Owner Keith Menin dumped $20 million into the Shelborne
Hotel's comeback, which debuted for Art Basel. Among the new features of the
boutique hotel is the swanky, James Bond-themed restaurant Vesper, which has references to Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino
Guests make a trek down a red carpet, through the lobby. Through
a double set of doors you go, toward the pool, and voila! You're at the pool-side hostess podium. Though you
can enjoy Vesper from the outside, it's so much cooler if you dine indoors.
Granville, the doorman, whisks you toward a service door and discloses you'll be
entering through the kitchen. Past the cooks you go while following the black
You emerge into a classy space that is a converted pathway. It includes elegant wooden floors, crisp linen, leather banquettes,
and dramatic lighting. You're transported to a secret basement, a yacht, or
anywhere else you'd like to imagine you're eating.
The cocktails ($13 each) are named for 007 villains and
vixens. We tried Pussy Galore (Goldfinger) with Maker's Mark, sour cherry jam,
apple and lemon juices, and rhubarb bitters. Plenty O'Toole (Diamonds Are
Forever) is made with Flor de Caña 7-year, blueberry purée, lime juice, and lavender
water. There's a definite artist at work creating these drinks, which are
well-balanced and make good use of the ingredients while being solidly grounded
by the liquor.
While the list of appetizers was underwhelming, we elected
to begin with an add-on of Alaskan king crab ($25) and the mixed field green
salad ($12). Best decision. The Alaskan king crab leg is huge, steamed, pre-cut
down the middle, full of tender meat, and served with a gooseneck of warm drawn
butter, lemon and lime wedge. Making a meal out of these could easily be done. The
salad consisted of mixed field greens, crumbled stilton, candied pecans, and a
little too much citrus vinaigrette.
The Chilean sea bass ($30) is set in a yuzu-based sauce with
a side of baby bok choy. The dish is stunningly executed. Perfected was my
request for a "Pittsburgh" style 12 oz. filet mignon ($36). Charred on the
outside, rare on the inside, the kitchen proved they can produce a steak as
great as any steakhouse on the Beach. It was served with my choice of black
truffle butter ($3). The sides of grilled asparagus ($9) and scalloped potatoes
($9) were plentiful, with the weakest link of the meal being the scalloped
potatoes broiled to a crisp on top and soggy on the bottom.
Desserts included vanilla crème brulee ($9) and an order of
dulce de leche gelato ($8).
Vesper is definitely a sexy scene with superior steakhouse
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classics. The prices are appropriate, especially considering the quantity and
quality of the portions. The wine list is extensive, with a diverse selection
of low to high-end wines by the bottle and glass.