AQ by Acqualina: Dewey LoSasso's Whimsical Food in a Five-Star Hotel

Chef Dewey LoSasso is obviously proud of his new tenure at Acqualina Resort & Spa. And why not? The plush Sunny Isles hotel is beautiful. The design gives the resort a vibe that's less South Beach and more large Mediterranean villa. Driving up to the valet stand ($8 with restaurant validation), your Toyota might feel inadequate around all the Bentleys. Not to worry -- they'll play nicely together while you're dining.

Recently opened AQ by Acqualina features modern American cuisine from Chef LoSasso in a large dining room that feels like you're eating in the hotel's lobby. Soaring ceilings keep the music and conversation loud, as if you're inside a bell jar. Guests also can opt to sit outside and listen to the sounds of the surf just a few yards away, yielding a more pleasant experience if the weather plays nice.

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LoSasso's menu at first might read like a list of safe crowd pleasers, but look further at the preparations. A roasted Bell & Evans chicken is served with charred bread soup, wheat berries, and lemon ($19/36); herb-crusted filet mignon is accompanied by Yorkshire porcini pudding and marrow toast ($38); and a chopped escarole salad gets topped with grouper cheeks, pistachio dust, and avocado oil powder ($11).

Short Order was invited to sample some of LoSasso's dishes -- some sophisticated, some playful. Here's what we experienced:

Twenty-hour charred octopus brought tender morsels served on crostini with roasted garlic spread and olives ($11).

"Spaghetti 'O' WIth a Kick" is the name of this dish. A childhood favorite gets an adult rework when pasta O's are paired with a nutty mushroom crema. For the "kick," bite into the charred serrano chiles or add them to your pasta ($10 small portion, $19 large portion).

Herb-seared yellowfin tuna "Marsala" is a welcome change from the usual chicken or veal ($30).

An assortment of desserts, including peanut butter and jelly cups, crème brûlée, and cheesecake mousse finish off the evening.

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