Chef Paula da Silva of 1500º in the Eden Roc has been one South Florida chef who has been on the forefront of the farm-to-table concept since the restaurant opened a few years ago. Bringing diners the freshest and most local products available, Chef Paula also has a way of blending these ingredients in ways that can sometimes surprise and at other times conjure memories of enjoying grandma’s (or abuela’s) comfort food. There always seems to be an innovative twist to everything she puts on the menu, and this innovation has garnered the attention of Esquire magazine in 2011, which named 1500º one of the best new restaurants in America that year. Ever since then, we have been enjoying some of her menu staples like a perfectly roasted half chicken, meltingly tender pork belly tacos, and perhaps one of the silkiest octopus tentacles to be had in Miami. Last month, Chef Paula introduced some new seasonal items to the menu that continue to demonstrate her ability to expertly source and prepare local produce, as well as showing off some new techniques and new ingredients.
I had forgotten from my previous experience at 1500º (read review here) just how comfortably elegant the ambiance is at this restaurant. Slate floors act as a backdrop for masculine brown tones with light touches of ivories and beiges. The imposing, shade-covered chandeliers are perhaps one of the most striking details in the design, which retains an organic feel to match the nature of the cuisine.
Mixologist Rafa Dulanto’s cocktails are a perfect way to start the meal. An açaí cosmo tastes like a Strawberry Shortcake doll in a glass, but I promise you it’s a good thing and that you will become hooked on this sweet, refreshing cocktail. The Pineapple Smash, on the other hand, is a bit more serious with muddled pineapple offering a sweet note to a rocks glass of whiskey.
The rabbit tacos showcase a menu that is exploring local game meats and present an unexpected preparation of an animal that is usually served in such a fussy manner. Despite the many elements in this dish, there is no question that the savory and extremely moist meat is the main attraction. The pulled rabbit meat is piled onto homemade tortillas along with a Brussels sprout slaw, roasted corn, carrots, and pickled vegetables that include sweet red onions and radish. The tacos offer a delightful variety of textures and a refreshing mouthfeel, and the final dusting of pecorino gives it the perfect bite.
A tuna poke offers perhaps one of the most texturally dynamic dishes I’ve sampled in a long time. Chef Paula’s take on this traditional Polynesian preparation of raw fish is laced with crunchy toasted rice pearls and chewy wakame that contrast with the slippery soft tuna in a really surprising yet satisfying way. A simple seasoning that includes sea salt, scallion, and sesame oil only enhances the flavors, while a smear of Sriracha aïoli offers a spicy kick and touch of richness. An accompaniment of thin ribbons of pickled cucumber topped with crunchy pink salt and black sesame make for a nice, refreshing break in between bites of the poke.
Thin slices of house-smoked duck offer a depth of flavor and luscious texture while topping a simple salad of fresh greens, green apple, shaved fennel, and Florida Bleu Sunshine cheese from Pompano Beach with a pomegranate vinaigrette. Another salad of roasted, multi colored beets is refreshing with a smear of hazelnut and parsley pesto, cubes creamy avocado, a subtly tart whipped goat cheese, arugula, and a little bit of crunch from beet chips.
An entrée of homemade cavatelli offers a texture somewhere in between the chewiness of fresh flat pasta and the softness of good gnocchi. The pasta dish is sauced with an interesting mélange of elements in a sweet/savory sort of duck ragout that includes cipollini onions and golden raisins. Dollops of housemade ricotta are so good you will never want to go back to the commercial stuff, and they offer cooling bursts of creaminess. A judicious sprinkling of pecorino curls gives the dish adequate savoriness and a pleasant bite.
Grilled black grouper arrives with an assortment of roasted vegetables that include red and golden beets, a fingerling potato, snap pea, and a cauliflower floret. The charred exterior of the fish yields to a tender, flaky interior that pairs well with a boniato purée, eggplant confit, and a splash of Thai yellow coconut curry enriched with lemongrass.
Desserts can take you back to your childhood as with the S’mores in a Jar, a verrine of smoked chocolate peanut pudding and graham cracker ice cream topped with torched homemade marshmallows. This arrives at the table with a little shot of a spicy hot cocoa that will make you smile. Another dessert of strawberry shortcake is much lighter and focuses on the flavor of the berries with slices of fresh strawberry and a strawberry sorbet to accompany the lightly grilled cake.
Overall, the new menu items at 1500º continue to intrigue, excite, comfort, and satisfy the palate much in the same way Chef Paula’s dishes have in the past. While the dishes are new, it is evident to any fan of Chef Paula da Silva that her culinary personally and sense of taste are present throughout...and that, of course, is a very good thing.
4525 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33140