By Sara Liss
The goods: The Conrad Hotel’s in-house restaurant Atrio enters 2008 with a facelift, a new lounge called Level 25 and a new menu by exec chef Michael Gilligan (formerly of Rumi). The restaurant’s redesign includes a more open dining room, plush seating and the addition of an inviting wine room with a Tuscan-style large wooden table ready for tastings and private dinners. The lounge is space-age chic with yellow leather banquettes, a frosted glass bar and a sparkling raw bar. The Blade Runner-esque views – from the 25th floor – give the space a futuristic feel.
The grub: The menu hopscotches around the globe inspired by Latin, Asian and Mediterranean influences. The restaurant is located in a luxury hotel, so prices are predictably lofty, with most entrees in the $30 range, comparable to upscale South Beach eateries. Dinner starts with a spicy Indian flatbread served with 3 dipping sauces, mint jalapeno, wasabi ginger and peach mango.
Appetizers set the global stage with selections like tuna Tataki with yuzu-miso dressing, crispy wontons and jicama-mint salad or the sautéed green and white asparagus with red and golden beets, baby bok choy and port wine and dried fig chutney. A few rare birds populate the menu like a pan seared Ostrich loin served with sweet potato brulèe and a pomegranate and molasses-glazed squab accompanied by a roasted fig and barley" risotto." Vegetarians have plenty to choose from, with dishes like vegetarian Spaghetti bolognese made with minced soy veggie in cognac tomato basil sauce and a Grand Marnier sweet potato soup with grilled corn and tofu cashew sauté wrapped in napa cabbage.
For dessert try the “cafe con leche,” a white chocolate molten lava cake served with homemade cookies n’ cream ice cream and chocolate-covered espresso beans.
The verdict: Atrio’s ritzy backdrop and stunning views make this an ideal date spot (especially at sunset). Wine lovers will relish the Atrio’s “wine attic” with its extensive selection and attentive sommelier.
Atrio, 1395 Brickell Ave., Downtown; 305-503-6529. conradmiami.com