Inside the Palms Hotel & Spa is its resident restaurant Essensia, where food radiates both taste and life. The gourmet, farm-to-table eatery focuses on slow food in a relaxed environment, meant to nourish one's body as well as the spirit and soul.
On Sundays, the restaurant features a "to share" brunch, where guests are encouraged to order a variety of small and large plates, as well as flatbreads, all to taste family-style. The dishes, crafted by executive chef Venoy Rogers, come out as they are ready.
"I wanted to make sure that the menu offered a range of choices for every type of guest to feel satisfied," he says, "whether you’re recovering from a wild weekend in South Beach, coming to the end of a vacation, celebrating a special occasion, or just stopping in for some great food on a Sunday."
Unlike many South Beach restaurants and hotels, Essensia keeps Sunday brunch peaceful. And though the restaurant features a serene dining room and a picturesque terrace, the most lively aspect of Rogers' brunch is its variety of plates.
"We try to offer something for everyone," he says, "whether you're looking for traditional American brunch items; local favorites; healthy, light options; or even globally inspired choices. The best part is our commitment to using fresh local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, which really make for delicious food."
Under the menu section "Small Shares," the blue corn chilaquiles are a must-try, Rogers' says. The Mexican dish ($14) gets a quirky American spin from a poached egg and special sauce.
"I use fresh blue corn tortilla chips and top it with a poached organic farm egg, which is more of an American thing," he says. "We use a Honduran-style crema, and our red sauce is my own special recipe too."
The bestselling item, he says, is the fish tacos ($18), which is one of the restaurant's larger plates. Rogers describes it as a "lighter Baja California-style version" of the plate, blending local fish, chipotle crema, cabbage slaw, cilantro Mexican corn, and avocado. For something more breakfast-oriented, Rogers recommends the aforementioned blue corn chilaquiles, the second most-ordered item on the menu.
Another large-share plate Rogers suggests is the lemon-poppyseed-quinoa pancakes ($16). The dish, which is gluten-free, is packed with ricotta, blueberries, and fresh mint. Pure maple syrup is then drizzled on top, and star fruit is served on the side.
Along with offering a plethora of plates — including items like steak and eggs, whole-grain and coconut waffles, ceviche, toast and toppings, and an egg white soufflé — Essensia features freshly blended smoothies and juices made in house. Priced at $8, consider the essentials smoothie, which blends banana, strawberries, vanilla, and yogurt, or the summer refresher juice, which uses pineapple, apple, melon cucumber, kale, and lime.
To Rogers, the most important feature of Essensia's brunch is its balance of breakfast and lunch plates. He says he loves a classic mashup of a "really lunch-y item and one breakfast item."
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"My favorite is no doubt chicken 'n' waffles," he says. "Fried chicken is undoubtedly lunch, and waffles are definitely very breakfast. They work so well together, and when making it for myself, I love to add a poached egg or two. I've done many versions of this dish throughout my career and have put it on a lot of my menus. We don’t currently have it on Essensia’s brunch menu, but keep an eye out for it. Right down the street, our sister hotel, Circa 39, has a really cool version of chicken 'n' waffles."
Brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit essensiarestaurant.com.