So Friday night was supposed to be my South Beach night. The show got out early so I would have plenty of time to make some butt prints in the sand before heading to Joe’s Stone a crab for a delicious dinner of fresh stone crab (endorsed by Bobby Flay). Of course, I didn’t think to wonder when stone crab season is. Turns out they are only serving the delicious claws from the middle of October until May. So, I found myself in a quandary. Where to go. I could do number 2 on the best in South Beach list which was a Cuban place, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I looked at a couple other Latin American options, hemmed and hawed and internally whined for a little while and started walking south from where I parked. I wanted to be a little more in the happenin’ places…or I wanted to make a smaller loop back to the car after dinner. Finally, I found a place that looked like it met all of my picky, whiny desires; The Dining Room.
The Dining Room is in the 400 block of Washington St, so apparently close to but not surrounded by some of the clubs. It’s a small restaurant that only seats about 29 inside and another 20+ outside. Fortunately there was a table open when I showed up…I guess that’s the advantage of being old and hitting South Beach at 7:45 p.m. The menu is Contemporary American with French and Miami influences brought together by an Argentinian chef (at least that’s my perception). I of course had to go with a ceviche (just can’t get anything like it in Seattle), and opted for the pan-roasted chicken. The chicken really serves two purposes; it is P90X friendly, and it really shows off the Chef’s skills. As anyone that has eaten a dried out chicken breast knows…it’s not easy to cook well.
Before I finished my order, a basket of French bread and fresh truffle butter, as well as homemade pickles hit the table. Being polite, I had to try the bread even though it is not whole wheat and a little of the truffle butter. Just fantastic as you would imagine. But it’s the pickles that I can’t stop eating. That little bit of acidity combined with a little bit of spice at the end. And they are vegetables, so it’s all good!
Fortunately my cobia ceviche arrived before I lost the battle with the bread and pickles. This ceviche featured a grapefruit sorbet and grapefruit wedges in addition to the onions and lime. The fish was wonderfully marinated to that just firm. Enough texture and had that bite of lime that was interestingly balanced by the bitterness of the grapefruit in a different but pleasant way. And at the end, there was a bit of heat that just completed everything. It was very reminiscent of the Fire and Ice ceviche at Ola, but with bitter instead of sweet and a little more heat. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of the grapefruit sorbet; it added such a nice cold counterpoint, but only lasted about three bites.
With the heat of the ceviche still on my lips and a couple more pickles in my belly, the chicken arrived, accompanied by a beautiful looking heirloom tomato salad. The earthy aromas of the pan sauce and morels got my mouth-watering. Using my fork and knife I more pulled the chicken apart than cut it. The first bite was moist and seasoned very well. The sauce was like a light mushroom gravy adding a level of earthiness. The whole thing was very rustic, very homey type comfort food. Not necessarily what you would be looking for when sitting outside in the 85 degree heat at the end of the summer, but it worked. And it worked doubly well thanks in large part to the heirloom tomato salad. Put simply, they didn’t fuss it up. Just beautiful fresh heirloom tomatoes with a light herb oil. The tomatoes were sweet and just exploded with flavor and served as the perfect balance to the earthy chicken dish.
After finishing it all off, I ordered a decaf espresso and settled in for a little people watching and a little baseball watching. I think that I may have gone a bit over my protein portions for the day (it’s close because I had not had any before dinner), but I’m not too worried. The food was fresh and well prepared without too many sauces and just hit the spot perfectly. This is definitely the type of food that I like, though to be honest if it wasn’t for P90X, I would have gone with the pork shoulder. For a restaurant that has only been around for 7 months, The Dining Room really delivered, and I think it has a bright future ahead of it (not that I am an expert or anything…)