Essensia at the Palms Hotel & Spa has always been a farm-to-table, gourmet restaurant. But early this summer, Venoy Rogers became the new executive chef, and the place took a step forward. You can begin to taste his creations and vision through the restaurant's Miami Spice menu. Venoy will reveal his full menu in October, but now you can get a sense of where he comes from, where he is headed, and what he hopes to bring to the table.
A San Diego native who most recently worked at that city's W Hotel, he is used to year-round produce. So he has already forged new partnerships with local farms and has plans for a 750-square-foot garden on the property. "I basically want to try to grow everything that they are telling me I can't," the optimistic Venoy says. The approach is new American fusion that "will still be organic and healthy — but in a way that’s unique and unexpected.” The Spice menu confirms this take is a farm-fresh step in the right direction.
The appetizers on the Spice menu are veggie-friendly: two salads and a gazpacho. The highlight is megene salad with baby greens, slivered tomato, red grapes, Maytag blue cheese, and a champagne-poppyseed vinaigrette. The layered salad is as tasty as it is gorgeous. For something even lighter, try the spinach and grilled watermelon salad with cool cucumber, mint, local goat cheese, and lemon-tarragon vinaigrette.
The main attraction among the mains is the saffron-poached black grouper, served with seared Brussels sprouts leaves, Spanish chorizo-studded farro, and black squid ink aioli on the side.
The red-wine-braised short rib with polenta and confit baby carrots is definitely the heaviest of dishes and the biggest departure from the lighter fare. It will likely be the choice for the more carnivorous guests at the table.
The Florida citrus-brined chicken with grilled onion, peewee potatoes, and arugula is another hearty choice on the lighter side.
The most surprising dish on the menu is the dolce de abacate, with sweet avocado, coconut sponge cake, and candied green mango. For those of us used to avocado in a savory setting, this is an interestingly sweet departure. It is more reminiscent of the food of Brazil, where Venoy has roots.
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Passionfruit cheesecake steals the dessert show with mango, passionfruit gel, and the most delicious cinnamon graham-cracker crust.
For a healthful experience that hints at what is to come from the new chef, add Essensia to your Spice list.
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