Florida Life - Dining
Check-in time at hotel restaurants
A look at some of Florida's best dining at Palm Beach's The Breakers, Sarasota's Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Marriott and The Setai Hotel in Miami Beach.
Out: The ornate L’Escalier and the Florentine Room.
In: After a multimillion-dollar revamp, the baronial hall now hosts HMF, a tribute to Henry M. Flagler and to the classic Palm Beach cocktail party. It pours every New Era trend and retro fantasy into a chilled icy shaker, two parts “Mad Men,” one part Gatsby and one part food truck, all served with Worth Avenue glamour. The midcentury look is from super stylist Adam Tihany, who did Per Se in New York. Even the sleeve-gartered barkeeps and cigarette girls (but no cigarettes) get designed, coiffed and made up by Guerlain and Fekkai.
Drinks from celebrity sommelier Virginia Philip and Juan Gomez run from class Gibsons, with house-cured cocktail onions, to a Railcar #91 of Cognac lemon, local honey and orange foam named for the tycoon’s private car.
Solid fare is a flashy mash-up of farm market vegetables, a Japanese robata, old school Italian pizzette, sushi, Stumptown coffee and baked Alaska. One part of the menu credits “the very best gourmet food trucks” for the likes of duck bao buns, wagyu sliders, chicken meatball tacos and wild boar empanaditas
($17 to $24).
Out: The Verona, classic Ritz gourmet dining, an exemplar of grand French and a pioneer of local and organic produce in Sarasota.
In: A new culinary team at the 10-year-old hotel has launched Jack Dusty, a breezy seafooder with a menu from fried alligator “tots” and oysters with collards to sushi ceviche and whole hog snapper in coconut curry broth. Trimmings are both gourmet (watermelon salad with fennel pollen) and modern comfy (house made ice pops, chocolate cake in a jar). Drinks include clever cocktails and an 18-label rum list.
The revamp included tearing out regal fittings and stuffed wing chairs for more open décor. Jack Dusty remains the hotel’s all-day space starting with breakfast and has moderate prices — starters run $10 to $20; steaks, chops and fish entrees top out at $30.
Where Verona was a special-occasion place, hotelier Brad Jencks sees Jack Dusty as a “restaurant that happens to be in a Ritz-Carlton,” affordable enough that he sees locals in three or four nights a week.
Out: The old Setai Grill, not as expensive or as Asian as the Setai’s main restaurant. The grill served trendy drinks and fashionable plates.
In: The Setai Grill relaunched as a very sophisticated steak house matching any in Miami’s top-dollar carnivore category. Chef Matthias Gervais provides French and Asian undercurrents, yet the star is dry-aged beef from Pat LaFrieda, New York’s celebrity butcher, including a 2-pound bone-in tomahawk steak ($125).
Two-fisted meat eating is not New Age, yet prime beef easily fits the Setai’s elegant indulgence. The Iberico ham is top pata negra from Cinco Jotas, the foie gras from Rougier, the carrots with the veal chop are baby purple heirlooms. The amber osetra caviar is layered with stone crab and crème fraiche ($305).
The wine cellar has a massive Champagne section.