American dim sum??? I am confused, is it American or Asian food? Well, it’s a bit of both at the Sarsparilla Club at 1 18th Street and Collins Avenue in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand in South Beach. Just opened this past March 2016, chefs and partners in life, Chef Jeff Mcinnis and Janine Booth have opened a restaurant with an innovative and contemporary take on combining the realms of Cantonese dim sum and American comfort food. These two were Top Chef alums and power couple. Mcinnis worked at Gigi where he hired Booth. Remember when Gigi first opened and it was so fantastic? They seemed to create a new modern Asian cuisine that we never tasted before. And when they left it was never quite the same. Then Mcinnis cooked at Yardbird which is still very delicious and successful to this day. Booth was at Khong River House. They both left for New York to open the popular Root and Bone. Lucky for the people and tourists of Miami, they decided to come back here and open Sarsparilla Club.
The 80 seat restaurant has an indoor/outdoor space out by the pool. Inside are light woods with velvet banquets, mismatched upholstered chairs and mismatched plates and a square bar. There are dangling plants, ropes and lanterns. The restaurant spills over onto the pool deck for outdoor dining.
They used to bring around carts of dim sum, but they stopped doing that and instead offer dim sum on the menu. They have also made some tweaks to the items as well. The presentations are beautiful, flashes of magic, there’s plenty of clever dishes worth exploring. There was actually only one major disappointment for us, and it was one of Mcinnis’s specialties, his Sarsparilla fried chicken. The basic recipe comes via Yardbird and should have been outstanding. Perhaps bringing it here, in a green curry, kaffir powder, lime and roasted coconut with way too much salt made it really unpleasant.
Otherwise mostly everything else was on point. The spiced honey and carrots with farro is outstanding. It came in a creamy labneh, with green harissa, sautéed greens and Marcona almonds. The heirloom tomato salad has grilled mango, Asian greens, puffed sushi rice and Thai basil with a creamy ricotta schmear. The first steamed buns I ever had were at Gigi’s. Here he has a few options. We went with the pork belly bacon buns. The buns are homemade, and the meat is tossed in a carmel and fish sauce with a peanut slaw and cilantro. The pork is nice and crispy.
We also enjoyed the braised short rib dumplings topped with crispy onion rings in a black vinegar – a nice touch. And finally, the Moroccan BBQ glazed salmon accompanied with saffron scented love rice, sautéed bok choy, pine nuts, toasted coconut and dill. The sauce on this dish is amazing.
The wine list is fair, and there is also a large beer list and 6-7 craft cocktails. I tried two which are both recommended. The No Money No Honey is a good bet for people who want something on the sweet side. It is Don Q Gran Anejo Crista rum, blackberries and raspberries, with honey Sarsparilla club ginger beer and lemon juice. Another good one was the Gunnaneedabiggerboat, with Maestro Dobel tequila, allspice dram, muddled pineapple and lime juice. They all have clever names too.
The desserts really shine here under pastry Chef Gail Goetsch, also of Yardbird. They still employ the dim sum cart for the desserts. It was hard to choose, they were all standouts that made me weak at the knees. My favourite is the banana meringue cake, but the chocolate expresso cake is decadent and the chocolate cake with potato chips and caramel sauce is also impressive. If there was more room, I would have also tried the sticky toffee pudding.
The vibrant menu showcases farm fresh, conscientiously-sourced, truly soul-nurturing dishes. It was a shame the restaurant wasn’t busier when we dined there. It seems like everyone is heading to Wynwood, Sunset Harbour, Brickell or MiMo, and forgetting about a few good restaurants right here on Miami Beach. This one is worth a visit. The chefs’ passion and creative expression is reflected in their cooking.
Please note there are also a number of vegetarian choices on the menu.
They are open every night. Dinner starts at 6pm. They also have a tasting menu where they offer their top ten dishes “cart style”.