ROYAL TREAT­MENT

Ge­of­frey Zakar­ian stuns with his re­turn to South Florida: a coastal Amer­i­can eatery at the newly ren­o­vated Di­plo­mat Beach Re­sort.

Ocean Drive - - Contents - BY CARLA TOR­RES

“In 1994 I opened a restau­rant called Blue Door at The De­lano with Ian Schrager and some­one named Madonna [ring a bell?],” says Iron Chef, Chopped judge, cook­book author, and bona fide culi­nary celebrity Ge­of­frey Zakar­ian. “It was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause Miami Beach [back then] was noth­ing. There wasn’t much qual­ity.” Fast-for­ward two decades. “Miami has be­come a des­ti­na­tion—some of the best chefs in the world are here,” Zakar­ian says. He’s right: From denizens like Bradley Kil­gore and Michael Schwartz to gas­tro­nomic giants Michael Mina, Jean-ge­orges Von­gerichten, Daniel Boulud, Fran­cis Mall­mann, and even Thomas Keller and Joël Robu­chon, ev­ery­one wants a piece of Miami’s culi­nary real es­tate.

It should come as no sur­prise, then, that 23 years after his ini­tial Miami Beach de­but, things have come full cir­cle—back to South Florida. “I’d been look­ing to open some­thing down here for a while when Howard asked me to come on as chef-part­ner,” he says of his friend Howard Wein (the founder of Howard Wein Hos­pi­tal­ity and The Di­plo­mat Restau­rant Group), who was tasked with over­see­ing The Di­plo­mat Beach Re­sort’s $100 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion. “A thou­sand rooms and the largest con­ven­tion cen­ter in Florida? It was a no-brainer.”

An­chor­ing the Di­plo­mat’s ma­jor ren­o­va­tion and top-notch food and bev­er­age of­fer­ings is Point Royal, the seam­less in­door-out­door trop­i­cal oa­sis and shrine to seafood. Fid­dle-leaf figs breathe life into the high-ceilinged space where glis­ten­ing seafood tow­ers sit atop vir­tu­ally ev­ery ta­ble. Abun­dant raw bar com­bi­na­tions—like a hamachi crudo crowned with cran­berry rel­ish, cu­cum­bers, Fuji ap­ples, and crispy shal­lots— Zakar­ian says, “are some of the things you can’t get enough of in Florida,” es­pe­cially when it’s 90 de­grees in the sum­mer sun.

But don’t let the heat dis­cour­age you from or­der­ing some of the richer dishes, like the house-made ri­cotta ag­nolotti cou­pled with Florida blue crab fon­due, lemon but­ter, cel­ery, and caviar. “Crab and pasta are a mar­riage,” says Zakar­ian. Or the pome­gran­ate-glazed short rib, which goes ex­cep­tion­ally well with the crispy Brus­sels sprouts smoth­ered with mus­tard crème fraiche and speck­led with can­died pecans and green ap­ple.

If you’re go­ing to have only one dish, how­ever, let it be the lob­ster roll. Set­ting Point Royal’s sand­wich apart is the re­spect­ful use of the crus­tacean, whole and doused in a pi­quant Col­man’s mus­tard sauce. “We don’t chop it up with may­on­naise,” Zakar­ian says. That would be a vi­o­la­tion to the ocean, and at Point Royal, fish are treated with the ut­most care, as best ev­i­denced by the corn­meal-crusted Florida snap­per, brought to zesty life through tomato, basil, egg­plant, and saf­fron aioli.

And then there’s the ul­ti­mate sweet and boozy fin­ish: a Key lime Pavlova whose meringue is delectably brit­tle, paired with a Key lime gelée and Graham cracker crust, and washed down with a frozen piña co­lada. Be­cause if one thing has re­mained un­changed in Miami in the 23 years since Zakar­ian first opened a restau­rant here, it’s that a proper piña co­lada is al­ways in or­der. 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hol­ly­wood, 954-6028750; pointroyal-fl.com

“MIAMI HAS BE­COME A DES­TI­NA­TION. SOME OF THE BEST CHEFS IN THE WORLD ARE HERE.” —GE­OF­FREY ZAKAR­IAN

Din­ers can or­der from the abun­dant raw bar at Ge­of­frey Zakar­ian’s new Point Royal restau­rant in­side the Di­plo­mat Beach Re­sort.

A seafood tower comes with East and West Coast oys­ters, shrimp, lob­ster, Alaskan king crab legs, and stone crab claws.

Chef Ge­of­frey Zakar­ian. ƥƞɵƭ: Point Royal’s un­chopped but­ter-poached lob­ster roll is doused in pi­quant Col­man’s mus­tard sauce.

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