Serendipity3 Left Us Feeling Far From Serendipitous

April 7, 2012

I finally made my way to Serendipity3 in Lincoln Road for more than just gluttonous desserts. Some close friends were in town and we decided to check out a relatively new restaurant. I had been to the Serendipity3 in Miami Beach once before strictly for dessert, but this time we decided to try their dinner entrees. This restaurant is one of the hand-full of New York transplants that have graced us with their presence in sunny Miami Beach in recent months.

On our most recent visit, we didn’t hesitate in digging in. I decided to order their Safe at Home Wagyu Sliders. The menu states the Wagyu beef sliders come with bacon aioli and American cheese, sounds innocent enough right? Well it wasn’t. The beef itself was well seasoned and cooked medium. The cheese was American cheese, nothing wrong there. The bacon aioli was actually great and probably the best part about this dish. My main gripe is against the pieces of cardboard the burgers were placed in. The bread was brick hard, dry and tasted as if it had been sitting out all night. What had the potential to be a great slider plummeted to the level of a $.59 cheeseburger from McDonalds.

My best friend, Peter, went with their Mac & Cheese and asked for some extra bacon (because you can never go wrong with extra bacon). His Mac & Cheese was actually very tasty and the extra bacon was definitely the way to go. The pasta was creamy, well seasoned and the bacon gave it a nice contrast in texture. The pasta is served in a modestly sized ramekin with bubbling cheese over the top. Although it was tasty, a few of us at the table wondered if this relatively small bowl of pasta was worth the $14 price tag, especially when the portion was more like a side dish than an entree. Either way, this dish was definitely one of the highlights of our entrees for the night.

I wish I could say the Wagyu sliders were our only disappointment; my friend Jen ordered their Tex-Mex Macho Macho Salad. The salad was less "macho" and more "wimpy" if you ask me. The salad comes with cheese, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, lettuce, guacamole, tortillas, taquitos, black beans and ground beef. The guacamole was not fresh and was a nice shade of booger brown. The ground beef was cold and lastly, the filling in the taquitos was a total mystery to everyone at the table. It was the second disappointment of the night and I was starting to feel embarrassed that I suggested this restaurant to my friends.

The last entrée we had was their Ahi Tuna Salad. My friend Manny was really quiet while he was eating this salad. All we got out of him, for the most part, was a couple of sentences including, “You can’t get stuff like this in West Virginia.” He pretty much inhaled his salad and said it got a ‘thumbs up’ from him. I will give the restaurant this much credit, the salad did look delicious and the tuna (although I didn’t try it) looked very fresh.

Now onto the desserts, on my first visit I had their traditional Frrrozen Hot Chocolate which was absolutely delicious. It’s not quite a milkshake, not quite a smoothie, but 100% diabetic coma inducing. It was perfect especially for this blistering Miami heat. So this visit I knew I had to have another Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, I decided to try their Amaretto Almond Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. It’s made out of their white chocolate base and it tastes just like amaretto liqueur. The neat part is it’s topped with their usual mountain of whipped cream and chunks of almond brittle. I personally really enjoyed this dessert since I'm a big amaretto fan.

Traditional Frrrozen Hot Chocolate:

Amaretto Almond Frrrozen Hot Chocolate:

My friend Jen had their Chocolate Blackout Cake, due to my promising her that it tasted great. On my first visit, my boyfriend had ordered this same cake and it was delicious, fresh, and an enormous serving. I had hyped up this dessert and what was placed down on our table was a slice of chocolate cake half the size from our first visit. Jen said the cake didn’t taste fresh and was disappointed with it. I didn’t try the cake because I was too busy with my frrrozen hot chocolate and cookie sundae, but it’s sufficed to say I definitely felt embarrassed.

Chocolate Blackout Cake from my first visit:

Chocolate Blackout Cake from our last visit:

The show-stopper dessert at our table was their Lookie Lookie Gimme Cookie Sundae. This behemoth of a sundae came with cookie dough ice cream, two giant cookies (one chocolate chunk and one white chocolate macadamia), chocolate syrup, and a mound of whipped cream. Everyone at our table had at least one giant spoonful of this delicious monstrosity. This was the best possible ending to a mediocre meal.

In summation, I would suggest to eat dinner elsewhere and come to Serendipity3 only for their desserts. Another issue that we faced throughout the night was our practically non-existent service. Our waitress was nice, but trying to find her was a night-long game of “Where’s Waldo?” Perhaps this is one of the pitfalls of dining on Lincoln Road which caters predominantly to tourists that perhaps don’t expect better or know better. The prices are relatively reasonable with a few items here and there that are slightly over-priced. I definitely left feeling like this place is definitely hit or miss with a couple of dishes exceeding my friend’s (and my) expectations and others coming nowhere near.


