The fine dining at these South Florida luxury resorts raises the restaurant bar to new heights
In South Florida, now more than ever, an upscale meal can be just steps away from a pillow-top mattress and free, fancy toiletries. Whether you chalk it up to quality, service or sheer convenience, the fact of the matter is that hotel dining is on the rise.
An industry study from earlier this year noted that restaurants within hotels and resorts have been trending upward over time. According to Technomic, a global food-service data company, total spending by consumers in hotels totaled to $48.7 billion last year.
And it’s only supposed to go up in 2018. South Florida Sun Sentinel food critic Mike Mayo says that resort dining poses advantages for all parties involved.
“Because the hotels are usually attached to big corporations, the hotels are able to pay well and bring in big-name chefs,” Mayo says. “It also enables them to get better products at lower prices.”
The Technomic report also noted that local and regional offerings are more in demand. It’s something we’d safely bet our South Florida resorts have caught wind of—whether looking at JWB Prime Steak and Seafood’s fresh fish that is literally speared hours before hitting a plate at Margaritaville or Terra Mare’s cold-pressed juices at The Conrad.
To celebrate South Florida’s best fine dining establishments that are connected to luxury resorts, check out the following restaurants.
Boathouse • Riverside Hotel
Where: 620 E Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Kitchen confidential: One of the city’s newest dock-and-dine locations, Boathouse opened in March and offers Mediterranean-inspired lunch and dinner dishes on the water. Chef Toby Joseph dishes out experimental hot and cold tapas—like the hot shrimp served with smoked paprika, garlic and basil on a baguette ($14) or the cold Spanish chorizo with emmental cheese and tapenade, atop crostini ($7).
Don’t-miss dish: According to Joseph, Boathouse is the only place to get pickled mussels in all of Las Olas. To make the cold tapas dish, Joseph and his kitchen staff steam fresh mussels and use that stock to form the pickling base. Vinegar and spices, including rosemary and parsley, are added to the marinade. The $8 dish is served with red pepper mayo atop fried crostini.
Contact: 954.377.5494, boathouseriverside.com
AQ Chop House by Il Mulino • Acqualina
Where: 17875 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach
Kitchen confidential: This upscale steakhouse melds Italian flavors and grand mid-century European decor. The patio is charmingly cozy—often offering live music—while the inside is dimmed and romantic. AQ Chop House is a “special occasion” experience for dinner, but when it comes to brunch, bottomless mimosas and an ice cream bar with around 10 flavors to try might be worth a return visit.
Don’t-miss dish: Despite an extensive menu full of luscious ingredients like truffle oil—featured on a crudo with steak tartare and egg—and grilled octopus, the star remains a classic: lobster ravioli. The decadent dish has stolen visitor’s hearts.
Contact: 877.312.9742, acqualinaresort.com/restaurants
Monkitail • The Diplomat Beach Resort
Where: 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood
Kitchen confidential: Japanese cuisine visits Hollywood, under Chef Michael Schulson. The modern restaurant—set in a lavish dining room with ornate chandeliers and leather booths—brings delicacies like edamame, bao buns and dumplings to patrons. It’s not Schulson’s first effort. The celebrity chef and restaurateur, who was featured on TV shows like “Ultimate Cake Off” and “Pantry Raid,” has opened six other restaurants.
Don’t-miss dish: Lauded as not just a reason to visit, but a reason to come back, the duck scrapple bao bun ($12) is a unique example of Schulson’s creativity. The fluffy, cloud-like bao buns sandwich a duck scrapple doused in maple teriyaki, cucumber and a finishing kick of chili. In addition to purchasing it on its own, Monkitail also offers a chef’s tasting menu at $65 a person, which includes 10 menu items (the bao would count as one) and a dessert.
