Renaissance Hotels & Resorts may have dropped upwards of $200 million on the renovation of the über-cool (because you can pretend you’re in the Rat Pack) Eden Roc hotel in Miami Beach, but as far as I’m concerned the best thing they did was hire Paula DaSilva to be executive chef at 1500°, their new farm-to-table restaurant (that features plenty of steak).
Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like the rooms at the Eden Roc weren’t worth their effort: mine was seriously beautiful, comfortable and quiet, plus I could shower while looking out my 10th floor balcony doors at the ocean: as close to an outdoor shower experience as you’re likely to get outside of a singles resort in Jamaica, and one sure to make you feel like king of the world, ma.
But the meal at 1500° was outstanding, thanks to chef DaSilva, previously chef de cuisine at Dean Max’s 3030 Ocean in Ft Lauderdale, and her wonderful menu that honors the proteins and does justice to the quality ingredients she’s chosen to work with. I interviewed chef Max this past Spring for the 2010 issue of Taste, and he called DaSilva “a brilliant chef that deserves huge success.” If there’s any justice in this fickle foody world, its going to come for her at her new restaurant.
The three of us seated for dinner shared a boat load of apps, all of which were wonderful, as were the gin and ginger cocktail dealies (I, uh, can’t quite recall the name…but they had fruit in them, that I know).
Stage one highlight for me: pork belly tacos with house kimchee. Served in shells made from wonton wrappers, these bad boys blew right past the pork belly sliders I’ve been raving about recently and took top spot in my list of favorite pig-based small plates. Tender, cruchy, filled with flavor; I doubt I’ll be able to visit Miami again without stopping in for another plate. Don’t get me wrong: the other apps were wonderful, but I’ve had a soft spot in my soft spot for pork belly lately, and these were amazing.
For my main course I wanted steak, especially after hearing that the custom broiler that was built to DaSilva’s specs had arrived and was in use, but my brain was fogged from the apps and I couldn’t zero in on the cut I wanted. In the end, I opted to have the server ask chef Paula to choose, and she chose beautifully: 10 ounces of prime top sirloin, a cut called “Picanha” in DaSilva’s native Brazil, seared and cooked perfectly and exactly what I was looking for.
“It’s one of my favorite cuts,” said DaSilva when she stopped by the table, “lots of flavor; delicious.”
She was right: my steak was packed with beefy flavor. And the slabs of meat went quite nicely with one of my favorite sides in recent memory: a Vidalia onion stuffed with mashed potatoes. Totally odd timing on that one: I’d just had some delicious smashed potatoes with caramelized sweet onions a couple of days before and thought they were the bees knees – until I bit into this bad boy, which actually makes my mouth water to think about. An absolute must-order, no matter what else you’re eating.
Desserts were an espresso crème brulée and some amazing apple fritters with, I think, pumpkin ice cream – though by this time I was so completely shell-shocked from the rest of my meal I’m having trouble with remembering everything clearly. I’ll check with my dining companions and get back to you on that.
One amazing bit of news that I was hipped to over dinner: 1500° had only been open for a little over a week when we stopped in for a meal. If this place can deliver that experience so soon after opening, it’s got huge things in store for the coming months, I’m crapping you negative.
I’m going to do a more in depth piece about my recent voyage of meaty delights in Miami, including my stop at BLT (mmmm – jalapeno mashed potatoes), but it may well appear in Florida Weekly; I’ll provide a link when the paper hits the street if that’s the case.
But I’ve been anxious to get something up about 1500° ever since I passed out in bliss after my meal there. Bottom line: If you’re down Miami-way and you miss stopping in to grab a meal at 1500°, you’ve really missed something special. Don’t do that.
1500° is in the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach, located at 4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Call 305 674-5594 for reservations or hit their website to check out the menu.
(Pork belly photo credit: Brett Hufziger)