Chef Thomas Keller is renowned for his exceptional culinary skills, as well as his high standards when it comes to the quality of his food, and his highly competent waitstaff. He has established a collection of restaurants that set new heights in the hospitality industry. He is the first and only American born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, and the first American male chef to be awarded a Chevalier of the French Legion, the highest decoration in France. He has countless accolades from places like the James Beard Awards and too many others to mention. But, it was the opening of the French Laundry that gave him worldwide acclaim.
Now Miami can claim him as well, with the opening of the Surf Club Restaurant in the New Four Seasons Hotel, in Surfside at 9011 Collins Avenue.
A little history of this once iconic private club/playground for the privileged few. It originally opened its doors in 1930, right after the depression. It was a private and exclusive club for the rich and infamous. From celebrities to politicians, to the mob and tycoons. They held legendary and over the top parties.
The Four Seasons took over the property and revamped it using much of the original details, so in essence, you feel like you are walking back in time. Le Sirenuse opened almost immediately when the hotel opened its doors, but we had to wait two long years for the construction, and vision of Thomas Keller. Well, the wait is finally over.
The bar and dining room are a visual delight and are exceedingly attractive. From the Art Deco chandeliers to the terrazzo floors. From hand painted trompe l’oeil walls, with lots of warm wood accents, to leather and velvet booths, plush chairs, white tablecloths, flamingo-themed menus, arches, dim lighting, and fresh floral arrangements. There is piped in music until around 8pm, (a little loud for this type of restaurant) then a live band takes over.
Although it is not in the same league as Per Se or French Laundry, you still can expect a hefty price tag when receiving your bill. When restaurants in America are going in the direction of making their restaurants more casual, modern and accessible, Thomas Keller is doing the polar opposite and serving classics of a bygone era. When was the last time you heard the expression Continental cuisine? Well, that is what they are cooking up here. Beef Wellington carved tableside, lobster thermidor, Caesar salad prepared tableside. A champagne cart that is wheeled around the restaurant, caviar, oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktail, Dover sole meunière, the best cuts of steaks, lamb and veal chops sourced from the same farms as the French Laundry. They even charge $7 extra for an accompanying sauce. Steaks and chops will run you from $60-$160. Or, Fettuccine Alfredo with white shaved truffles at $120. However, you can find some entrees in the $30-40 range. I dined with a friend who was strictly vegan. With no advanced notice, the kitchen produced a beautifully prepared meal for her, from the bread to the appetizer and her excellent farro and vegetable main. Even a vegan dessert was offered. Our captain/waiter, Tim couldn’t have been more professional, helpful and patient. It was hard to decide with such a beautiful menu. My Hass avocado and garden vegetable Louie was a stunning presentation. The avocado was perfectly ripe, but the chef had a heavy hand with the salt. The Maine lobster thermidor at $85, was cooked perfectly and was sweet and tender with some added morl mushrooms. Everything is a la carte, so you may want to order some sides.
Kudos to the chef de cuisine, Manuel Echeverri, formerly of Bazaar Mar and Toscana Divino (both restaurants I’ve given good review).
The dessert chef comes to the Surf Club directly from Per Se, so you know you can expect some great sweets. My lemon tart with meringue was sublime.
There is an extensive wine list by Michel Coureux of Per Se, and he is training Zach Goddard who was formerly at the Faena and Fontainebleau, who will eventually take over his position. We enjoyed some excellent cocktails as well.
This 65 seat restaurant is more of a place for celebrations, business expense accounts, and wanting to make a good impression. But what you will get in return is impeccable service, finesse, glamour, and impeccable execution. It kind of reminded me of an old Miami classic called Cafe Chevron. For some, this fills a void that has not been here in years, a luxurious place that respects attention to detail, and will take care of your every need. To others, it may be an old-school relic that should be put to bed along with Miami’s golden age. As writer Carlos Frias, of Miami.com says, “loosen your belts and open your wallets.”