Restaurant Details:

(305) 403-2210
1102 Lincoln Rd
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Serendipity 3 on Urbanspoon

Essensia Bringing Farm-To-Table to South Beach

April 3, 2012

A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of checking out Essensia at the Palms Hotel in South Beach. I had honestly never heard of Essensia and had no expectations or knowledge about the restaurant. So my best friend and I ventured over to the Palms to check the place out. Come to find out the restaurant is almost completely sustainable and they even have their own garden where they grow a great deal of their own herbs and vegetables. The restaurant is located on the lobby floor of the hotel and has a large outdoor dining area that has a very Key West vibe and faces the hotel’s garden and pool. I loved the easy going yet upscale vibe the outdoor dining area had.

Now onto the stuff that really matters; to start we went with their Ahi Tuna Tartare Stack. It was beautifully plated and just as delicious. It was wasabi caviar over a tomato & avocado ponzu stacked on top of ahi tuna all neatly plated over edamame hummus. The tartare is also served with crispy lotus chips. The crispy lotus was a fun and different variation to regular chips or pita bread. The hummus went perfectly well with the avocado and tuna. This dish was so delicious and hard to stop eating. Once I was done licking the plate, I moved onto the next dish.

We also got to try their Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Creamless “Bisque.” The “Bisque” is topped with lump crab meat. This was another funky yet delicious combination. I would never have though that crab would be a flavorful combination with cauliflower and leeks, but it definitely works. The soup has a tiny hint of truffle and lemon and would’ve been the perfect meal for those excruciatingly rare, cold Miami nights.

After the soup and tartare we dug into a couple of salads. We tried their Local Burrata & Local Heirloom Tomato Caprese and their Tri-Colored Citrus Salad. The tomatoes, if memory serves me correctly, are grown in the chef’s garden right at the hotel. The salad also comes with charred corn, crispy prosciutto, basil olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were different variations of red and green hues. The burrata was delicious and fresh. This was a classic dish that was well done with a touch of funky thanks to the charred corn. The Tri-Colored Citrus Salad was my least favorite of the two but this is mostly attributed to the fact that I’m not a big fan of frisee. None the less, it was very refreshing with the fresh citrus, dates, sherry vinaigrette and almonds. It’s a great summer dish to help cool off this horrific Miami heat.

Onto the entrees, I had their Local Grass Fed Braised Short Rib. Although it wasn’t the tenderest short rib I’ve ever had, the fig, ancho chili and chocolate demi-glace sure did impress. The complexity of flavors between the chili, chocolate and fig was a perfect pairing for the short rib. Throw in some fried leeks, cumin roasted baby carrots and a delicious celery root & leek puree and this dish one I wouldn’t hesitate in having again.

My friend Carri had their Seared Herb Crusted Ashley Farms Airline Chicken Breast. The chicken breast was juicy and very flavorful, best part for a fatass like me was the perfectly crisp chicken skin. The chicken comes with fried gnocchi in a brown sage butter that left me moaning and grunting like a caveman at the dinner table. Along with this dish comes a shaved brussel sprouts and shitake mushroom ragu. The best bite of this dish was getting a piece of chicken (with chicken skin attached of course) soaking up the sour cherry port reduction and citrus honey herb drizzle all in one bite then immediately following it with a fried gnocchi. I really enjoyed this dish and even though my friend Carri played nice and shared with me, I couldn’t help but try and fight her over the last piece of gnocchi and chicken skin.

After all this food, we somehow found room for dessert. We had a small sampling of pretty much every dessert Essensia has to offer (you are right in your summation of calling us gluttonous pigs right about now). We had their brulee style carrot cake which was very rich and moist; the cake comes topped with a thick layer of crème brulee. However, it missed that creamy texture we’re all so used to from the traditional cream cheese frosting. None the less, this cake is not to be missed; neither is the blood orange sorbet that it is paired with it. The blood orange sorbet was absolutely refreshing especially on a humid summer night. We also tried their roasted cherry cheesecake strudel which was definitely different with its macadamia nut crust. The macadamia crust helped give the whole dessert a nutty flavor and nice depth. They also serve a chocolate ancho chili mousse that was my personal favorite. The chili spice comes in very subtly but gives the chocolate a great flavor. Lastly, we had a jalapeño strawberry ice cream that was spicy as hell. I was only able to take to bites without feeling like I was kicked in the back of the throat. The ice cream was sweet at first and the spice hits your throat like a fire engine. Definitely a dessert for the more ballsy eaters out there.

This place was great and its décor helps you suspend reality and make you feel like you’re in Key West away from all of your Miami woes. The food is great and Chef Julie Frans is successfully working to do her part in the farm to table/sustainable food efforts that have gained popularity throughout the nation. The best part is that there wasn’t a single dish that I felt was under or over seasoned; everything was perfectly seasoned in my personal opinion. I would go back to this restaurant anytime; they are doing old time American favorites with a modern/upscale twist.

Restaurant Details:
3025 Collins Avenue
Inside The Palms Hotel
Miami Beach, FL 33140
(305) 908-5458

Essensia Restaurant and Lounge on Urbanspoon