Friday, August 12, 2016

Watr Brings A Bit of Polynesia to South Beach

Something new just swam onto the dining scene on South Beach and that something is watr 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach's newest permanent restaurant located at 2341 Collins Avenue.  Set in a picture-perfect scene, 18 stories above the bright lights of the city, watr embodies a tropical divinity only possible in an unforgettable venue that floats over the sea.
Welcoming guests through an entry illuminated by a canopy of stringed lights and adorned with ambient greenery, the space transforms into a Polynesian paradise with décor meant to echo the ocean's waves breaking along the shore.  Embracing spirituality and wealth of the element that pronounces life, watr, is inspired by the islands of Polynesia and Japan with notes of fresh seafood and tropical undertones.
Guests will be delighted to experience inspired Sushi and Poke paired with hand-crafted cocktails that elevate the unforgettable adventure to transcendental heights. Bringing the first-ever Cocktail Pairing Connoisseur to 1 Hotel & Homes, watr's innovative Hawaiian-Japanese cuisine will be enhanced with the vibrant libations created to compliment the concept's unique culinary creations.
Golden watr
Guess who...

I had the opportunity to attend a magical opening where we got to taste the amazing menu items that are being offered at watr, along with the refreshing, unique cocktails that will be paired with the dishes. Between the serene setting, the flavors of the locally-sourced seafood, and the playful cocktails, I momentarily forgot I was in the 305 and felt I had journeyed to a tropical paradise for the night.  From the sweet undertones of their signature drink, the Golden Watr, to the playful kicks of ginger of the Dancing Geisha, each hand crafted cocktail made its own bold statement and awakened all the senses.

Dancing Geisha
Some of the flavor-filled dishes I loved were the Crispy Rock Shrimp, served with spicy yuzu aioli and the Seaweed Salad Trio, a healthy, light starter consisting of red seaweed, red tosaka which is an invasive species, and wakame. They were each served with their own vinaigrette dressing of sesame, ginger or lime, complimenting their unique tastes.
Crispy Rock Shrimp
Seaweed Salad Trio

The second wave was just as spectacular, featuring an assortment of pokes that had me dancing a bit of hula. They were the Tako, a flavorful mix of octopus, edamame, daikon, hijiki, smoked chili and vinaigrette, the Kabayaki, prepared with sockeye salmon, cucumber, pickled red onions and radish, and my personal favorite, the Kimchi. Yellowfin tuna, avocado and crispy garlic danced in my tongue with each bite and made me moan in Polynesian pleasure.
Poke Selection

The next course was phenomenal. The presentation of the sushi rolls was breathtaking and not only did I thoroughly enjoy the flavor, but I was very impressed with the care and detail that went into its presentation. It fit the entire mood of the evening. Our platter included their California Roll, made with snow crab, avocado, Japanese cucumber and sesame. It also featured their Dragon Roll, which was a tasty combination of shrimp tempura, Japanese  cucumber, asparagus, avocado, eel sauce and spicy mayo, and their Happy Veg Roll. This is a great choice for those that may not want a traditional sushi roll. It was made with cashew cream cheese, bean sprouts, alfalfa, avocado and burdock. 
Sushi Rolls
The main entrees we tasted at watr were created with just as much originality and expertise. We sampled the Salmon Teriyaki, served with a warm sprout salad and a sweet teriyaki sauce, and the Wagyu Skirt Steak; a tender and mouthwatering steak that gave our palates a pleasing kick with shiitake, kimchi, and yuzu kosho beef jus.
Salmon Teriyaki
Wagyu Skirt Steak
After enjoying some of the Polynesian dancers and the Fire Eating performers, we ended our evening with some sweet bites.  The Ginger Bread Pudding was outstanding and I highly recommend it, and the Compressed Pineapple was a different kind of dessert that definitely got my attention.
Ginger Bread Pudding and Compressed Pineapple Desserts
watr is open daily from 11am to 6pm for lunch and from 6pm to 11pm for dinner. Reservations are available by calling 305-604-6580, emailing or visiting opentable. For more information, please visit their website here.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Red the Steakhouse takes Miami Spice to a Whole New Level

