Stellar seafood is taken down by stinky service in the Grove
Gibraltar @ Grove Isle Hotel & Spa
4 Grove Isle Dr, Miami
Hours: 7am-2:30pm and 6:30-11pm daily
Prices: Appetizers $9-$22, entrees $28-$39, sides $6-$8, desserts $8-$9. Brunch $35.
FYI: Reservations available at opentable.com. Full bar; corkage $25 per bottle. Valet parking $10. AX, DN, MC, VS.
Whoever renamed the Grove Isle restaurant Gibraltar must have had some pretty high expectations. After all, the tiny territory off the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula was said to have been one of the two pillars formed by Hercules. And while the place is not exactly offering up an experience fit for the gods, the stunning private island is now supporting some of the best cooking it has had in years. The former Baleen, which languished after the departure of Robbin Haas, is a surprising gig for chef Jeff O'Neill, who’s cooked at New York culinary temples Aureole, Restaurant Daniel and Le Bernardin as well as Palm Beach's award-winning L'Escalier at The Breakers. But there's no question, O'Neill does tasty and inventive things with seafood and has notable skills in sourcing ingredients and pairing disparate textures in flavorful ways.
Ambiance: The handsome dining room has benefited from a million-dollar redo that includes stone gray leather upholstery and sparkling chandeliers (no longer adorned with monkeys). But, the best seats are outdoors overlooking the bay. The romantic, tiki-lit setting really does steal hearts.
- Tiny black mussels steamed in coconut broth freshened by loads of coriander, mint, juicy tomatoes and a drizzle of lobster oil
- Pristine crudo of glistening king coho salmon with shaved pink radish and bits of lemony cucumber
- Fleshy local black grouper paired with earthy veal cheeks in a vibrant Benedictine sauce alongside nicely charred sticks of polenta and bright-as-a-spring-morning pea shoots
- An impressively flavorful hot smoked salmon loin with sweet corn beignets and a peppy mustard seed crust
- A well-executed 14-ounce prime strip served with notably buttery whipped spuds and a nice arrangement of peas and carrots in a rich cabernet reduction
- Impressive hand-rolled garganelli
- Puffy pumpkin tortellini
What Didn’t Work
- Stale pretzel bread
- Farro studded with pithy lemon that made it more bitter than bright
- Dishes arriving cold
- Absent staff that often delivered the wrong dishes and got stuck on basic descriptions
- An unfortunate, hotel dining-room
- Too sweeet malva pudding - slivers of spicy sponge cake torched with a brulee crust alongside gingersnap ice cream
- Tart-free Key lime pie
- Cold and murky coffee
- A young wine list of mostly American grocery store labels (St. Supery and Kenwood) marked up 3-4 times retail
- 3.5 stars for superb food & elegant setting at Michael Schwartz’s Cypress Room
- 3 stars for fresh seafood at North Miami's Fish Fish
- 3 stars for laid back seafood at South Beach's Charles St.
- 3 stars for fantastic bites and super sips at Coral Gables' Bulla Gastrobar
- 2.5 stars for gourmet Cuban classics at Gables’ Bread + Butter
- 2.5 stars for Miami's Tutto’s Mare
- 3 stars for Eating House in Coral Gables
- 2 stars for Vivaldino at the Gables’ Hotel St. Michel
- 2.5 stars for South Beach's Catch
- 3 stars for Kendall's "sexy, delectable" Devon Seafood + Steak