It's Not All Glamour and Glitz

The restaurant's opening press release pledged that specialty items such as branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) would be flown in twice a week from Italy, but the only fish proffered were salmon (with green vegetables and caper pesto), grouper (with roasted tomatoes), and yellowfin tuna, diagonally sliced in half and angled over "artichoke ragout." The tender tuna was seared to an appetizing burgundy-rare, the ragout not a stew at all but sautéed spinach tossed with black olives, grape tomatoes, and crunchy slices of fresh artichoke hearts. Roll over, Auguste (and tell César the news).

Filet mignon, rack of lamb, veal chop, Black Angus rib eye, chicken paillard, and bistecca alla Fiorentina comprise the grilled meat entrées. The last, a formidable 22-ounce T-bone steak, was well marbled and fully flavored, accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes and perfectly cooked haricots verts. Still, a $39 steak at The Ritz-Carlton might be expected to boast a truffle-scented jus, chanterelles, or maitre d'hotel butter. And if Cioppino is intent on worshipping the deity of extreme simplicity, how about organic, grass-fed beef with coarse sea salt and a wedge of lemon?

Pastry chef Frederic Monnet's desserts exhibit far more latitude than anything on the main menu. I conducted a study in chocolate and almond textures by ordering a chocolate almond soufflé and chocolate amaretti torte. The latter was cupcake-shaped and a tad dry, though enlivened by bright pistachio sauce and a refreshing raspberry sorbet shot with cheery notes of sour cherry. The soufflé was perfectly executed -- decadently dark and wet with deep chocolate and spiked with slivers of almond. Other fetching treats include zabaglione with strawberry balsamic sorbet, toasted almond panna cotta with orange anise sorbet, and a cinnamon-spiked pear with mascarpone and pistachio ice cream. Desserts effectively capture what the cuisine does not -- the spirit of simple Tuscan fare elevated to Ritz status via compelling, contemporary interpretation.

A slice of Tuscany served in a simply stunning setting
Jonathan Postal
A slice of Tuscany served in a simply stunning setting

Location Info

Map

Cioppino

455 Grand Bay Drive
Key Biscayne, FL 33149

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Key Biscayne

Details

305-365-9575. Open daily for breakfast 7:00 to 11:30 a.m., lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., dinner 6:00 to 10:30 p.m., Sunday brunch noon to 3:00 p.m.
The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, 455 Grand Bay Dr, Key Biscayne;

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