Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh Hotel accomplishes the rare hotel-restaurant feat of appealing to locals as well as tourists.
Its tree-shaded poolside dining area — quintessential Miami Beach — will wow visitors. So will some of the new dishes from James Beard Award-winning chef Schwartz.
Elegant steak tartare topped with crunchy fried shallots and a creamy quail-egg yolk, ginger-spiced triangles of shrimp toast and shishito peppers sauteed with citrus and soy are small-plate successes.
Locals who have fallen in love with Schwartz classics like addictive fried hominy, textbook duck confit and tender grilled octopus will applaud the chance to eat them at the chef-owner’s first Miami-Dade location outside the Design District.
Chef de cuisine Danny Ganem adeptly executes Restaurant Michael Schwartz’s menu, which is similar in format (small, medium, large and extra-large plates) and flavor to Schwartz flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.
Snacks and sides often pack an umami punch. A dollop of anchovy butter adds depth to grilled zucchini, and a generous sprinkling of pecorino and rosemary take fried potatoes to another level. (The spuds are named for New York chef Jonathan Waxman, a Schwartz pal whose recipe he borrowed.)
As at all of Schwartz’s restaurants — four here, one in Grand Cayman and two aboard cruise ships — pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith’s end-of-meal creations at Restaurant Michael Schwartz are not to be skipped.
She’s adept at deploying salt on sweets, and a few flakes amplify the flavors of her milk chocolate and caramel bar. Her tangerine creamsicle pot de creme is served with three sugar-dusted doughnut holes; without prompting, our server brought five, so everyone at the table got their own.
Service at Restaurant Michael Schwartz is a noticeable notch above what often passes for hospitality in South Beach. Servers know the menu, have tasted the food and are eager to please. The small things they do, like offering to transfer a bar tab to a dinner check and thanking guests on their way out the door, make a big difference.
Next time I’ll skip the Buffalo-style rabbit. With a proper hot sauce and blue cheese dressing, it has all the makings of elevated pub grub, but the rabbit hunks have more bone than meat, making them difficult to share.
A dining companion from Maryland sneered at both the price ($18) and meat (shredded) of a crab cake that needed acid to lift it from a rich carrot-butter sauce.
Dry, out-of-season peaches found their way onto more plates than they should have in mid-November.
One place they appear is with a whole chicken, which Ganem roasts, then dresses with arugula and grilled onions. At $38, it’s the steal of the menu’s extra-large plates, easily feeding four. On the downside, a sweet glaze left the skin soggy, and the breast meat was bland.
The food may not be flawless, but it is generally excellent, as are the service and atmosphere. It’s hard to find anything to complain about when you’re lounging by the Raleigh pool on a breezy South Florida night, a cold glass of pinot gris at the ready, another order of hominy on the way.
That’s something tourists and locals alike can toast.