Thursday, August 1, 2013

Miami Spice at Atrio at the Conrad-Miami Hotel in Brickell

What goes perfect with unparalleled service and impressive food? A great view! My first pick for this year's Miami Spice is Atrio Restaurant & Wine Room at the Conrad Miami Hotel located at 1395 Brickell Avenue. Atrio is a luxurious restaurant in the trendy yet sophisticated area of Brickell, offering panoramic views of the city and bay area. Its beautiful decor personifies unpretentious elegance, with a warm and inviting feel.

As I rode the elevator up to the 25th floor, I saw the Miami Spice menu displayed on the wall. Usually, I know right away what dishes I want to try because not all of them will appeal to me. However, the first thing that jumped out on our high speed ride was that the choices they offer for each course of the Miami Spice menu all sound amazing. And on top of that madness, you could also choose a select wine pairing for just $6 a glass.  Me likey already!

We sat down next to the floor-to-ceiling window and admired the view, while our incredibly knowledgeable and friendly waiter, Shane, gave us an in-depth description of the preparation of each dish. Wow! I can get used to this. There were a few of us having dinner together, so since we really wanted to try everything, we each ordered something different. You know what they say, sharing is caring.

Almond  & Grape Gazpacho
Goat Cheese Salad
Atrio offers the same Miami Spice menu for both lunch and dinner, so let's start with the appetizers. The selections are Almond & Grape Gazpacho, Salmon & Grouper Carpaccio, and Goat Cheese Salad. All three are winners. I'm not talking about just taste either - the presentation is remarkable. The Almond & Grape Gazpacho is completely unique and fun. It actually consists of a fried shrimp, grapes and mixed greens salad on one side of the dish with a shot of gazpacho on the other. So you eat it by taking alternating bites and sips. Think of it as a "deconstructed" gazpacho. It was extremely refreshing and flavorful. The Salmon & Grouper Carpaccio is equally as alluring. Thinly sliced pieces of salmon and grouper are artfully arranged on the plate, and topped with a fine herb sorbet. My first observation was that it totally awakened my palate, providing an aromatic, cooling array of flavors. Perhaps one of my favorites of the night. The Goat Cheese Salad was another fresh start to the meal, expertly pairing fried chunks of tangy, goat cheese, with the crispness of organic greens sourced from Paradise Farms. I loved the touches of roasted beets and crunchy pecans which added more depth and texture to the experience, and found the dressing to be phenomenal. They certainly know how to put together an opening course befitting the culture and feel of Miami at Atrio. All of these choices were perfect summer dishes.

Salmon & Grouper Carpaccio

Seared Scallops
Mushroom Cannelloni
The second course offerings were as exquisite as the first, providing a delectable option for every preference. They include Seared Scallops, Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly, and Mushroom Cannelloni. The Seared Scallops were buttery and soft, sitting on a nice, creamy and smooth cauliflower mousseline, and topped with a cardamon cloud. The cardamon gave the tender scallops an intensely fragrant character that seemed to warm the taste buds with every bite. The Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly was, how should I say, a masterpiece. Oozing in superior taste, texture and marbling, it was the kind of dish you savor with your eyes closed. Difficult to describe with just one adjective, I have to alternate between crispy, tender, chewy and sweet. It was served with crispy octopus and mascarpone polenta, all coming together like a loving family on Christmas morning. Can it get any more genius than that? For those preferring a meatless or vegetarian alternative, the Mushroom Cannelloni would be spot on. Served in a creamy gorgonzola sauce, the strong flavors of the sauce balanced the earthiness of the mushrooms in pure, gastronomic harmony.

Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly

Peach Trifle
Exotic Virgin Daiquiri
The third course choices proved to have been designed with as much care and detail as the other two. They consisted of Peach Trifle, Exotic Virgin Daiquiri and Farm Goat Cheesecake. The Peach Trifle was served in a glass; the chunks of peaches layered between dollops of Amaretto whipped cream. It was light, creamy and another refreshing ode to Miami weather. The Exotic Virgin Daiquiri was an original dessert, made with passion fruit, mango and kiwi, and served with champagne granite. This one was more subtle and fruity in taste yet memorable in its simplicity and presentation. It kind of reminded me of a tropical escapade through the Caribbean. Although I was enthralled by all the desserts, the Farm Goat Cheesecake was my favorite. A picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case it doesn't do it justice. The mild flavored, creamy texture of the goat cheese created a decadent sweet basis for this dessert, while the raspberry coulis infused a seasonal zest that brought it all together. I can sleep with one of these on my pillow every night.

Farm Goat Cheesecake

All this, for $23 for lunch and $39 for dinner. Can't think of a better place for a  fantastic, romantic night. And with a Miami Spice menu like this, it is an eat-and-repeat kind of place. After starting off with an experience as memorable as this one, I can't wait to see what else awaits us for 2013. For more information, you can visit Atrio online or call them at 305 503-6500.

Atrio Restaurant & Wine Room on Urbanspoon

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