If you would have told an average American fifty years ago that this country would be obsessed with hot and spicy flavors in the twenty first century, they’d probably think you were crazy. It really is quite curious how, for a culture whose cuisine doesn’t traditionally embrace spiciness, we have really adapted our palates to the addictive burn that only chili peppers can provide. Sriracha is now almost as ubiquitous in the American pantry as ketchup, and it seems as if no casual dining menu is complete without a chipotle-spiked something or other. Besides embracing heat, Americans have also begun to embrace a lot of other flavors and textures, not least among them being sushi. I don’t think anyone would have ever imagined that a dish of rice, seaweed, and raw seafood would ever become as popular in this country as sushi has. Needless to say, the flavor profiles of American cuisine are changing at a rapidly exciting rate, and there are fewer places to celebrate our new culinary preferences this evening than at SAIA, which is putting on a special “Social Hour” to celebrate all things hot and spicy.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and all throughout the country organizations and businesses are doing their part to raise awareness of the disease, as well as to raise funds for finding a cure. Pink has become the color of the fight to end breast cancer, and many of South Florida’s businesses are going pink this month in support of breast cancer awareness and research. Not least among them are some of our most popular dining destinations that are offering deals, special dinners, and other promotions during the month of October.
Yesterday saw the end of Miami Spice this year, and today will see the beginning of “season”. It’s that time of year when it seems as if every other person you meet in South Florida is just visiting...usually from somewhere cold. While dining deals are not as abundant as they are during our slow summer season, the end of Miami Spice doesn’t necessarily signal the end of all deals for South Florida’s savvy foodies. Today kicks off the 6th annual Dine Out Lauderdale restaurant event, Broward County’s answer to Miami Spice. From October 1st through November 8th, over thirty six of Broward County’s finest restaurants will be offering specially priced three course menus for only $35 per person.
SAIA, Fort Lauderdale Beach's bastion of chic Asian cuisine paired with perhaps the best cocktails in Broward, kicked off its daily happy hour, dubbed Social Hour, last week with a very affordable selection of sushi, Asian appetizers, and beautifully crafted cocktails. Serious cocktail drinkers with an affinity for all things vintage will gravitate to selections from SAIA's Old's Cool collection, including a unique spin on the Negroni containing Punt e Mes and Aperol in addition to the traditional gin, as well as a silky smooth Sazerac with rye whiskey, cognac, bitters, and an absinthe rinse. Drinks from the Starlet Collection tend to be on the sweeter side, and the libations evoke the personalities and charisma of the heroines for which they are named, like Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. The aptly named Bettie Page surprises with a slight sting in the back of the throat from fresh jalapeño after the flavors of blueberry, cranberry, and lime have subsided.
It comes as no surprise that one of the sexiest places on earth would take Valentine’s Day very seriously. While couples up north will be celebrating in layers of wool coats, huddling close to a fireplace trying to make their teeth stop chattering long enough to sip their hot cocoas, we in South Florida will be enjoying our mild “winter” with picnics and walks on the beach, al fresco dining, linen slacks, skimpy dresses, and strappy heels. Valentine’s Day in the world’s sexiest place is definitely very sexy, and for foodies the dining options are equally as sensual. Whether you want to share in the the raw eroticism of sushi, the classic romance of Italian cuisine, or the warm and exotic spices from the land of the Kama Sutra, South Florida has the perfect place for you and your date to begin your romantic evening, and may of the area’s finest restaurants will be featuring special menus to help set the mood. Here are some of my picks for getting the evening started in good taste:
Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill
One of Miami’s most innovative restaurants located in the heart of Midtown will be featuring special additions to their already daring menu that evoke sensuous images and provide luscious flavors and textures, like a beef tenderloin with melting foie gras and roasted root vegetables ($36) or triggerfish crudo with “bleeding” pomegrante and white soy ($10). Additionally, Chef Timon Balloo will be offering sweetheart petit fours ($8) that will include a chocolate chili bar, passionfruit pâte de fruit and rose water macaroon, making a sweet end to a romantic gourmet experience.
3250 NE 1st Ave
Miami, Florida 33127
Sushi Samba Dromo
Lincoln Road is an ideal place for a Valentine’s Day dinner, offering the opportunity for an intimate stroll and exemplary al fresco dining. Sushi Samba has long been a favorite on this strip for their exemplary fusion of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian flavors and techniques. This Valentine’s Day, Sushi Samba will be offering a few sexy specials to help heat up couples’ special night, including a lamb loin tataki with yuzu-mint gelée, spicy tobanjan-dijon mustard, and celery sprouts ($16), as well as an elegant dessert of rose water meringue with chocolate truffle mousse, dragon fruit-kiwi-strawberry salsa and sake gelée ($12). To drink, don’t miss that night’s special cocktail comrpised of pisco, Domaine de Canton, fresh pineapple and freshly muddled raspberry ($11).
