Wednesday, August 12, 2009

7 Meals in 7 Nights: Sunday - The Breakers, Palm Beach & Hakkasan, Miami Beach

"What? I don't remember going to Burger King last night?", was the first thought that entered my mind as I woke up Sunday morning face down on a pullout couch and noticed a BK soda cup on a nearby coffee table. Yeah, it was that kinda night. I also have this stupid problem where I cant sleep in when I'm not at home so I was up around 9am. I got bored sitting there so I got up and headed out onto the porch at my cousin's place to play a little guitar and enjoy the warm breeze coming off of the ocean. The rest of the gang awoke about an hour or so later and, after much talk of me not believing I ate BK the night before, it was announced that we had a poolside cabana reserved for us at The Breakers Palm Beach. Sweet.

Driveway leading up to The Breakers Palm Beach Resort

The Breakers is an over-the-top resort in Palm Beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts 2 golf courses - the Oceans course on premises and the Rees Jones course about 10 miles away, 10 restaurants/bars/cafes, about 5 pools lined with poolside cabanas (from what I counted anyways), and a nice section of sandy beach. The facilities, including golf, are private and usually reserved only for use by hotel guests and club members. Ive heard that a simple pool membership STARTS at $30,000 per year and that is a reoccurring charge yearly! Being the offseason, however, they have opened up the ability to purchase poolside cabanas to regular ol' folks like us.

View from our poolside cabana @ The Breakers Palm Beach

Luckily, we had a cabana reserved at the "Tranquility Pool", meaning there were no kids screaming and splashing around in the water. This was key for my friends who, unlike me, are prone to hangovers. I have an immunity for some reason, most likely because my body is used to being abused. The cabana was sweet. It had 2 cushioned lounge chairs along with an umbrella and a few more chairs outside (view above) and then an indoor area with a wrap-around couch, coffee table, a few more chairs, and all the amenities of a hotel room like a stocked fridge, plasma TV with cable and all channels, towels, and a sink. The back of the cabana also had a nice bathroom vanity with 2 sinks, a toilet in a room off to the right of the vanity, and a private outdoor shower complete with 4 body jets to the left. With all these amenities, there's no wonder that there is a sign letting you know you aren't allowed to spend the night in the poolside cabana!

After a dip in the pool and a frozen alcoholic beverage, we were starving and ready to chow down. The menu was pretty decent for a pool bar menu. My cousin and I went with the pulled pork sandwich, another buddy had the shrimp po' boy, and the girls each got a lobster roll, made just like we do 'em back in New England (but at 3x the cost haha). The pulled pork sandwich was awesome and definitely hit the spot. The bbq sauce was nice and spicy and the bun was a formidable one and didn't get soggy at all. Well, the bun didn't really have a chance to get soggy because I inhaled that sandwich. I didn't get to try anyone else's sandwich but all reports were good. A couple more Coronas and a few dips in the pool and it was time for me to hit the road back to Miami. I had plans to meet up with Paula, of Mango & Lime fame, and her husband, D, at Hakkasan to check out their Miami Spice menu and I was looking forward to it as it would mark my first trip to the Fontainebleau since their $500M makeover.

Hakkasan comes to Miami Beach by way of London where Chef Alan Yau first established his Chinese restaurant under the same name. Typical Miami, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. After all of the hype it had received in newspaper and online reviews, I was eager to give it a shot. I was also aware that this would be an expensive meal if we got away from the Miami Spice menu but that's kinda to be expected at a large hotel on South Beach anyways. I valeted the car, fully aware that parking would be gratis if I got my ticket validated at the restaurant, and then walked into the hotel lobby. What a cool space! Very big and very open with a bar to the back of the large lobby that had its flooring illuminated in an electric blue light. The place is the closest thing we have to a Las Vegas casino here in Miami.

Snazzy dessert menu and bill jacket @ Hakkasan

After finally figuring out which direction I needed to go in to get to the restaurant, I began walking. I walked down a few hallways and up a ramp before finally hopping in the elevator that would take me to the restaurant. We were greeted and sat immediately. The restaurant space was sick! I am a huge fan of Asian inspired design and I loved the layout of the space with large latticed wood panels separating different sections of the dining room from floor to ceiling, of which I estimated at about 18 feet above. Dark wood tables and ice blue leather booth seating with embroidered elements and pillows lined one wall while chairs sat opposite the table. They also had a sweet bar back lit with water effects and on the western side of the room they had some more communal style tables and the kitchen which was separated from the dining room by a large blue glass wall so you could just see the shadows of the men and women working behind. On the eastern side of the room, there was a separate area with slate stone walls that had figures jutting out of them and a hallway that led to the bathrooms. Even the bathrooms were sick! Large 18 foot floor to ceiling doors in white led to an all white marble bathroom in which to carry out your business. But enough of me fawning over the space, we were here to eat.