Red the Steakhouse does it again this year with their rotating Miami Spice menus.  When Chef Peter Vauthy puts together a menu, he goes all out... and this year is no exception. I had the opportunity of getting a preview of several of the dishes they are offering as part of their Miami Spice promotion this year and they were outstanding.  Of course, in typical RED fashion, we didn't just eat, but we prepared some cocktails and we cooked. Chef Peter spiced things up for us by teaching us how to make his very famous Tuna Tartare. I gotta tell you, I'm going to use his recipe to work my way into some unsuspecting dude's heart.
Chef Peter Vauthy
But back to Miami Spice... every week RED will be presenting a new themed menu with some upgrade options to consider. The menus will be the Week 1: Classic Steakhouse, Week 2: Seafood, Week 3: Italian and Week 4: Greatest Hits. The great thing about this concept? You can visit multiple times during the promotion and have a fresh, foodgasmic experience every time. Oh and by the way, you bring five people or more to RED for Miami Spice and they will bring the Tomahawk to your table as your entrée. Say what?

Spinach Salad
Heirloom Tomato and
 Aged Balsamic (Upgrade)

So let me give you a little glimpse of what to expect. For starters... you must check out their Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots; absolutely delightful bites of potatoes wrapped in bacon and served with a tomato bacon aioli. Another favorite of mine is their JB's Steak Tartare, prepared with Certified Angus Beef Prime Hand Cut Tenderloin, Shallots and Capers. It is unbelievable. If you're in the mood for a salad instead, you can't go wrong with their 4 oz Burrata, served with Heirloom Tomatoes and drizzled with Aged Balsamic Vinegar or their Spinach Salad, a fresh and light opener of baby spinach, hard-boiled egg and bacon vinaigrette.

Bacon Wrapped "Tater Tots"
JB's Steak Tartare

Flash Fried Snapper
Lobster Fra Diavlo
Like seafood? Be sure to check out their Lobster Fra Diavlo, where Chef Peter rocks linguini in a spicy tomato sauce with some sweet and delicious pieces of lobster. The Flash Fried Snapper is a winner too in my book. I loved the tender taste of the fish, with the coconut curry and vegetable slaw.  My two top contenders of the evening, however, were the Flash Fried Lobster Tail and the Tomahawk.  You can find the Lobster Tail during the Greatest Hits week and I'm telling you, you will remember me when you bite into each piece. As for the steaks, feel free to choose from any cut on the menu. They're all that good.
Flash Fried Lobster Tail (Upgrade)

Tomahawk Ribeye Steak

Italian Black Truffle Risotto
Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese (Upgrade)
There are several sides you can choose for an upgrade price, but it's so reasonable, you won't want to miss out. The Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese is a staple at RED and it never disappoints. And I immediately fell in love with the Italian Black Truffle Risotto. If you like the taste of truffle as much as I do, you will definitely find yourself in culinary ecstasy with this dish.
Decisions Decisions
To finish up your Miami Spice experience at RED, there are a variety of desserts to choose from. My favorites were the Bacon Pecan Monkey Bread (upgrade) and the Peanut Butter Pie. I'd tell you more about them, but (a) I really think you should go check it out for yourself, and (b) I just got very hungry after writing this post.

For more information on Red the Steakhouse and their Miami Spice menus or to make reservations, visit their website or call them at 305-534-3688.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Havana 1957 Brings Some Old Style Cuban Elegance to Ocean Drive

Are you dying to spend a day in Havana but rather wait until all the hoopla simmers down? There's a new Cuban hot spot that just landed on Ocean Drive and it's Havana 1957. If you haven't heard of the place, there are four other locations around South Florida, including one on Espanola Way in Miami Beach. Known for its authentic and eye-catching decor, the newest locale just opened on 1410 Ocean Drive.  It's a large space, featuring luscious Cuban libations, timeless dishes and a glimpse into what old Havana used to be like during the island's age of glory and glamour.