600 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139-2916
Long-known for providing diners with some of the most breath-taking views of the ocean, the newly revamped Rusty Pelican is offering a prix-fixe V-Day dinner for $85 per person and will be available from Friday, February 10th up until the 14th. You might need to leave dinner early and find a hotel room after sampling Rusty Pelican’s aphrodisiac first courses like “Ménage à Foie” consisting of foie gras pâté, both seared and torchon, brioche toast, and honey marmalade, or the “Oysters & Pearls” that include poached Kumamotos, tapioca pearls, spinach, and Osetra caviar.
3201 Rickenbacker Causewy
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
One of Miami’s newest - and hottest - dining destinations will also be offering a prix-fixe, 3-course menu for $80 per person that also features some traditionally sensual appetizers with a twist, including a foie gras brûlée and beef tartare. Chef Andrew Carmellini will also be offering entrée choices that include simply-prepared comfort dishes, like Guiness-braised shortribs with Yukon gold mash and sprout leaf salad, or lighter options like roasted pompano with crème frâiche and caviar.
2201 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Miami’s newest shrine to haute Japanese cuisine, located inside the exclusive Bal Harbour Shops. Offering a relative bargain prix-fixe menu at $55 per person, diners will be able to indulge in fire and ice oysters with yamamomo granita and serrano chili, a surf and turf consisting of lobster and a 12 oz. NY strip steak, and chocolate yuzu for dessert. For an additional $30, diners can partake in a drink pairing for each course, that includes exciting spirits like a sparkling sake.
9700 Collins Avenue #107
Bal Harbour, FL 33154
One of the restaurants on the forefront of Ft. Lauderdale’s emerging fine dining scene offering some of the most innovative cocktails and creative preparations of sushi and seafood, SAIA will be presenting a special V-Day dinner in collaboration with Hanahouhoushu Sparkling Pink Sake. Available February 10th through the 14th, will be able to partake in a five-course prix-fixe dinner with Hanahouhoushu’s unique sparkling pink sake for only $159 per couple. Start with a salmon & hamachi miso and ginger chicken soup and end with a strawberry fruit salad featuring fresh strawberries with ginger melon sauce a coconut sorbet in a crispy wonton shell with mint granita while gazing off into the Atlantic ocean just steps away.
999 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
East End Brasserie
There is no cuisine more closely-associated simultaneously with elegance and romance than French cuisine. This Valentine’s Day, savor Chef Steve Zobel’s three-course prix-fixe menu with amuse bouch and champagne toast for $75 per person featuring such luscious dishes as ricotta gnocchi with Roquefort cream sauce, and sole and asparagus on a bed of wild mushrooms topped with lobster hollandaise sauce. Finish dinner with a chocolate fondue for two! Wine lovers can have dinner with wine pairings for $95 per person.
601 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
One of the newest reasons to visit Brickell is Mare Nostrum, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant specializing in the freshest seafood imaginable. For $150, a couple can enjoy a complimentary bottle of Moet Chandon champagne, as well as a sumptuous four-course dinner, including seared tuna rolled in Moroccan spices with seafood risotto cake, lemon buerre blanc, and red wine reduction. To cleanse the palate between course, refresh yourself with a mojito granizado!
1111 SW First Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
For those intending to fly solo for Valentine’s Day, Edge Steak & Bar has just the menu for you, which avoids using any cutesy, lovey-dovey language...it actually does quite the opposite. For $65 per person, celebrate (or wallow in) your singleness with dishes like “love shucks” (East Coast seafood tower flavored by sour orange mojo, stinking rose aioli and angry habanero hot sauce) or “burnt, bitter, blue” (salad of bitter greens, burnt almond praline, and crumbles of Point Reyes blue cheese, drizzled with two-timing balsamic dressing). Only parties of one will be seated in the restaurant’s private dining rooms, and festive event will provide single diners the opportunity to mingle and possibly find that perfect somebody.
1435 Brickell Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
No matter where you go in this iconic Miami Beach resort, you will not be disappointment. Perhaps the most exemplary Italian restaurant in South Florida, Scarpetta will be offering its regular menu including its signature spaghetti with tomato and basil that will win over any heart. Hakkasan’s dark ambiance and private dining rooms separated by a labyrinth of carved wooden partitions, along with its gourmet Chinese cuisine, make it an ideal dining destination for this special day. Solo, perhaps one of Miami’s finest pastry shops, will also be offering special Valentine’s Day-themed pastries, including raspberry and white chocolate macaron hearts. Of course, there is no better way to end the evening than with a stroll on the boardwalk!
4441 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Just recently celebrating its grand opening with a star-studded party, The Delano’s newest restaurant addition will be offering a prix-fixe V-Day menu laden with one of the most sensual ingredients in the world that is perhaps the most treasured by any foodie: TRUFFLES! From truffle tagliatelle to a sirloin steak served with crispy black truffle potatoes and a side dish of spinach in a truffle cream sauce, Bianca is sure to leave any truffle-lover lovestruck.