After being informed that any drinks with passion fruit were off the menu due to the restaurant not being satisfied with the quality, we started with a round of drinks. I went with the Georgia Julep, a peach-inspired version of the Kentucky classic mint julep. Paula went with the Green Destiny which I cant remember what was in it but she seemed to enjoy. D ordered another drink that didn't have passion fruit in its description only to have the waitress come back and say that it did and wasn't being offered, so he went with the Georgia Julep as well. Of course, this normally would mean that the waitress would wait until all drinks are ready before serving but that wasn't the case. D had to watch us suck down our bevvies for a few before getting his. The Julep was good, though I prefer the Kentucky classic version much better. With drinks flowing, we were ready to order. We opened up the menus to find no Miami Spice menu inside. Bad vibes. I hate asking for that damn thing. We bit the bullet and asked and were given one promptly. The offerings appeared to be some of the weaker selections on the menu and, judging by the price points on the regular menu, smaller portions. I wasn't really feeling the options on the Spice menu and neither was D so we all opted to go with the regular menu since a minimum of 2 people were necessary to order from the Spice menu. I found that minimum to be fairly reasonable, however, I soon learned that there was another stipulation... A group of 6 people came and sat in the booth behind our table, ordered drinks, then became very irritated and left the restaurant but not before having a few words with the hostess at the hostess desk. Apparently they have a rule at Hakkasan that only allows a maximum of 5 people to order from Miami Spice. That makes no sense to me. The way I see it, they just lost out on probably what would've been a $500+ check after all was said and done. What if the group of 6 split into 3 and 3? Then it would be OK? In my book, if it don't make dollars, it don't make sense and this silly rule made the restaurant lose money and piss off a customer who would likely tell others about his experience. For a hotel that just invested $500M, you'd think that they'd want to make every little buck that they can.

Dim Sum Platter Appetizer @ Hakkasan

After looking over the menu and deciding to share 3 appetizers, we ordered the Roasted Mango Duck, Dim Sum Platter, and the Roasted King Soya Squab only to be told by the waitress that they were out of the squab. That mightve been nice to know ahead of time. Instead, we opted for the Wild Mushroom Lettuce Wraps. To give you an idea on pricing, these apps were $18 each and $24 for the dim sum. So we're already tallied at $60 just for apps, not to mention 3 $14 drinks and two $9 bottles of Voss water for the table (man, my ass hurts just typing that). That's $111 in just drinks and apps, so you can get an idea of what ordering off the regular menu is like.

Slightly dominated Wild Mushroom Lettuce Wraps @ Hakkasan

Roasted Mango Duck appetizer @ Hakkasan

The dim sum platter had 4 sets of dumplings presented in a bamboo steamer. There was a set of scallop shumai in the center topped with tobiko which were probably my favorite. The two with the green in them were shrimp dumplings with chives and there were another set of shrimp dumplings, both of which were good. The translucent dumplings that are shown in a square-like fold were stuffed with vegetables seasoned with Chinese 5-spice powder. These were my second favorite and would've been my favorite if the scallop shumai hadnt been cooked perfectly. The mushroom lettuce wraps were good but by god were the lettuce "wraps" small! Take your hand and give a "thumbs up". Now look at the size of your thumb. The lettuce was so small that you could maybe fit about a half of thumb's worth of mushroom mixture into the lettuce. This left a lot of the mixture leftover on the plate and kinda sucked the life out of the dish which was too bad because the flavors were on point. The roasted mango duck was a huge winner and quite possibly the best dish we had all night in my opinion. The dunk was tender and had a nice layer of fat and a crispy skin. This paired incredibly well with the fresh slices of juicy mango whose juice also made for a nice plated marinade for the duck. Just a very simple and very flavorful dish that I will probably order every time I eat there because it was that damn good.

Spicy Assam Prawns in Coconut @ Hakkasan

After another round of Georgia Juleps we ordered our main courses. Not knowing that the dishes are supposed to be served "family style", we each ordered individually. Paula went with the Spicy Assam Prawn in Coconut, D requested the Braised Black Bean Grouper Claypot with Bitter Melon, and I opted for the Stir-fry Scallop and Pumpkin in Black Bean. My dish and Paula's dish arrived together and D's about 5-10 minutes later which was about par for the course on this night.