Contact: 954.602.8755, monkitail.com
JWB Prime Steak and Seafood • Margaritaville
Where: 1111 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood
Kitchen confidential: Deeming itself “laidback luxury,” JWB Prime Steak and Seafood joins fine dining and fresh seafood with exposed wood and brick walls, mid-century modern furniture and fun, graphic printed bar stools. The Margaritaville restaurant serves up classic surf ’n’ turf staples, including prime bone-in rib-eye ($55), plus lobster and oysters. Don’t let the fact that JWB is named after James William Buffett con you into not taking this place seriously. Each morning, the seafood being served that day is spearfished. Within hours, it hits the menu.
Don’t-miss dish: Comparable to snapper, one of JWB’s unique offerings is its lionfish (market price). The invasive species that’s infamous for reef destruction is spearfished and served with simple seasoning and lemon.
Contact: 954.874.4470, jwbrestaurant.com
Grille 66 & Bar • Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina
Where: 2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale
Kitchen confidential: Despite the white linens and gratuitous views of yachts rolling by this waterfront option, Grille 66 still finds a way to make diners feel comfortable. Perhaps it’s the “Potatoes & Stuff” section of its menu that does the trick. This upscale venue, lauded for its sea bass and crab cakes, has six potato offerings, including Parmesan truffle fries, au gratin and mashed ($10-$12). The Pier Sixty-Six restaurant also offers a happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. at the bar that’s worth trying. The star of that show? Succulent grilled marinated lamb lollipops ($12), served with mixed greens and a house sauce.
Don’t-miss dish: We’ve seen “build your own” menus before—often with pizza and pasta dishes. But it’s a whole new ballgame when you try it with filet mignon ($39-$49). This barrel-cut steak is boasted as 28-day primed and aged and broiled at 1,800 degrees. From there, patrons can add toppings—like blue cheese, peppercorn crusts or jumbo lump crab—sauces and butters. The additions range in price and extravagance from horseradish cream ($3) to foie gras truffle butter ($4).
Contact: 954.678.3917, pier66hotelmarina.com
Terra Mare • The Conrad
Where: 551 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Kitchen confidential: This chic, waterfront location offers global cuisine that’s made with love—the kind of love that’s evident in true, devoted tableside preparation and freshly cold-pressed juice for your cocktails. Terra Mare has a range of locally sourced and market-fresh breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner options—all with an added twist. Take the spicy peach breakfast toast for example ($12), featuring goat cheese, peach jam and fresh jalapeño on top of multigrain bread. Other standouts include the blistered shishito peppers ($10) with black truffle ponzu sauce.
Don’t-miss dish: We’ve seen Terra Mare’s tagliatelle—the long ribbon-shaped pasta, made in house—served two raved-about ways. One comes in a root vegetable bolognese and topped with Parmesan ($25). The other is full of lumps of crab, with an egg and sea urchin butter. Both are intoxicating the way only a luscious, homemade pasta can be.
Contact: 954.414.5160, terramarefl.com
Burlock Coast SeaFare and Spirits • The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
Where: 1 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.
Kitchen confidential: Just footsteps away from the beach, Burlock Coast allows patrons to enter a classy restaurant, cafe, cigar shop and rum retailer all in one. From pork belly with truffle grits and smoked cheese ($28) to a classic burger-and-beer Monday special ($10), Burlock Coast aims to please everyone. And between the views and craft rum cocktails, it succeeds.
Don’t-miss dish: Don’t be fooled by the dish’s simple title. Burlock Coast’s signature lobster pasta ($30) is a rich dish that has drawn raves (and return visits) since the restaurant opened in late 2015. Made with pappardelle pasta, a heavy bisque for the sauce, spinach and tomatoes, the entree was described by Broward New Times as “if bisque, a lobster roll, and some homemade pappardelle decided to sleep together and you caught them in the act, tangled up under a thin veil of melted, grated cheese.”
Contact: 954.302.6460, ritzcarlton.com
The creativity inside our high-end resort restaurants isn’t limited to the kitchen. Check out these specialty cocktails:
1. At Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Kuro, the food isn’t the only thing that’s experimental. Diners can see for themselves when they order the Hachi—a Japanese four mushroom-infused bourbon cocktail full of umami that’s mixed with mirin (a Japanese rice wine), black pepper syrup and lemon juice.