1685 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139
As mentioned in past articles, Broward County is experiencing a renaissance when it comes to dining options. While you can still munch away at patty melts at the numerous diners that are comparatively absent just south of County Line Road and throw back a Budweiser at one of countless dive bars, more sophisticated dining and drinking options have begun to sprout up rivaling those found in South Beach sans the sub-par service and huge price tags. SAIA, at the B Ocean Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, previously noted as a contender in Fort Lauderdale’s emerging fine dining scene for its impeccable interpretations of Asian-inspired seafood dishes and sushi (read review here), has just introduced a new cocktail menu this past weekend that is one of the most well thought-out and innovative that I’ve seen in quite some time - more on par with mixologists’ creations found in New York City than anything previously sipped in South Florida.
There’s a pretty deeply-felt notion among Miamians that Fort Lauderdale lacks in the glamor and style that is prevalent in much of Dade County, which can translate into the idea that dining out in much of Broward consists of Guy Fieri’s treasured trilogy of diners, drive-ins, and dives. Food trends that have finally trickled down to Miami from the great food capitals of the world have to get in line behind other food trends that have yet to make it to Fort Lauderdale. Mixologists? Just be happy the bartender has a bottle of Bombay Sapphire for your G&T. On a recent trip to Fort Lauderdale Beach, however, I discovered that Miami’s condescending attitude towards Fort Lauderdale no longer applies. Miami’s neighbor to the north is outgrowing its old greasy spoon and dive bar image, and at very few places is it more prevalent than at SAIA, one of the most elegant Asian restaurants I’ve been to in South Florida, and a real surprise for any Miami food snob.
SAIA is situated on the ground floor of Fort Luaderdale Beach’s newest hotel addition, B Ocean, and is literally just steps away from the sand and surf. The hotel lobby is trendy, modern, yet still elegant with nothing that would be considered superfluous or over-the-top. Upon entering SAIA, one can see that the same design aesthetic and restraint is also present in the restaurant: white walls, dark wood floors and tables, half-mirrored light fixtures resembling bubbles, and a white marble illuminated sushi bar facing a textured wall that gives the impression of fish scales, all offering a minimalist maritime theme that pays tribute to Chef Subin’s specialty, seafood. An evening at SAIA is a sharing experience, like tapas or mezze, and while the menu represents a wide array of ingredients and styles, it is evident to the connoisseur that Chef Subin’s expertise lies in his treatment of all manner of sea creature.
We began our experience with two signature cocktails, The Bipolar Cocktail and a Hand-Shaken Ginger Lime Daiquiri. The daiquiri was pleasantly refreshing in both its simple balance of flavors and in the fact that it was a real daiquiri and not an alcoholic slurpee, while The Bipolar presented a surprising mix of Bombay Sapphire, absinthe, lemon, lychee, lemongrass, and egg white that made for an almost shockingly well-balanced drink, considering the contrasting elements that were involved. The bartender definitely got the message across that SAIA was not afraid to challenge itself with innovation, and this was repeatedly emphasized throughout my visit, especially in their Tropical Roll containing seared scallops, mushrooms, shiso leaf, cucumber, spicy miso, and topped with alternating slices of salmon sashimi and mango. The richness of the salmon was paired with the meatiness of the mushroom of which the texture complimented that of the scallop, whose sweetness was echoed beautifully with the slices of mango, leading me to believe that each element was carefully selected in this unforgettable sushi roll.
Unique seafood presentations continued to impress, such as Tamari Scallops nestled inside minced crab meat, wrapped with thin slices of big eye tuna sashimi, topped with masago, and gently adhering to whole shiso leaves with just a dollop of wasabi aioli - a veritable rose bud of seafood. Rice Cracker Tuna offered a unique East-West rendition of tuna tataki, where the tuna is coated in crumbled rice crackers, briefly fried so as to cook just the exterior, and served on a bed of dressed baby greens with avocado puree, tahini, and chili-spiked picked ginger batons. For those who are more partial to food coming from dry land, SAIA offers several options, including Mongolian Barbeque Lamb Lollipops, a poetic description for diminutive lamb chops served with a sweet soy dipping sauce meant to be eaten with your fingers, like a lollipop. Vegetarian options include an addictive green bean salad dressed with a black soy vinaigrette, Thai chili flakes, and fried garlic chips. Dessert options portray creative, Asian-inflected classics, such as a lemongrass and mango crème brûlée. While we partook in a well-made red bean mochi ice cream with mango sauce, we regretted not heading our waiter’s suggestion of the banana tempura, which looked like a dessert celebration at the table next to us.
Besides the elegant ambiance and spectacular cuisine, what is most remarkable at SAIA is the warm, attentive, and knowledgeable staff that seems to be more than just content at working there, but proud of being a part of it. Say what you will, but that’s one thing that’s hard to find in Miami. Each table was visited by Chef Subin, himself, as well as the restaurant manager, and our waiter ensured that every need was met, including offering us a platter from which to choose fresh silverwear. Fort Lauderdale Beach is growing up, and instead of emulating its neighbor to the south, it has taken clues from South Beach and has possibly surpassed it, as is evident at SAIA. SAIA B Ocean Fort Lauderdale 999 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 954.302.5252 www.SAIAsushi.com