Tucked inside the newly-renovated Nautilus Hotel in Miami’s South Beach is the Driftwood Room, a new restaurant from chef Alex Guarnaschelli, the brains behind New York’s Butter restaurants and a familiar face on the Food Network. We had the opportunity to dine there recently at the invitation of the restaurant, and were taken by the upscale yet comfortable dining room and expansive outdoor terrace, high quality of the ingredients, and restrained and refined preparation.
While the main dining room is classy and elegant, with a parquet floor and sleek dark wood finishes, opt to sit outside if it’s a pleasant night. The menu’s offerings skew toward the lighter and healthier, heavy on the seafood and vegetables, and everything we tried was expertly prepared. Lemonfish (cobia) crudo (below) was sliced so thinly that it could be twirled around a fork, and was perfectly complemented by piquillo peppers, Roma tomatoes, and basil.
Black Mission fig and Parma ham salad with arugula and burnt sugar was perfectly balanced and not too sweet. Florida red snapper (which arrived literally minutes before we ordered) was simply seasoned and grilled, and served on a bed of pea tendrils. The flavor of the supremely fresh fish shined. Butter-poached cold water lobster with baby spinach was cooked perfectly, and while it was buttery it somehow remained light. Fries were made with Kennebec potatoes instead of the usual Russet, which resulted in a completely new, light and crispy texture. And for dessert, passion fruit cream-filled doughnuts were among the best I’ve ever had, hot out of the fryer and served with crème anglaise.
There’s no shortage of hotel restaurants in South Beach, especially ones from big name chefs, but Driftwood Room is quietly holding outs own, turning out simple, fresh, reliable, and healthy fare.