Bal Harbour offers a measly array of restaurants for the walking wallets who live there. For years, La Goulue and Caffe Da Vinci fueled pre-shopping lunches and family dinners, but now it seems restaurateurs are finally catching on. The recent opening of Makoto provided a glimpse of a higher end spectrum, and now Mister Collins arrives with a Modern American menu that capitalizes on comfort food.
Last night we were invited to sample Chef Laird Boles' kitchen talents, developed in San Fransisco at Spire and Waterbar. Although we knew the view would be lovely (located in the One Bal Harbour Resort,
on the corner of Baker's Haulover Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean), the
menu, which has a lot of sandwiches, had us expecting a much more casual culinary experience.
The truth is
that this is a restaurant that tries too hard; the attentive service and
attention to execution will likely go unappreciated by patrons who have come to expect so little from resort-based restaurants. The only drawback of the night: our server frowned when the second appetizer course arrived too early. Everything after that was
timed perfectly. It is this attention to detail that allows them to
charge big ticket prices, and yet, most things on the line-up seem quite
reasonably fixed. Starters, sandwiches and salads range from $9 to $16, while entrees go both high and low. A brick-grilled chicken with ginger-glazed carrots and smashed potatoes goes for $17, at the upper end, a dry-aged New York strip with lump crab stuffed mac-and-cheese is priced at $39 (this would easily cost you upwards of $50 on the beach).
pile of soft, fluffy "pretzels" arrives first, a heady harbinger of
what's to come. They are really more like pretzel scented breadsticks
($9), with a slightly crispy exterior. Large flecks of coarse salt
sprinkled across the top stick willingly to a light brushing of butter.
There is a spicy mustard with plenty of kick, or a creamy white cheddar
sauce, for dipping. The menu says these pretzels are freshly baked, and
we believe it.
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The "crab cake salad" ($18) is really more like a crab-bomb, with nary a breadcrumb or vegetable filler to be seen. Large chunks are packed in tightly, and given a quick sear to finish. We are not sure of what exactly holds this thing together, but we do not recommend trying this at home. A side salad of market-fresh greens with b-movie sized tomatoes is appropriately dressed with a mustard seed vin.
One of the only misses of the evening, a short rib dish "that is being added to the menu" in the near future. The meat is sous-vide, giving it a luxurious soft texture, but the fatty deposits are not allowed to slowly burn off the way ribs usually do when braised. As a result, we had big masses of beef fat to avoid. Unfortunately, we are thinking this one needs a bit more work before it officially premieres.
The dessert felt very much like an 'Iron Chef' competition with the secret ingredient of "corn." This ice cream is made with local Zellwood Farms sweet corn, with candied kernels littered throughout. It was rich and sweetened just enough, we couldn't stop eating it. The madeleines were good, but a little too spongy. They reminded us more of mini cupcakes, than the delicate lemon perfumed famous French cookie.
Overall, the space can hold about one hundred people at time. There is a lounge area in addition to the outdoor terrace seating and main dining room. The modern decor is clean and not too fussy. Billowing white panels, walnut flooring and oversized, extremely comfortable, taupe leather chairs - Mister Collins is a welcome respite from other hotel restaurants in the neighborhood. We will be at the bar ordering those pretzels.