First Look: Hakkasan

Hakkasan at Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Hakkasan at Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The goods:  With the opening of Hakkasan, the Fontainebleau’s dining empire is finally complete. Not only does the hotel boast Italian, steak, sushi and Mediterranean restaurants, now they have added Chinese to the roster. But this isn’t some pedestrian lo mein joint, but rather haute Chinese from restaurateur Alan Yau whose London-based Hakkasan garnered a Michelin star and redefined upscale dim sum. Yau’s first U.S. restaurant, this outpost occupies an envious spot on the top floor of the hotel’s glass-encased spa building overlooking the ocean.

There’s an outdoor terrace with spectacular water views but it’s not yet open for seating, which is fine because the restaurant’s interior offers one of the more unique dining venues in Miami. The dark and seductive spot is a maze-like warren of carved wood alcoves each illuminated by Chinese lanterns and arrayed with turquoise leather seating. The materials are sumptuous and the effect is dramatic – double-height doors, black lacquered latticework and teak panels depicting Asian motifs give the space a Shanghai supper club meets Mad Max vibe. Hostesses outfitted in hot pink silk Alexander McQueen-designed dresses add bursts of color to the noir-ish surroundings.

The grub: Traditional Chinese fare gussied up with high-end ingredients. Don’t expect General Tso’s chicken or beef with broccoli; this is authentic cooking from the mainland with a focus on Cantonese specialties like dim sum and dumplings. Don’t expect neighborhood prices either, as most entrees are in the $30 range and starters range $8 for Shanghai dumplings to $130 for Japanese abalone. Helming the kitchen is chef Wen Ten Sian, who honed his skills with fusion Chinese at the high-end My Humble House restaurant in Beijing.

Begin by feasting on a spread of dim sum like the crispy duck rolls, shrimp on garlic toast and the dumpling platter, which includes fillings of shrimp, Chinese chive and scallops. There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to mains as the lengthy menu includes dozens of options in categories of beef, poultry, fish, seafood, vegetable and noodles/rice. The five-spice Wagyu beef is presented in a sizzling claypot and accompanied by sautéed pumpkin while a Jade grouper is enlivened with wood ear mushrooms and scallions. The Jasmine tea smoked chicken is a Hakkasan specialty as is the roasted mango duck with lemon sauce. Sides of Chinese vegetables like gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and choi sum (Chinese cabbage) are wok-fried with bold accompaniments like salted fish and chili. Noodles dishes include a Fujian style udon served in a claypot with squid.

Desserts like the white chocolate mousse with grapefruit sorbet and the pandan soufflé (made from pandan leaves which are similar to banana leaves) with coconut ice cream are a refreshing coda to the assertively-flavored fare.

The wine list conquers the daunting task of pairing quaffs with spicy Asian food and includes several reasonably-priced selections including a light and fruity Heinrich Zweigelt red for $40.

Verdict: With the opening of Hakkasn, dim sum devotees now have a polished outpost for upscale Chinese eats.

Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau, 4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 786 276 1388.