The month of August is just around the corner, and that means that South Florida’s foodies are all eagerly anticipating Miami’s restaurant month, Miami Spice. Starting in the month of August, a wide array of Miami’s top restaurants will be offering three-course prix fixe menus at a promotional price - $25 for lunch and $35 for dinner – kind of as a way to draw us locals to haute cuisine restaurants we wouldn’t regularly attend and, in turn, make us regular patrons. Considering that this promotion enables diners to dine at a fraction of the price that it normally costs to enjoy many of these restaurants, it is no wonder that Miami Spice has become wildly popular. Consequently, the event has been extended an extra month and now spans from August through the end of September. As an added treat this year, diners will be able to experience the eclectic and sumptuous dining options that The Fontainebleau Hotel has to offer.
I had not been to The Fontainebleau Hotel since quite some time before they remodeled, and upon first stepping into the lobby, I was very impressed at how the new design elements melded seamlessly with the original Morris Lapidus marble floors, columns, and chandeliers. It is as if the designers gave the lobby a face lift to bring it forward to our contemporary standards without transforming it, altogether. What is really striking, however, is the hotel's ability to incorporate an extravagant aesthetic throughout, while at the same time remaining tasteful. Additionally, The Fontainebleau has shed its mid-century stuffiness and embraced a more relaxed mentality. The overall effect is one in which you feel welcomed and relaxed amid unsurpassable luxury and are barraged by stunning sensory delights at every turn. Naturally, the whole experience is enhanced by the Fontainebleau's signature service, which ensures that no need goes unmet and no desire goes unfulfilled. This approach to hospitality could be best experienced at any of The Fontainebleau’s dining establishments, and the best time to do it is during Miami Spice.
Blade: Blade is The Fontainebleau’s sushi bar. The ambiance and feel of Blade is sleek and modern, but very relaxed and located by the pool, enabling diners to people-watch while enjoying some of the best sushi in South Florida. Before ordering from their carefully selected menu, order a Godzilla, the restaurant’s signature cocktail and a perfect summer drink consisting of vodka, cucumber, kiwi, and an apple-flavored syrup. Besides offering Japanese classics like tuna tataki and perfectly crafted nigiri and maki rolls, Blade also serves up some more innovative creations that combine eastern and western flavors. Most notable is the "blade roll", which is a pressed and molded sushi called ozisushi and consists of layers of rice, marinated salmon, and fresh melted mozzarella topped-off with a dollop of spicy mayonnaise and a few crispy garlic chips. Innovative and addicting! The other stand-out menu item is the naruto maki which contains layers of crabmeat, salmon, masago, radish sprouts, scallion, and avocado all wrapped in thin sheets of cucumber and dressed in a spicy vinaigrette that really brings out all the flavors.
Scarpetta: Scarpetta makes it on my list of best Italian restaurants in South Florida. Iridescent mosaic tiles in the entrance evoking a Marimekko-style pattern, a nautically-themed dining room, and a terrace offering views of the Atlantic Ocean take your breath away before you even take your first bite of food. While you’re still catching your breath, you’ll be presented with a basket containing several types of bread, including homemade focaccia and slices of cheese and salumi filled stromboli, all served with mascarpone butter, lemon-infused olive oil, and a velvety caponatta. Muddled raspberries, Chambord vodka, Canton liqueur, St. Germain liqueur, and a splash of San Pellegrino Limonata all go into their signature cocktail called the Torino, which is a sin to pass up. Scarpetta offers perhaps the most perfect plate of spaghetti in tomato sauce – al dente, house-made pasta is combined with a creamy, cheesy, spicy sauce that is intensely flavored with ripe tomatoes and a touch of basil. It needs nothing but a fork and an appetite! Additionally, Scarpetta’s creamy, slow-cooked polenta with truffle and a fricassee of wild mushrooms is delicious poetry on a plate, and should be part of anyone’s experience here.
Hakkasan: Hakkasan is The Fontainbleau's gourmet Hong Kong style restaurant specializing in dim sum and offering an authentic menu sprinkled liberally with the chef’s own culinary inventions. The setting is a low-lit, sexy labyrinth of dark corridors and rooms fully and partially screened by intricately hand-carved Chinese partitions. The signature cocktail at Hakkasan, The Hakka, has quickly become my favorite cocktail. It is a uniquely and perfectly balanced combination of flavors that include Russian Standard vodka, sake, coconut milk, lychee juice, and fresh passion fruit. In a similar note to their signature cocktail, Hakkasan’s appetizer of crispy prawns coated in wheat flakes offers an intriguing combination of flavors and textures: a sweet, crunchy, and mildly astringent exterior that gives way to a juicy explosion of fresh prawn flavor with a hint of spice. The other highlight at Hakkasan is their vegetarian hot and sour soup, which is light years away from your neighborhood take-out joint’s version. Hakkasan's dark amber-hued soup is subtly tart, has a more "residual" heat that comes about slowly and tickles the back of your throat, and has a texture reminiscent of liquid velvet.
Gotham Steak: If your take on a steak house is a stuffy, old-fashioned establishment catering to your grandparents, Gotham Steak will change your image of steak houses henceforth. Besides offering a sleek and chic ambiance with a magnificent, almost spiraling, glass-encased wine cellar and two levels of dining, Gotham Steak proves that a steak house can serve more than just steak in the traditional sense. To prove this point, try the subtly flavored tuna tartar with shiso leaf, scallion, ginger, and lime served with just a smear of miso paste to enhance the rich flavor of the tuna. Naturally, one shouldn’t go to a steak house without having steak, which is why you should definitely sample their braised beef short rib with grilled prime spinella of beef, a Miami Spice exclusive. This top cut of prime rib is served with a bordelaise sauce, caramelized vidalia onions and potatoes in two ways, roasted and in a creamy puree, further proving that a steak house can definitely be innovative. Not to be missed is Gotham Steak’s Bella cocktail, a martini containing watermelon juice, melon vodka, mint, and just a squeeze of lime juice that will take you back to childhood days enjoying watermelon Jolly Ranchers.
Solo: No meal is complete without a dessert. While all of the restaurants mentioned above will be offering desserts on their Miami Spice menus, you might want to treat yourself to a little extra something from The Fontainebleau's pastry shop, Solo. You will be duly impressed by the wide array of diverse pastries and desserts, including caramel apples, chocolate truffles, homemade marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies, decadent mousses, and multi-tiered pastries. A hazelnut “temple” layered with crispy wafers, hazelnut shortbread, and topped with what appeared to be columns of chocolate mousse and an impossibly thin chocolate roof is a spectacle for the eyes and a delight for the taste buds. Additionally, a chocolate and passion fruit mousse offers not only a pleasant combination of creamy dark chocolate and tangy passion fruit flavor, but an aesthetically pleasing presentation that almost makes you feel guilty to eat it. Banana rum truffles are also excellent and offer little explosions of intense banana flavor laced with just a touch of rum. Trust me, it will be hard just choosing one thing at Solo.
Miami Spice Restaurant Month starts on August 1st and continues on until the end of September. The price of dinner is $35 per person, and lunch is $25 per person for three courses. For more information and to see Miami Spice menus for the restaurants listed above, please visit www.ilovemiamispice.com.