As simple and dramatic as a bonfire, Paula DaSilva’s cooking at the Eden Roc is attracting sophisticated diners like moths to a flame.
The space is handsome in a clean and modern, if generic, way. Cushy, leatherlike white chairs on spindly espresso-colored legs are paired with cozy banquettes and snow-white marble tables, all bracketed by glittery amber-toned chandeliers and slate-gray floors. The soundtrack could use some work. Though much is made of the fact that Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra stayed and played here in their heyday, I could have sworn we heard a Muzak version of Let It Be during one of our several meals. Picture windows overlooking the pool deck lend a tropical feel, but for an even better view, cast your gaze at the smoothly running open kitchen, where Dean Max protégé DaSilva operates a gleaming, stainless steel asador at the scorching temperature that gives the restaurant its name.The Brazilian-born chef, who trained at the Fort Lauderdale Art Institute, clearly knows how to handle heat. And though this is most definitely a steak house — male guests outnumber females four to one — it is much more. You get the sense that only the best ingredients are allowed in DaSilva’s kitchen. Starters included pearly, pristine bites of raw corvina marinated ever so briefly in lime juice, celery, shallots, chile pepper and olive oil as well as tender, tasty charred octopus tentacles that had been braised then grilled and tossed in a lemony pepper oil dressing along with earthy, quartered artichoke hearts. Dishes are seasoned boldly. Expect thumb-sized bits of smoky bacon, nubs of peppery chorizo and lots of salt and pepper. Though it might seem a bit macho, touches like bay leaf-thyme butter and showers of chopped parsley and cilantro reveal a feminine subtlety. A side of brussels sprouts in a creamy, grainy mustard sauce finished with sherry vinegar to cut the richness and bits of olives to add more acid tones may look like a science experiment forgotten under a couch, but it tastes divine. A Vidalia onion cooked in cream and stuffed with melty Gruyere potatoes is another decadent side that’s not to be missed.A prime, fist-sized picahna with a vibrant but not too garlicky chimichurri impressed us nearly as much as a meltingly marbled Florida Wagyu rib-eye at twice the price. Both had the blackened char we expected from the Promethean heat and perfectly pink, juicy centers.Seafood dishes are perhaps even better. From penny-sized clams to buttery mussels and a whole fried yellowtail snapper over ham-flecked beluga lentils, every one was expertly prepared.The staff, though well-intentioned, seemed timid and distracted. Plus, they tend to rotate, so that on a single visit we had three servers. And often none at all. Some dishes came cold and a few were no-shows.Desserts, too, are miles beyond steakhouse standards. Sticky toffee cake with vanilla ice cream and a vanilla toffee sauce won us over on first bite despite its rather dreary appearance. A respectable if limited cheese platter with house-made jams and chutneys is another option.A well-chosen international wine list works on all levels, though it would be great to have an expert on hand to help with pairing. No matter the temperature, 1500 Degrees is one cool newcomer to the Miami dining scene.
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