When it comes to Miami Beach, South Beach tends to get most of the spotlight — especially restaurants in the area. But visitors who head just a little north to Mid-Beach will discover a fair share of culinary superstars. One of those superstars: Essensia.
Located inside The Palms Hotel & Spa at 3025 Collins Avenue, Essensia focuses on global cuisine with an emphasis on local and sustainable ingredients. In their own words, “Essensia’s concept focuses on ‘the pure essence of taste,’ with a genuine passion for providing an opportunity to slow down and indulge in a dining experience carefully crafted for the mind, body, and soul.”
And our dining experience was exactly that. The evening we visited, we had the chance to try out the fall menu. The array of flavors we encountered throughout the night inside the sophisticated dining room made a lasting impression; this was a meal we were thinking about days after. Executive Chef Venoy Rogers, Chef de Cuisine Julie Mitchell and the rest of the Essensia team have created something special for the season. And with winter upon us, you better hurry in and get these items while you can.
To begin your meal, opt for the tempura avocado and the shrimp gnocchi. The former, with its spicy marmalade and creamy and crispy avocado, makes for a tantalizing starter while the latter is their delectable take on Bang Bang Shrimp: plump shrimp cut in the shape of gnocchi with a hint of peanut in the sauce. You can’t go wrong with that.
Another notable starter: The carne asada “fries.” In other words, crispy fingerling potatoes with Angus beef ribeye cap, quail egg and pickled salsa avocado. We can see you drooling through the screen. According to Chef Rogers, this is a popular dish over in San Diego (where he came from).
Moving on to the entrees: GET THE SHORTRIB. Super tender and saucy (and braised for five hours), this thing was magical. The other components of the dish — particularly the polenta com milho cozido — were just as vibrant. An overall perfect plate. On the seafood side, the chili-dusted local snapper is a beaut. There’s a lot going on with this plate — bamboo rice, yellow corn, roasted peppers, cilantro, paradise farms carambola chipotle salsa, cilantro lime crema — but it’s not overwhelming. Everything is balanced.
We must dedicate a paragraph just to the one side we had: the sweet potato puree. Woah woah woah. This thing is crazy creamy and crazy good. We actually boxed this up and saved some for our Thanksgiving dinner. OK, that’s a half-truth. We boxed it up, tried to save it for Thanksgiving but ended up eating it the next day because it was amazing.
Usually by the time dessert comes around, we’re pretty full. Overly full, rather. At Essensia, that wasn’t the case. We were good. We were satisfied. We did not hate ourselves. And strangely enough, we didn’t hate ourselves even after gorging on three desserts. You see, Chef Rogers and his team are all about creative, flavorful and healthy dishes. While everything looks beautiful and is rich in flavor, it’s also kinda sorta good for you. Or at least not as bad for your diet as the usual dining-out fare.
So where were we? Oh yeah, three fucking awesome desserts: cookies and cream mousse, grapefruit creme brulee and the local berry tartare. The most decadent of the three was the cookies and cream mousse: rich chocolate on the outside, cookies and cream filling in the middle and salted creme anglaise on the bottom — so good. Not a chocolate fan or a sweets fan? We direct you to the grapefruit creme brulee. It’s very subtle — not very sweet — and kissed with grapefruit. It’s a nice way to enjoy dessert without much (if any) guilt.
Our favorite, though, was the local berry tartar, which imitates a steak tartare with an orange “yolk” spherification. You break the yolk to spill orange juice onto the berries, which sit on top of a shortbread cake. We loved everything about this dessert. No words can do it justice.
Essensia has made us take a closer look at Mid-Beach when we’re considering dining out; we don’t typically head to the area, but Essensia is one hell of a reason for us to become regular visitors. And chances are they’ll make you feel the same way.