If you don’t live in Miami, then you probably don’t know of a fabulous promotion here called Miami Spice. For the months of September and October, restaurants that usually charge an arm and a leg for lunch and dinner are offering their delicacies for a fraction of the price.
You can enjoy a three-course meal for prices ranging from $23 for lunch and $39 for dinner. Talk about experiencing the better things in life for half the price.
So naturally, when my boyfriend came to visit, I made it a point to go. We decided on Hakkasan, a high-end Cantonese restaurant located in the famed Fountainebleu – Frank Sinatra’s favorite vacation spot and home of LIV Nightclub.
Walking into the Fontainebleau during the day was a peculiar feeling. The normally packed lobby of club-goers eagerly awaiting their turn to walk into LIV was swapped out for families running amuck in swim trunks and straw hats. After figuring out that the lobby elevators required a room card, we were politely directed down the hall towards another set of elevators that whisked us right up to the Hakkasan on the second floor.
If you thought Hakkasan sounded familiar, it’s because there’s an identical restaurant in Las Vegas that transforms into a nightclub. Oh, and it also has a Michelin Star.
The minute I stepped off the elevator I felt like I was in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Tall, intricately molded (not carved said Serg, the engineer) Chinese symbols and details fenced in rectangular shaped sections. The only lighting was the spotlight directly above each table, showcasing the food.
The coolest design aspect would have to be the bar area, where rows upon rows of top-shelf liquor were illuminated by a constant loop of wavy water. Can you imagine how trippy that would be after a drink?
One of the reasons we chose the Hakkasan was for their vegetarian Miami Spice menu. Both of our first courses were dim-sum baskets. He had an assortment of scallop, beef and black rice dumplings. Mine was a mix of veggie, mushroom and vegetable protein. As you can see they were beautifully steamed and visually appealing. It was an amazing mix of savory and sweet in combination with the sweet and spicy dipping sauce. It reminded me of the simplicity homemade dumplings my family made would have. It was not too fussy and tasted pure.
Our second course came out much later than our first course leading us to inhale absolutely every morsel of food we saw at the table. Serg got orange chicken with a side of noodles while I got blackened “chicken” (fake chicken made from vegetable protein) and a side of noodles.
You will never understand how shocking it was to bite into the “chicken” and have it taste exactly like home. Never in my life have I eaten at any Asian restaurant that sautéed their protein to taste exactly the way my mom makes. It’s a mixture of amped-up saltiness that is cut with an underlying sweetness. This way, I can gobble up all the pieces without reaching for water even though low-key I was nervous about my sodium intake. I highly recommend this dish, even if you’re a meat lover. It has an umami quality that veers on the salty side.
Serg said his orange chicken was OK. It was more sweet than salty and he’s a lover of food that punches you in the face with flavor. The orange chicken did not do that.
Our noodles were delicious, again having an umami taste instead of the saltiness that happens when too much soy sauce is added. I could eat buckets of the noodles and not get bored.
This has to be the highlight of our meal. We both got Mango Custard with grapefruit, calamansi, coconut. It is the best dessert I have ever eaten. Think flan but creamier. Every spoonful was rich yet light, sweet but not too sweet. It was like eating mango juice in solid form. On top, there was a flaky sugar chip that dissolved the moment it hit your tongue. Combined with the custard, it injected an extra sweet kick into some bites.
All-in-all, we had an amazing Miami Spice experience and can’t wait to do it again. I wouldn’t say the service at high-end restaurants is any different. Our server was nice and courteous, maybe a little smoother than most servers, but nothing extraordinary.
With Miami being a tourist attraction, expect servers to include gratuity since a lot of European tourists aren’t used to tipping. I was miffed the first few times I was handed a check that included gratuity, but then I remembered how much it sucked when I was a server and I’d get a 10% tip or nothing at all. Plus, it takes the math out of it.
So, if you’re ever in the city and want a fine-dining experience, look up restaurants participating in Miami Spice. There are tons to choose from and quite a few vegetarian options. MiamiNewTime.com offers awesome lists that rank restaurants based on food preference. Also, keep a lookout for Miami Spa Month (through October 31st) where world-class spas in Miami offer package deals ranging from $109-$199.
P.S. ICYMI here’s my last post on lazy workouts to do in front of the TV.
Also just FYI, potato lighting = potato pics, sorry folks!