First Bites

The Setai's Ocean Grill Opens for Dinner

The Ocean Grill's panzanella salad.
The Ocean Grill's panzanella salad. Photo courtesy of the Setai Hotel/Brustman Carrino Public Relations
Though most people think of salt-kissed breezes when they think of South Beach, there are surprisingly few places to dine that allow the gentle roar of the surf to accompany your meal.

The Setai Hotel's Ocean Grill is so close to the beach, you can hear the waves breaking along the shoreline. Alas, the hotel's casual eatery wasn't open for dinner — until now.

Indoor dining is back in Miami-Dade County, but with it come restrictions. There's also the undeniable fact that many people feel safer eating outdoors.

The Setai's executive chef, Vijayudu "Vijay" Veena, says those factors made the decision to open the Ocean Grill for dinner an easy one. "We wanted to offer an alternative dining option to our guests and residents alike," Veena explains. "It was natural for us to create an Italian al fresco dinner concept on this fantastic beach location. The Ocean Grill has always been a bit of a hidden gem, so we’re hoping by adding dinner service more people will discover it and why we think its such a special spot."

Guests walk through the Setai's outdoor gardens to reach the Ocean Grill. Along with charging plates, guests will find hand sanitizer on their tables in blue glass bottles. Veena tells New Times that's just one example of how the property has adapted. The restaurant utilizes QR codes for its menus and tables are socially distanced. The hotel has also installed new awnings and misting fans — features that don't go unnoticed on a balmy summer evening. And yes, the elusive ocean breeze does manage to reach the al fresco dining spot.

The menu is Italian, and most dishes bear the hallmarks of the restaurant's wood-burning grill. Veena recommends eggplant parmigiana ($16) as a starter to share. Grilled artichokes ($26) were so popular at our table that we ordered a second round to accompany the main course. A panzanella salad ($26) is a crisp and refreshing way to begin an evening meal.

For an entrée, the chef suggests the homemade agnolotti with short ribs ($28). Heartier appetites might opt for the 20-ounce bone-in rib eye ($65). "The whole branzino ($41) is a personal favorite," Veena adds. The menu also includes a free-range organic half chicken ($28), lamb chops ($42), and Ivory Coast prawns ($39).

The Ocean Grill is offering a Miami Spice menu through the end of the month. Among the starters on the $39 three-course menu, you'll find those addictive artichokes, along with a burrata salad, yellowfin tuna (add $15), and grilled octopus (add $18). Main-course choices include the agnolotti, along with flank steak, snapper, and salmon dishes. Filet mignon is also available for an additional $10. Miami Spice dessert options: chocolate budino, limoncello semifreddo, or seasonal fruits and berries. 

The Ocean Grill offers a selection of cocktails ($16 each) including a berry-basil lemonade spiked with Citron vodka, a Setai mule made with lemongrass and citrus-infused vodka, and a frozen bellini. If you've been housebound this summer, opt for one of the restaurant's Setai coconuts, filled with simple coconut water ($16). The coconuts also come in boozy versions like the Coco Walker with whiskey and coco cream ($15), the Coco Melon with rum and melon juice ($25), and the Coco Vanilla with vanilla vodka and pineapple juice ($25). They're a bit pricey, but they're worth it to put you in a vacation state of mind — if only for an evening.

The Ocean Grill at the Setai Hotel. 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; (855) 923-7899;; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for lunch; 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily for dinner.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss