Joel Robuchon, named Chef of the Century may be gone, but his legacy lives on. A perfect example is two new restaurants that have opened at 151 NE 41st at Paradise Plaza in the Miami Design District.
I visited Le Jardinier, a new concept by his protégée Alain Verzeroli, on opening night, August 16, 2019. He is the culinary director with executive chef Leo Pablo in the kitchen. The name means “The Gardener”, and while the menu is rooted in classic French techniques using local, seasonal fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs and greens, sustainable fish, meat and poultry, the focus is on vegetables in all of their dishes. They’ll also be having a rooftop garden that will be used to cultivate fresh ingredients. There is also an herb wall in the restaurant and the dominant colour throughout the restaurant and outdoors is green.
The restaurant is casual yet sophisticated. With over 4,200 square feet of space, designed by renowned French architect Pierre Yves Rochon. Seating 45 inside and an additional 60 seats outside on a dining patio surrounded by lush tropical plants to give you that garden feel. Inside is modern with black and white striped marble floors, and an illuminated spiral staircase that leads up to their other restaurant, Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Tall windows let in lots of light and overlook the patio. A round herb wall is a focal point on the back wall. A 17 seat black marble bar with circular accent lights behind glass shelving adds a sexy touch. Kelly green chairs around the dining tables and hunter green leather bar stools give a pleasing aesthetic. Nice background music plays and conversation is easy.
Many restaurants open before they are ready and this is a mistake because there are always growing pains. But Le Jardinier got it right on opening night. Our server Toni was friendly and helpful, especially with suggesting some of her personal favourites. She delivered a signature drink called Mademoiselle, which was made with gin shaken, homemade grapefruit cordial and topped with brut rosé which was light and refreshing.
The meal starts with a fresh juice. Ours was a beet, apple and ginger mix to awaken our palate. Next homemade breads by master baker, Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who has worked for the Joel Robuchon organization for 18 years. The breads were actually gluten-free, and one was vegan. I usually can’t stomach gluten-free breads, but these were the best I have ever had. Thankfully they were served with properly tempered butter. Everything sounded appealing on the menu. We tried the burrata with sweet thinly sliced melon, almonds and figs, which was perfection. The organic baby carrots and snow peas with onions and perfectly cooked sweet Maine scallops was also a winner. For our mains, we selected the heritage chicken, with sweet corn, and black currant. This was the one misstep, the chicken was a touch dry and the portion size could also be larger. However, I was seduced by roasted lobster with cherry smoked potatoes, and favas in a lobster bisque.
The desserts were masterfully created by pastry chef Salvatore Martone. We opted for the peach tart, with the peaches resting inside a perfect crust and topped with a delicate and delicious crisp. The chocolate caramel dessert is rightfully served with a tall spoon so you can reach each layer of mousse, nibs, caramel and crushed cookies. Then the chef sent out a mini slice of poppyseed cake.
The restaurant really surpassed any expectations we had about it. Decor, service, presentation, creativity, and dynamic flavours make this a memorable meal. They also get a gold star for not adding gratuity on top of the tax, but just on the food. Bravo!