South Beach is famous for its nightlife, ocean views, glitz and glamorous. It also happens to be home to one of the finest dining hotspots in the U.S., at the Ritz-Cartlon, South Beach. The five-star hotel has acquired a supremely talented crew of elite chefs, a wonderfully skilled bartender and a hard-working, diverse support staff who collectively succeed in giving foodies one of the best all-around culinary experiences money can buy.
Speaking of money, it is abundantly clear the hotel spares no expenses to ensure it provides its chefs the absolute best and freshest ingredients on the planet. For example, the hotel’s DiLido Beach Club gets fresh salmon and tuna flown in daily all the way from the Pacific Ocean because the fish in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 yards from the restaurant, don’t taste quite as good.
The philosophy management has taken (“get cream-of-the-crop talent, then get them whatever they want for materials”) has clearly paid dividends, as my wife and I discovered on a dream vacation to the famous hotel this past summer.
We flew into Miami on a Saturday afternoon and drove straight to the Ritz, only to discover the hotel was upgrading us to a room on the 11th floor. And indeed, it was a room with a view.
The first evening we dined in the Club Lounge, savoring scrumptious items such as Siracha Chicken, Crab Tartlet, Arugula Melons Feta Cucumber Mint, and Wild Mushroom Volauvont, topped off with a nightcap of desserts and drinks.
On night two, we dined outside at one of the hotel’s signature restaurants, Bistro One LR. The DiLido Beach Club is the restaurant down on the beach––the only restaurant actually on South Beach, in fact––while the Bistro One LR is up in the main part of the hotel and offers indoor and outdoor seating. We had a beautiful evening to sit outside, so we made the obvious choice for a couple from freezing Minnesota.
The setting––mere feet from the infinity pool––was spectacular, the service––with head chef Gina Lopez coming out to explain our dishes to us––could not have been better, and the food––with heirloom tomatoes, fillet mignon and grouper––was unparalleled.
In a word, phenomenal. To elaborate on that, allow me to share course-by-course photos of the amazing dinner.
After dinner, we walked down the staircase to the Ritz-Carlton bar which, as you might expect, is beyond cool. The bar is adjacent to the hotel’s iconic art deco lobby, and is an awesome place to hang out and potentially spot a celebrity.
We spotted someone who’s not quite famous yet, but ought to be considering his immense talent: head bartender Danny Zeenberg. The Florida native is truly a wizard behind the bar, with over 15 years of studying drinks and experimenting with all sorts of concoctions. The drinks were first-rate, but Zeenberg himself stole the show. Both my wife and I agreed we would have gladly sat there and listened to him talk all night.
If you’ve ever spoken with someone who’s truly one of the foremost experts on their particular hobby––but mercifully has the ability to share all the nuanced details of their craft in a way that is fascinating––you know what I mean. Zeenberg’s passion is contagious and his expertise is immense.
While we were visiting, another guest came up to the bar wanting a bourbon and playfully challenged Zeenberg about the quality of the drink he wanted––warning Zeenberg that he was very particular and had become accustomed to the highest standard of excellence around his favorite, go-to drink.
“Where was the best bourbon you’ve ever had?” Zeenberg asked.
“Dallas,” the guest said.
“I can beat that,” Zeenberg replied without missing a beat. He was confident, not cocky, and he knew his stuff. The guy came back afterward and admitted Zeenberg’s drink was the best he’d ever had. It was cool to watch such a master at his craft.
Eventually we had to call it a night and, sadly, a trip. But the experience was unforgettable on several levels.
We've been very fortunate to dine at many elite restaurants across the U.S. and internationally––restaurants that top professional food critics' short lists of places you have to try at least once in your life––and I have to say the dining experiences we enjoyed at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach were second to none.
The website for The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is www.ritzcarlton.com/southbeach. For more information, call (786) 276-4000.
Foodies looking to extend their food-tasting tour can easily head down to the Florida Keys from Miami as well. The Keys offers a variety of casual and high-end dining options on the ocean, including gems such as Little Palm Island Resort & Spa and Lorelei Cabana Bar and Restaurant.
For more information on great Florida Keys getaways and dining options, visit Fla-keys.com.