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Remember nouvelle cuisine? It was born from a group of brashly innovative chefs that included Paul Bocuse, Roger Vergé, Alain Chapel, and Jean and Pierre Troisgros. The idea was to modernize classical French cooking and present it in a lighter, fresher, more exciting and elegant fashion. That was back in the early '70s, but like many a great notion, it was hijacked over time by chefs less deft than the originators. Either owing to lack of knowledge, or at times lack of scruples, nouvelle cuisine was turned into a caricature of itself: small portions of unexceptional but beautiful food for large amounts of money.
The children of nouvelle cuisine — chefs such as David Bouley and Daniel Boulud — modified the concept. They retained the clean, bright, creative aspects but added personal interpretations and stirred Asian and other global ingredients into the mix. Chef Geoffrey Zakarian of the new Tudor House Restaurant has a classical French culinary background and seems to have some nouvelle blood in him too. Yet he and executive chef Jamie DeRosa aren't deconstructing escargots, but rather putting together ethereal renditions of contemporary American (and Mediterranean) fare.
The dining room is situated in the former lobby of the Dream South Beach Hotel. The space shares a stylistic camaraderie with the cuisine in retaining its deco heritage from the '30s: terrazzo floors, dramatic archways, concentric ceiling design — but now updated by the new Dream team with leather banquette seating, sleek teak screens, and a liquor-backed bar where the check-in counter used to be (it's such an ideal fit that one might wonder why all check-in counters can't also serve in this capacity). Diners can likewise opt for comfortable teak seating on the patio.
1111 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Region: South Beach
Zakarian is a familiar local name from his time opening the Delano Hotel's Blue Door restaurant in the '90s. Since then, the chef has made a bigger name for himself in New York via heralded establishments such as 44 at the Royalton, Town, and most recently, the Lambs Club — and bigger still from numerous appearances on the Food Network. DeRosa — the person actually manning the kitchen — has worked with the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group and at the former local landmark Chef Allen's, and also turned in a stint at the renowned Michelin-starred Fat Duck in England. If DeRosa can keep the cuisine at Tudor House at its current level, his name will likely increase in stature too.
Diners are started with hot spherical puffs of pretzel roll, the type you can still find on the streets of American cities — but much fresher. Plus sidewalk vendors don't hand out accompanying ramekins of burgundy-colored red-wine mustard that will clear your sinuses faster than an inspector can clear an alley filled with illegal food carts.
A wide array of bar snacks — olives, Marcona almonds, bruschetta variations, and the like — comes in handy for munching with predinner drinks. The seafood plates among them — raw, pickled, and cured — can just as aptly serve as appetizers. They include chilled octopus, West Coast oysters, Alaskan king crab, and a stunning hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) crudo with a bit of heat from aji amarillo pepper and a lot of cool from yuzu sorbet. The sweet pale-pink slices of fish are slightly similar to hamachi, but richer.
Another option, either for starting a meal or pairing with wine, is to select three or five of some dozen-plus cheeses and charcuterie selections. Choices include Serrano ham, Finocchiona salumi, Pont-l'Évêque cow's milk cheese from France, and Rogue Blue Cow from Oregon. Plates are accompanied by olive-oil-brushed grilled bread, a piece of honeycomb, and raisins still on the vine.
Wines from the vine are mostly of the New World variety, with an especially strong contribution from California. Low-range bottles go for around $35 and midrange from $50 to $60; you can also nab a $300 label if you desire. Glasses range from $8 to $25.
Pea soup exemplifies the Tudor cuisine: delicate, full-flavored, and portioned in a more-than-modest manner. The warm vibrant-green purée is poured into a wide, shallow bowl buoyed by lime marshmallows, fresh English peas, and crackly coriander seeds. The marshmallows melt into the flow of pea essence while the brittle seeds snap with aromatics. It makes for an intoxicating sip, but the soup cools too quickly due to being spread so thin; a smaller, deeper bowl would retain the heat, if at the sacrifice of presentation.
Ricotta gnudi is the only dish we sampled that is simply too skimpy — especially because it is listed under main plates. Six pearly-white spheres of poached ricotta, slightly smaller than little mozzarella bocconcini, are each orbited by English peas and teeny vegetables such as petite turnips and carrots and even tinier icicle radishes. Quartered heirloom beets, little basil leaves, and a reduced cream sauce sprinkled with pecorino cheese complete the clean sweep of flavors.
Tuna conserva served in a mason jar was touted as one of Tudor's early titans, but it has already been taken off the menu — or, more accurately, reconfigured into soft morsels of olive-oil-poached tuna that grace a faultless salade niçoise. The composition, anchored by greens such as frisée, mizuna, and lolla rossa, also boasts white Spanish anchovy fillets, a soft-boiled quail egg, peeled cherry tomatoes, haricots verts, and the namesake olives — a seamless melding of ingredients that traditionally are served as isolated components on a plate.