Havana 1957 offers over 120 different varieties of rum from around the world and you will definitely have a hard time selecting whether to have a Mojito or a Cuba Libre. We started our visit with a pair of refreshing Mojitos prepared with Zacapa aged 18 years and sporting a nice piece of sugar cane.  They were amazing.
From there we chose one of my favorite Cuban appetizers of all time: the Tostones Rellenos. We had the sampler which included four crispy, plantain cups stuffed with Habanero-styel ground beef, shrimp enchilado, ropa vieja and shredded chicken. The seasoning reminded me of my grandmother's cooking and it was difficult to pick a favorite.
Tostones Rellenos
After tasting the shredded flanked steak (Ropa Vieja) in the stuffed tostones, I knew I wanted some more of that. So as an entrée I ordered the Ropa Vieja, served with white rice and black beans, and just closed my eyes to enjoy the tantalizing creole sauce the meat was bathed in. I can honestly tell you it was one of the best Ropa Viejas I've ever had (after my mom's of course).  I highly recommend you try it.

Ropa Vieja
My date ordered the Churrasco a La Cubana, which consisted of a well seasoned certified black angus skirt steak, grilled and topped with mojo onion. The dish was served with white rice and black beans. Stealing a bite or two from this dish, what I found was that the steak was deliciously tender, and the spices gave it a very Cuban flavor not usually found in churrasco.
Churrasco a La Cubana
So now comes the postrecito we can never miss at a Cuban dinner, followed by a cortadito (which if you know me at all, you know I must have light and sweet with evaporated milk). We ordered the Flan, a Cuban staple, which was creamy and was drizzled with the sweetest caramel that had me licking my lips for the rest of the evening. My date didn't seem to mind.
For more information on Havana 1957, visit their website or for reservations at their newest Ocean Drive location, call 305-763-8671.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Miami Spice is Rocking At Bourbon Steak and Corsair at the Turnberry Isle Resort

You know what time it is? It's that annual food fest in Miami where for two months straight, we scout our favorite restaurants (and those we have been dying to try) to take advantage of their Miami Spice deals. Yep my foodie friends, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) is celebrating its 15th anniversary of the highly-anticipated Miami Spice Restaurant Program from August 1 - September 30 and this year there are a whopping 244 restaurants participating in the program.

BOURBON Steak serves complimentary fries instead of bread
 to its customers and they are world renowned.

We got a preview of the menus for two of the participating restaurants and let me tell you, everyone seems to be stepping up their game. CORSAIR Kitchen & Bar and BOURBON Steak Miami, both at the Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Aventura, are offering an impressive selection of courses during this promotion. For example, you can start your dinner at CORSAIR with their creamy Gazpacho, a refreshing blend of heirloom tomato, yellow peach and petite cilantro, or sink your teeth into their Arugula & Duck Confit, one of my personal favorites. Just imagine this tasty bite, prepared with marcona almonds and homboldt fog, then topped with a quail egg. Absolutely amazing. The appetizer menu also includes a Scallop Ceviche that sounds mouthwatering.
Gazpacho and Arugula Duck Confit from CORSAIR
For entrees, CORSAIR offers the most incredible Blackened Salmon served over a pool of black beans, then topped with sweet corn, tomato and an avocado puree. The combination of flavors in this dish was outstanding. If you're in the mood for something from the land, you can choose Smoked Pork Ravioli or Prime Hanger Steak.

Blackened Salmon from CORSAIR

Back to Bourbon Steak, their menu selection rocks too. We absolutely loved the Charred Octopus Ceviche, with its aji panka and sweet potato puree and the Summer Corn Chowder was the perfect blend of creamy comfort and tantalizing taste, made with rock shrimp, iberico ham, fingerling potato and dill. 

Charred Octopus Ceviche and Summer Corn Chowder

Bourbon Steak's entree selections include the Organic Chicken Breast, Certified Angus Rib Cap and the Blackened Mahi Mahi We tasted the Angus New York Strip, which proved to be a very tender yet flavorful cut of meat, served with vacouvan carrot puree, potato confit and cumin yogurt.

