MIAMI – Chef Joel Huff is new at Azul, the still stunning restaurant on the bay in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key. A friend and I took advantage of Miami Spice (which runs through Sept. 30) for a $35 three-course dinner there last night.
Even in this restricted format, the chef’s talent was evident. A cuttlefish with watermelon amuse bouche was the most flavorful inch-cubed of food I’ve eaten in many months. The lovely Jonah crab salad with corn and beans was full of summery flavor, while my hamachi crudo with cherries was melt-in-your-mouth perfect.
The kicker came with the risotto with mushrooms and lamb chopper cheese – one I’d never tried. I want this risotto every time I order it, for the rest of my life. Perfection – not something I say often. Creamy, yet each rice grain distinctive; the mushrooms so fresh-tasting, I could swear they were picked two minutes before cooking. The cheese, slightly salty and tangy, made me forget all about Parmigiano reggiano.
More than one dish right
My friend’s corvina was lovely – she wanted to share. I was more reluctant, though I gave her a spoonful of the risotto in trade. The tender fish was cooked with crunchy rings of hearts of palm which stood out, along with baby broccolini. I can recommend this chef’s fish acumen – certainly.
We mustn’t forget breads and desserts – my friend, just back from France, declared the petite baguettes reminiscent of the finest European samples. Other selections included sun-dried tomato buns and jalapeno cornbread.
A coconut-lime panna cotta was paired with an ultra rich chocolate gelato and set atop a shortbread I liked best of all.
The entire meal was presented by terrific service – we wanted for nothing – not even a light for the menus or in the case of a neighboring diner, a wrap for chilly bare shoulders. The sommelier is to be commended – the wines he suggested we taste and his descriptions were spot on.
There were other choices on the menu – and it’s apt to change slightly throughout the month as foods become available. Get there, though, before Sept. 30 – prices average $45 per entree here otherwise.
Note: Parking is $11 with validation.
For Miami Spice info, go to: ilovemiamispice.com
- 500 Brickell Key Dr., Miami (in the Mandarin Oriental)
- 305- 913-8254; mandarinoriental.com/miami/azul/