Essensia Miami Beach Review – Paradise at The Palms
The Palms Hotel & Spa has been a Miami Beach icon since it first opened in 1939. Standing proudly among its fellow beachfront resorts, the Palms has managed to stay relevant and timeless for 75 years. Dining, of course, remains an important part of hotel popularity – Essensia Miami Beach, the current bar and restaurant at the Palms, has focused on the pure, farm-to-table ingredients since its conception.
Breezy and tropical, Essensia Miami Beach exudes elegance and hospitality. Light samba music plays throughout, truly adding to the posh beachside vibe. It is easy to feel that closed away from the outside world, with lush gardens and high trees surrounding the patio and pool area that eventually leads to the beach.
On the night of my attendance, Essensia was hosting their preview event for Miami Spice, an annual two-month long restaurant showcase. This year, 181 restaurants are featured.
The bar at Essensia Miami Beach is known for its “conscious cocktails”, made with organic local ingredients. The Spicy Passion Fruit margarita with jalapeños caught my attention immediately. It was refreshing with just a slight bite, exactly as you’d want it in such a drink (throughout dinner, as I do not drink white wine, the chef was kind enough pair additional conscious cocktails with each dish that was typically accompanied with white).
Before dinner, Chef Venoy Rogers – who is new to Miami by way of San Diego – came to introduce himself and explain a bit about his training and influences. Venoy describes his style as “New American fusion”, citing his classically French training but that he is “inspired by everything”. Venoy will also be running the Jules Kitchen and Wunderbar at the Palms’ sister hotel, Circa 39.
Photo courtesy of Essensia Miami Beach
We began with some starters: notably, the Megene salad, the name of which intrigued many of our party, though Venoy said the title is simply something he liked the sound of. The salad contained thinly sliced sweet potato, which was a surprising yet complementary addition. The Yelo Tomato gazpacho was light and chilled, with hints of avocado and basil (fun fact: the Yelo tomato is not misspelled – it is an actual type of tomato, and it isn’t yellow!). The Spinach and Grilled Watermelon salad was summery and sophisticated, with just enough goat cheese tossed in.
Of Essensia’s Miami Spice preview entree dishes, two stuck out as winners in my book. The Saffron Poached Black Grouper was served with a perfect Spanish farro (a nice change from typical rice) and decorated with squid ink aioli, which – rather than overpower the meal – accented it, especially the farro.
The Florida Raised Certified Angus Beef Short Rib may sound basic enough, but Venoy’s take on the classic is anything but. Braised in red wine, the beef was served over a corn polenta with sautéed carrots. This was our final dish of the evening, but quickly became my favorite. The shortrib managed to be tender without an ounce of fat, and the “polenta com milho cozido” was out of this galaxy.
Essensia Miami Beach is sophisticated while at the same time welcoming; everyone has a smile on their face – staff and guests. Surrounded by paradise, it would be difficult for anyone not to lose themselves in the essence of Essensia.
Miami Spice 2015 runs from August 1-September 30.