2. Piña coladas and pisco sours join together for Monkitail’s Piña Pisco Sour. The refreshing drink, available at the restaurant inside The Diplomat in Hollywood, infuses yuzu, giving the traditional cocktail a new citrus kick.
3. Taking a twist on a classic Cuban mojito, JWB Steakhouse serves up the Caribbean Amphibian within its Margaritaville confines. Fresh mint leaves, lime juice and pure cane syrup meet Ciroc pineapple vodka and fresh Boiron pineapple puree for what’s deemed a house favorite.
4. The Jessica Rabbit at Terra Mare doesn’t use any ol’ fruit juice. The Conrad Fort Lauderdale restaurant cold-presses its own juice, without any additives before incorporating it into cocktails. For this drink, it’s a mix of Avion Silver, Combier, carrot, fresh orange juice, lime, cilantro and jalapeño.
5. A drink basically made for Instagram, The Gold Unicorn at Pao by Paul Qui comes served in a massive unicorn-shaped goblet. Inside the drink from Faena Hotel Miami Beach’s restaurant is a hybrid of a Moscow mule and a piña colada that comes from the combination of ginger juice and vodka.
6. The Flagler Steakhouse offers a mix of classic and modern cocktails, but one of its most popular is the Sun Kissed Martini. This specialty at The Breakers in Palm Beach features Ketel One orange vodka, Aperol, limoncello, ginger, sour mix, simple syrup and orange slices.
3030 Ocean • Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
Where: 3030 Holiday Drive, Fort Lauderdale
Kitchen confidential: The bread basket is tasty, inviting and full of variety—possibly a metaphor for the rest of the menu. The Harbor Beach Marriott restaurant sucks diners in with its baskets of warm, fresh-baked bread in different varieties. From there, executive chef Adrienne Grenier proves why she won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped” in 2011, adding her masterful touch to such dishes as the grilled beef tenderloin ($55) and the fried snapper with kimchi and shishito peppers ($38), and making them sing.
Don’t-miss dish: Offered as part of 3030 Ocean’s three-plate tasting menu ($55) or on its own ($15), the ahi tuna poke dish bursts with vibrant flavors. The dish is topped with wakame, macadamia nuts, avocado and sambal (a hot chili pepper paste).
Contact: 954.765.3030, 3030ocean.com
Kuro • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Where: 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood
Kitchen confidential: This high-end Asian fusion restaurant located within the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened in March 2015. The 9,500-square-foot restaurant was designed to resemble a theater, which is fitting, because its dishes are showstoppers. Menu items that steal the spotlight include the wagyu tacos ($16) with spicy cilantro, shallots and an aioli sauce; any of the tempura offerings; anything off the robata charcoal grills; and any of the maki or sushi selections. In fact, pretty much every artistically rendered, chef-driven option off this menu deserves an ovation.
Don’t-miss dish: The tuna crispy rice ($16) has quickly become a crowd favorite at Kuro, with piles and piles of reviews shouting the dish out by name. The starter plate features spicy tuna decorated with caviar on top. It’s a mouthwatering combo that, according to the wait staff, is one of the most-requested dishes.
Contact: 866.502.7529, seminolehardrockhollywood.com
Flagler Steakhouse • The Breakers
Where: 2 S. County Road, Palm Beach
Kitchen confidential: This warm, comfortable steakhouse features wooden beams and columns, oversized chandeliers and a broad menu that fuses top cuts of meat and American classics alongside some specialty Italian meals. Flagler Steakhouse sits down the road from the resort’s main building on the second floor of its golf club, allowing patrons to overlook the property. This dining option pays tribute to its name with offerings like the dry-aged tomahawk rib chop ($74)—which is so big you might not have room for a side dish—and the bone-in filet mignon ($67).
Don’t-miss dish: Don’t start your meal without ordering a round of the blue crab dumplings ($26). These delicate-yet-rich babies come stuffed with crab, shaved Reggiano cheese, red pepper butter and truffle oil. They’re an airy but filling starter that you won’t want to share.
