I went to Miami for my birthday this year. I didn't do much besides reading, lounging by the pool, drinking piña coladas, and eating. It was 90˚F every day, sunny, dry, and my allergies disappeared while I was there. For those of you who suffer from severe allergies each spring--with stuffed-up noses, eyes and ears--the best gift is for it to all go away.
For my birthday dinner, we went to Azul, the restaurant inside our hotel. Miami has basically all the famous NYC restaurants you can think of. All the upscale hotels have restaurants with famed chefs, and the decor is over-the-top decor. We decided to go to Azul, since it's not in New York, and conveniently located in our hotel.
This was my third stay at the hotel, and every time we tried to go to Azul in the past, it was always booked up, so we ended up eating downstairs (which is pretty nice). This time, we made our reservation way in advance.
Decor was pretty minimal, seats were very comfortable, and it wasn't too crowded. I liked that. What I hate most about eating out is hearing neighbors conversations. Our tables were spaced out perfectly, not too close, not too far.
Our server was very attentive, and my martini was never empty. Another good sign.
We opened up the menu, and damn, it was EXPENSIVE. I've been to upscale restaurants in New York, where premium real estate price counts into the price of the food, but this is Miami. Sure, it is the Mandarin Oriental, but how can all the entrees be over $40? I was a bit offended, but it was my birthday dinner after all, and what the hell, you might as well enjoy the whole experience, right?
Before we ordered our dinner, amuse-bouche came out. It was a cold mint and pea soup, with chill oil (red center).
I wasn't planning on taking good pictures (my picture taking skill sucks anyways), and wasn't going to use flash, but a couple sitting next to us were taking pictures of each other, food, everything, with the flash on, so I was like, what the hell, I am going to join the embarrassing club and take pictures with flash too!
Oh the bread was awesome. I usually don't like bread, but these were spectacular.
Left was sun-dried tomato bread, very crunchy and hearty. Right was the scallion roll, which was so soft and tasted almost like a Chinese bun. So appropriate. I was amazed.
Perfectly chilled butter. Kayoko would approve of this.
I ordered the hisamasa sashimi as appetizer. Hiramasa is basically a type of hamachi (yellowtail), but this wasn't too fatty, and totally fresh.
Edible flowers added a tropical appearance, and crunchy lotus roots were salty and added a nice crunch. It was a ponzu-esque sauce, totally Asian fusion. It was fantastic especially since it was the first Asian-fusion meal during my stay. I sometimes feel so Japanese when I cannot go for more than a couple of days without soy sauce. Maybe soy sauce has crack in it..
It was a bit too shellfish heavy (or no fish actually), but the lime flavor was very nice in contrast to the sweet scallops.
The ceviche came with fried plantains. It was perfectly salted, crunchy outside, and soft inside. It was very good as well. I wasn't sure about eating this with ceviche though--it was better eaten separately for some reason.
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant with an open kitchen, so it was very interesting to see all the hustle and bustle. Unlike many American commercial kitchens, especially being in Miami, I didn't see any amigos. It was a very Caucasian-dominated kitchen.
Before the main course, cold tomato soup was served to clean our palettes. It was super concentrated tomato soup. Though I love good tomatos, I can't eat many fruits raw due to my weird allergy. This was a great alternative--the tomatoes tasted very fresh, but my throat didn't get all itchy and scratchy since it was cooked.
Since entrees were $40 and above, I stuck to martinis instead of going through the 100 page wine list (all which were definitely $100 and above).
By the way, do we HAVE to drink wine with good food? Is it wrong to keep drinking martinis through dinner? Sure, it may kill a couple thousand cells on my tongue so I may not be able to taste the maximum flavors of my food, but martini with dinner is my kinda style. Whatever suits me is fine, right?
Entree 1: Lamb in three styles. Chops, loins, and meatball, with cous cous and topped with jus.
On the right of the plate, it looks like shit was smeared on the plate--which was actually some kind of bean sauce. It was sweet, and almost tasted like anko (red bean paste). It added a fantastic sweetness to the meat. All the meat was perfectly cooked, and there were NO gamey flavors. Super fantastic. Soft, meaty, and flavorful. I didn't want to think about it, but this was $50. Each bite was about $5...
Entree 2: Seafood risotto. Delicious, fresh seafood.
The clams tasted of the ocean and the scallops were super sweet. Rice was perfectly seasoned with saffron and herbs .
Again, I didn't want to think about it, but it was $45. About $3 a bite...
This was very memorable meal, and considering everything we ate (the bread and small soups), I understand why it's so expensive. When you go to Miami next time, this is one place you may want to consider.