Crappy iPhone pic of the Braised Black Bean Grouper Claypot @ Hakkasan

Stir-fry Scallop and Pumpkin in Black Bean @ Hakkasan

We did manage to share a few bites of our dishes with each other so I got a good taste of everything. I'm always weary of scallop dishes that involve them in some sort of stew or stir fry because the heat from the other components can sometimes continue to cook the scallop, making it a little more chewy. Not the case here. These scallops were spot-on perfect. The pumpkin in black bean sauce was also very tasty and I liked the texture as well. They were cooked so that they were soft yet still had some firmness to them so they didnt get all mushy. D's grouper had the same black bean sauce and was another example of carefully cooked seafood. The fish was tender and moist and went down easily. I thought Paula's prawn dish was awesome. The coconut kept the contents hot for the entire meal, even still steaming when we were finished eating. The coconut milk broth had a fiery kick to it that reminded me of the Cambodian Scallop Amok served at Origin Bistro in South Miami and the prawns were tender and tasty. I'd order any one of these plates again.

After dinner we didn't really feel like leaving so Paula ordered up a dessert called Mangia e Bevi that I cant remember what it exactly was but I remember some sort of sorbet being involved. I recommended a few glasses of Eagle Rare 10yr on the rocks for myself and D to enjoy. The Eagle Rare was really workin it for me so we ordered another round before asking for the bill. Now, one would think that when a menu says that an Eagle Rare is $14, it means regardless of how you drink it, right? Well, apparently not at Hakkasan for when we received the bill we were charged $17 for said bourbons. When we asked the waitress what the deal with that was, she replied that we ordered drinks on the rocks which got a greater pour, hence the $3 extra charge. So I'm paying $3 for a couple cubes of frozen f**king water?!?! Gimme a break already! Its not as if Hakkasan wasn't already making bank off the price of the drink (a bottle can be easily had for $26.99) but if you're gonna price your liquor, price it no matter how it gets ordered, goddammit. That really frosts me. Ive never been to a restaurant that charges for something as silly as cubes of ice to keep a drink cold. I can tell you that the Georgia Julep had bourbon and some other ingredients and also came with ice for $14 and that had to be higher in cost than my Eagle Rare on the rocks. I guess they expect for diners to just do shots all night? Its kinda funny how a restaurant will turn away 6 diners who want to spend $35+ each like they don't need the money, then they turn around and bone diners for $3 to put ice in a drink. That's just blatant douchebaggery.

Bill @ Hakkasan noting their menu price of $14 for Eagle Rare and then the mystery add-on of $3 on the bill for f**king ice

Overall, I thought the food and decor were paramount to the spotty service and douchebaggery shown at Hakkasan. I now understand why so many raved about the food at Hakkasan prior to me having the chance to experience it for myself. Every dish, no matter how simple or complex, really focused on a feature flavor with tiny hints of complimentary flavors identifying themselves and elevating the dish. That is what made the food worthy of the price of admission. I also think, design-wise, this is the most impressive restaurant in Miami. I will definitely be back someday Im sure, maybe even to try that $200 Peking Duck with Osteria Caviar. :)

What a great day I had and a glorious finish to an epic week of dining out every night. I made it! 7 Meals in 7 Nights had come to an end and the meal at Hakkasan, annoying little details aside, was a phenomenal way to end it. I had made it from Monday to Sunday and I'd had many fantastic meals, enjoyed time with friends and family, met some new people, and got to throw in a little travel as well. I'd consumed burgers, pizza, lobster, scallops, ceviche, and various bourbons. Many, many bourbons. All this made possible thanks to the social gathering we call dining out. My cup is running over with happiness and great memories and I look forward to seeing friends, meeting more strangers, and creating more memories around plates of good food.


Disco said...

Yeah, those cabanas aren't open to everyone to rent...

paula said...

Nice post! My dessert had sorbet (can't remember the flavor - geez!), a strawberry jelly and berries. I would be content going back for the Dim Sum, Roasted Duck with mango and a drink not on the rocks.

D said...

Next time I think I am going to order an Eagle Rare with coke and ask for the coke to be in a seperate glass.

Blind Mind said...

Disco - Thanks for the clarification.

Paula - Oh yeah, I remember that strawberry jelly was good with the sorbet.

D - I get what youre saying but please dont ever bastardize a good bourbon like Eagle Rare with a soft drink. Save that for shittier brands like Jim Beam. Plus, youre probably paying $5 for the Coke so youre not even beating the system.

Anonymous said...

I hope you took the $3 x 2 straight off the tip. Let the waitress argue with management - or at least next time she'll tell people about the upcharge.

You made me really hungry with this review. Gotta save up for this one.