white bean hummus, spinach and asparagus and a spicy eggplant puree that our eager waiter described as eggplant ganache.

Salads
Salads are one of the raison d’être of the restaurant. They are packed with perfectly balanced luscious flavors like those in Essensia Vital Salad: a plateful of Paradise Farms organic baby greens, slices of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, crunchy yellow pea shoot sprouts and toasted slivered almonds, sweet black mission figs tempered by the citrusy fragrance of mandarin orange segments, all drizzled with a tasty organic extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic syrup. 
As satisfying, the hydroponic arugula salad with roasted red beets, candied walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette is a masterpiece of tastes and textures. The seedless watermelon and feta cheese salad with organic arugula, toasted pepitas and lemon basil vinaigrette is a nice contrast of textures and flavors, refreshing in concept and taste. The only dud – and this was probably a fluke - was the Maine lobster Cobb salad. Attractively described as “deconstructed” salad, it was disappointing: from the unripe avocado and the mushy lobster chunks to the mealy heirloom tomatoes.
This is a serious restaurant though. Hit the strong spots and you will have a fabulous experience.

Appetizers
Like the not-to-be-missed Steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with Moroccan harissa sauce.  The plump mussels packed in a large bowl are served in a sauce fragrant with chili peppers, garlic, coriander and cumin and just spicy enough to be intense and intriguing with a wine broth of tomatoes concassé and roasted garlic great for bread sopping. A stand out to come back for again and again.
Among the appetizers there’s pan-roasted seafood cake with citrus cabbage slaw, sweet red pepper relish and lemon caper aioli; a Waguy beef carpaccio, a curry spice duck confit with sweet corn purée and pear-black currant chutney and an enticing and plentiful  Ahi Tuna (2 ways):  Tuna carpaccio with pickled cucumber and truffle wasabi  vinaigrette next to Chili spiced tuna tartare, diced avocados, chive oil and lotus root chips.

Entrees
Pastas are outstanding. Healthy portions - in size and content - are beautifully served such as the Orecchiette vegetarian pasta which unleash with each mouthful the rich combined flavors of earthy wild mushroom, sundried tomatoes, tangy ratatouille and grated Pecorino cheese.   A large bowl of Maine lobster risotto is superbly-executed with al dente rice, wilted spinach, wild mushroom and chunks of sweet, delicious grilled lobster, all drizzled with truffle essence and topped with a whole baby carrot, greens still attached.
Every fish dish on the menu is heavenly paired with its sides – which are never repeated,  and there’s hardly a false step in any of the creations ranging from the Celery-dusted Maine diver scallops with saffron parsnip puree, sautéed Brussels sprout leaves and organic tomato confit to the Tuna au Poivre with chick-pea stir frey, broccoli rabe and ginger ponzu.
The succulent, delicate Florida yellowtail snapper is visually striking. Dramatically set over a sweet Thai curry sauce drizzled with a tart tomato oil, it is accompanied by a volcano-like timbale of black Thai sticky rice and topped with steamed baby bok choy  The menu continues with a sweet-fleshed pan-roast halibut over a bed of fingerling potatoes, braised fennel, French green beans and tarragon wine sauce and a Tandoori-seared wild salmon with sautéed lentils, fire-roasted vegetables, baby spinach and purple basil essence.
Wholesome healthful ingredients are the basis of the cuisine at Essensia. Entrees from the land include Free-range boneless chicken breast with sweet potato cashew salad, sugar snap peas and sun-dried apricots. Of course there’s Angus beef tenderloin. This one is pepper-crusted and comes with root vegetable hash browns, grilled pencil asparagus and Portobello mushrooms with Port wine sauce.
Melt-in-your-mouth Coffee-lacquered braised beef short ribs are served with whipped Yukon gold potatoes, maple glazed baby carrot and reduced natural juices and the Grilled sweet chili glazed lollipop pork chop with boniato puree and Granny Smith apple-golden raisin relish.

Desserts  
And if you have any room left for dessert, don’t miss on the deliciously creamy orange hazelnut cheesecake topped with a croquant and surrounded with a moat of orange confit, or the homemade sorbets –fig, blood orange and chocolate chip ice cream -  by pastry chef Gail Goetsch, an alumni of pastry chef Hedi Goldsmith. The menu lists pomegranate parfait – appealing in name but bland in execution, coconut tapioca soup with mango sorbet and coconut twigs and a tower of bittersweet chocolate with raspberry milkshake.                         
In early 2010, Chef Jeannetti will launch a Sunday Brunch and on Tuesday and Friday a specialty menu called Jeannetti’s Indulgent Journeys: Culinary Creations from Farm to Table, aimed at South Florida foodies who appreciate high quality dining in an unpretentious setting. The 4-course menus will pair Paradise Farms’ best produce with fresh and/or locally sourced poultry, meat or fish.     
At Essencia, Chef Jeannetti puts his philosophy in his dishes and the result is, as he well puts it: “to provide patrons with a rare opportunity to slow down and indulge in a dining experience carefully crafted for the mind, body, and soul.”

 

 

 

To submit information and tips for this column, please e-mail to: editor@southfloridagourmet.com
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