First Look: Essensia
By Sara Liss
The Goods: Not quite in South Beach and yet not really in Miami Beach either, The Palms Hotel has enjoyed a quasi-anonymous status, occupying a stretch of the beach at Collins and 30th that most people drive past on their way to the Fontainebleau. But a recent renovation (including the addition of an Aveda spa) and new restaurant Essensia touting healthy, sustainable cuisine ought to give curious diners a reason to stop and smell the organic produce. An emphasis on hormone-free meats, detoxifying ingredients and organically grown products (when available) puts this new eatery in the same league as Canyon Ranch to the north and Area 31 at The Epic downtown.
The restaurant makes great use of its sprawling Deco grounds with a moddish indoor dining room outfitted in coral patterned draperies, capiz shell chandeliers and Italian mosaic tiles offset by warm, golden lighting. The outdoor patio is the spot to request (at least until it becomes unbearably hot) as the lush foliage, twinkling lanterns and ocean breezes give similar patios (like the Raleigh in South Beach) some real competition.
An indoor lounge now hosts a weekly “Sip and Spa” happy hour every Thursday from 6 – 9 p.m. where cocktails by VeeV Acai Spirit are complimentary and all drinks, cocktails and lounge foods are half off. The restaurant is also running a “Taste of the Summer” set menu with three courses for $40.
The Grub: Ingredient-driven New American cuisine. Prices are reasonable given the posh surroundings. Starters and salads go for $6 - $15 while mains range $14 for spaghetti pomodoro to $39 for a grilled ribeye. Dinner starts with a basket brimming with warm ciabatta rolls, wheat and fruit bread and garlicky flatbread. Depending on the night you could be treated to a colorful amuse bouche like a petite avocado salad topped with grilled peaches. Salads brim with local and organic ingredients like one made with organic baby beets and Florida oranges topped with crisy pancetta and feta cheese. Pastas include a lobster arrabiata and a sweet squash ravioli. Using mostly sustainable seafood, fresh fish selections include a grilled mahi-mahi with tomato carpaccio and raspberry reduction and a baked rainbow trout served tail-on with a side of organic carrot quinoa. “Entrees from the Land” include a rum-roasted pork tenderloin and a Tupelo honey and thyme-glazed duck breast with grilled peaches.
Organic wines like selections from Bonterra Vineyards (around $40 a bottle) and cocktails made with organic vodka encourage eco-friendly tippling.
The Verdict: With a commitment to using organic and sustainable ingredients and a sophisticated dining environment, Essensia is one hotel restaurant that should not be overlooked.
Essensia at The Palms Hotel, 3025 Collins Ave; 305-534-0505.
Hours: daily: 6:30 a.m. - Midnight