Once only populated with a small number of high-end dining options, the area south of Fifth Street (SoFi) in South Beach is quickly evolving. The latest to toss its hat in the ring is the Local House at the Sense Beach House on the corner of Fourth Street and Ocean Drive.
"We felt there was a need for a local place," said general manager Patricia Trias, who has been with the Sense Beach House since it first opened in 2009. "A place where locals can enjoy amazing dishes at affordable prices."
To accomplish the feat, the folks at Sense brought in Guily Booth, who helped open Cafeina in Wynwood and Trio On the Bay on the 79th Street causeway. "The best part was getting to start everything from scratch," said Booth, who won over Italian investor SBH owner Ciro Campagnoli with her focus on small plates and local ingredients. "Everything we use here is from local vendors," continued Booth."We hope that will draw a local following and loyal patrons."
For the design, Italian designer Fabrizio Cochi used simple home motifs resembling dining room tables and colors you would find in a South Beach condo. The walls are lined with simple frames of beach related motifs and Earth tone color scheme. Booth created very broad brunch and dinner menus with selections that vary from stuffed dates to octopus carpaccio. Brunch is served everyday from opening (10 a.m.) to 5 p.m. and features bottomless mimosas for the price of just one. "A menu should feature items where the ingredients consist of everything you would like to have in one bite," said Booth. The octopus carpacio ($15), for example, features an interesting contrast of flavors from the combination of chorizo "dust," fried capers, tomato lemon aioli, oranges and her secret blend of spices. In order to cut the octopus thin enough, it must be frozen. Once it is cut, the octopus is cooked in boiling water and then tossed in ice back-and-forth a number of times until the meat is tender.
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The stuffed dates ($12, pictured above) are filled with Dubliner cheese and lean ground beef. The resulting date is wrapped in smoked bacon and tossed in aji amarillo cream to make for a powerful blend of flavors and contrasting consistencies. The crispy steak calamari ($8, below) is prepared different than most calamari you find in gourmet restaurants. The very popular dish usually consists of fried rings and sometimes tentacles of squid. At Local House, the squid comes whole and the calamari is instead cut into bite size pieces. Try the unique pepperoni sauce, the ingredients of which Booth keeps on the hush hush. She did tell us that it contained carrots, shallots, onions and secret spices.
Every chef has a signature dish and Booth is no exception with her famous black seafood risotto ($18). She prepares the risotto using shrimp, calamari, piquillo peppers and sweet peas. The black color comes from calamari ink, which most consider to be a bit "fishy," but Booth uses just the right amount to avoid the salty seafood taste.
Eating at Local House, you immediately notice the staff's and chef's attention to detail and use of progressive cooking and serving techniques. Booth was given the freedom to create what she saw fit on the menu and the resulting selection of dishes shows the care and diligence she put into each menu item. Couple that with the designer Cochi's "perfect translation," according to Trias, of what the hotel owner and manager wanted. Local House has the potential to live up to its name and become a local favorite that makes you feel at home with every meal.