Contact: 855.435.2053, thebreakers.com/dining/flagler-steakhouse
Ask the Chef
We chatted with Anthony Sicignano, executive chef at The Breakers, about his experiences with food and working at the famed Palm Beach resort, where he oversees nine restaurants. The chef, who comes from a big Italian family, has worked at The Breakers since 1993. Here’s what he had to say (responses have been edited for length):
What’s your favorite dish to make at The Breakers?
This is a tough one, as there are so many fun dishes. But I’ll go back to my roots on this—for me, it is the Italian items. Nonna’s Meatball at HMF (one of The Breakers’ dining areas) or our meatballs at The Italian Restaurant—they reflect the rewards of getting the right flavor and texture consistently.
What was your first experience with food that made you fall in love?
It had to be the big Italian fish dinner on Christmas Eve—all of the grandparents together with my parents, aunt, brother and sister—made for many special memories.
What’s your ultimate comfort meal?
Quite often at home, I make what the kids have come to call “lobster pasta”—it is really lobster in combination with a puttanesca sauce, essentially a lobster fra diavolo with tomatoes, lobster, olives, anchovies, capers, etc.
What’s your proudest kitchen moment?
What I am especially proud of is the extraordinary tenure of my team, through successful promotion from within and their overall growth, and the fact that they deliver exceptional results along with being the nicest group of chefs that anyone could hope for.
Pao by Paul Qui • Faena Hotel Miami Beach
Where: 3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Kitchen confidential: A unicorn is often used to describe that one-in-a-million gem, glistening with uniqueness. And at Pao, you’ll see that—literally, because there’s a giant gold unicorn in the middle of the dining room. A gold-leafed, $6 million Damien Hirst unicorn sculpture to be exact. But the art isn’t the only thing lavish and exciting at this modern Asian restaurant. For many, it’s the pork adobo rice ($25), a ginger-jasmine rice with pork, a fried duck egg, cilantro and a green mango pico. For others, it’s the often-praised service (they’ll debone a whole branzino upon request). And, in a sharp contrast to hotel dining that skews meat-heavy, Pao offers multiple vegetarian and vegan options ready-to-go.
Don’t-miss dish: After seeing a giant sculpture of one in the middle of this oval-shaped dining room, it’s hard not to order a dish called “Unicorn” ($27). It features a sea urchin placed atop grilled sweet corn pudding, which is flavored with lime, sake aioli and chile de arbol with a puff of foam on top for embellishment.
Contact: 786.655.5630, faena.com/miami-beach/restaurant/pao-by-paul-qui
Grill It Like Grenier
Google any review of 3030 Ocean and you’ll see it—a mention of the pork chop. Chef Adrienne Grenier’s dish was described as a “fast favorite” for diners at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa when it debuted. Now, Grenier has shared the hickory smoked recipe with Lifestyle—so you can judge for yourself.
Hickory Rubbed Pork Chop
With celery root puree, roasted Brussels sprouts and mustard sauce. Serves 4.
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tbsp smoked hot paprika
1 tbsp smoked salt
Preparation: Combine whole seeds and peppercorns in large sauté pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant (3 minutes). Cool seeds and grind them in spice grinder. Combine with remaining ingredients.
Celery Root Puree
2 pounds celery root, peeled and diced
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
Preparation: Place celery root in pot with cream and add water to cover by 1 inch. Simmer until celery root is tender. Drain and puree in blender with butter. Season with salt, and keep warm.
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tsp sherry vinegar
Preparation: In sauce pan, reduce chicken stock by two-thirds. Stir in mustard, crème fraiche and sherry vinegar. Reserve until pork chops are ready.
Pork and Brussels Sprouts
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 12-ounce bone-in pork chops
Preparation: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them on sheet pan and roast until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes.
Preheat grill over medium flame, or move the hot coals to half of the grill. Lightly coat pork chops with oil and rub each chop generously with 2 tablespoons of the rub. Place them on hot side of grill for about 3 minutes on each side to sear, and then move them to indirect heat for approximately 5 more minutes on each side, until they reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees.
Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving with puree, Brussels sprouts, and mustard sauce.