Angus New York Strip

What can I say about the desserts? We tried a parade of them ranging from Mini Sorbet Pops (including a spectacular Daiquiri one that will have you laughing in no time) and lip-smacking sweet delights such as the Salted Caramel Pudding (man that was good), Key Lime Tart, topped with mixed berries and a fruit sauce, Pastelito y Cafe, a cultural treat made with cream cheese mousse, guava and coffee granita which reminded me of mornings at my grandmother's house, and a Spiced Chocolate Cremeux.

Mini Sorbet Pops

Salted Caramel Pudding

Key Lime Tart

Pastelito y Cafe

Spiced Chocolate Cremeux

If you're already planning your Miami Spice outings for this year (which you should be) be sure to include a couple of trips to the Turnberry Isle Resort to check out CORSAIR Kitchen & Bar and BOURBON Steak's menus. You'll be ecstatic you did. Remember the lunch price for the Miami Spice menu is $23 and the dinner price is $39. Don't forget to check what days of the week the promotion is being offered and whether they are participating for both lunch and dinner or just one of the two. For more information, visit their website here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Day In L.A. Tour

Miley Cyrus couldn't have said it better when she sang:
"I hopped off the plane at L.A.X. with a dream and my cardigan
Welcome to the land of fame, excess, whoa! am I gonna fit in?
Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time
Look to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign
This is all so crazy, everybody seems so famous
My tummy's turnin' and I'm feelin' kinda homesick
Too much pressure and I'm nervous
That's when the taxi man turned on the radio
And the Jay-Z song was on...."
Going to the City of Angels is definitely a Party In The U.S.A. and as we found out on a recent trip to L.A., the best way to do it, is by booking a tour with A Day In L.A. Tours.  We planned our California trips for months and we decided we were going to pack in as much of the cities we were visiting as was humanly possible, and from all the tours we did, this one definitely gave us the most bang for our buck.
A Day in L.A. Tours offers a standard tour and private tours, but after reading through all the stops included in their City Tour 1, we decided to book it and enjoy the coolest Rastabus in town.
One great plus the tour company offers is pick up from your hotel. While they have a limited range, we found that they provided this service to many more hotels than other tour companies did. Once the colorful bus picked us up, we boarded and started our Los Angeles adventure.
The tour began in front of the Santa Monica Visitors Center, where they met us with some sweets, coffee and fruit to start the day. From there, we headed off to Venice Beach, where the tour guide narrated some interesting facts and we got to see muscle beach and the surfing capital of the world.

Other highlights of the trip included a drive down the Sunset Strip where our very entertaining tour guide gave us the low down on celebrities and the famous spots we always hear about. We got to see the historic Viper Room and Roxy music clubs as well as other iconic places in the area.  

For lunch, we made a stop at the popular Farmer's Market at the Grove, where we got the opportunity to eat from a variety of delicious food vendors and spot a celebrity or two. (It's a hotspot you know). The stop gave us plenty of time to go exploring and we really enjoyed the fresh options we had to choose from.

Can you spot the celebrity on the trolley?
No L.A. tour would be complete without a walk down the Hollywood Hall of Fame where you can stand in your favorite stars' footprints and take a picture with their stars. We had a blast doing this and of course, admiring the Chinese Mann Theater, and the Dolby Theater where the Oscars are held.  Think I'll ever be invited?

Our L.A. adventure continued to Griffith Park Observatory where we got a breathtaking view of the Downtown L.A. skyline and had a nice amount of time to walk around. The best part? Watching the Hollywood sign and hearing the cool story behind its origin.

Our last stops included Rodeo Drive and the chance to do some window shopping where the stars spend their hard earned cash. I got the chance to pretend I was Vivian in Pretty Woman for a minute, looking for my rich Prince Charming in front of the Beverly Wilshire. The keyword here is pretend...

All I can say is, if you're going down to Los Angeles and are looking for an excellent tour that will take you to just about every iconic place in the city for a price you won't believe, book A Day In L.A. Tours and get ready to Party in the U.S.A. Check out their website, and let me know what you think.