There was something very comforting about the time I was able to spend living up in New Jersey. Being born in New York must have imprinted some sort of regional familiarity on my mind. Moving back down to Florida after almost a year of hanging out in and around Manhattan was not easy. There’s no need to list the innumerable facets that make the atmosphere in the city so unique. Unsurprisingly, one of the things I miss most, is the access to amazing food around every corner (not that much of an exaggeration). Luckily for me, my destination, not far from Miami, also happens to be the nesting ground for many uncompromising Manhattan snowbirds, weary of the frigid winters but unwilling to sacrifice the food, even for a few months out of the year.
Naturally, this migration brings with it the demand for said food. Thankfully, many Manhattan eateries have followed the flock and set up shop in Florida to sate the appetites of the hungry expats. One of these, from chef and restauranteur Andrew Carmellini and his partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom , is The Dutch. The Miami outpost, at 2201 Collins Ave inside the posh W Hotel (along with another New York institution, Mr. Chow) opened just seven months after the original.
My family, all very attached to New York City in some way, made plans to visit The Dutch together on a recent weekend. Despite all my time in the city, even passing The Dutch on the way to work day after day, I never was able to partake. Here though, was my chance to remedy that. It was refreshing to see that they didn’t try to create some false “New York” atmosphere with the decor. It manages to tread the fine line of chic Miami style without straying into Florida kitsch. We took a seat in an outdoor booth on the patio and dove straight into the menu.
The first thing to catch my eye were the offerings from the raw bar. 2013 has been the year of the oyster for me so far, Garde Manger started the trend and The Dutch kept it going with incredibly fresh bivalves by the dozens, we secured ourself a dozen each of P.E.I’s and Kumamotos. The oyster selection changes often based on what’s fresh or in season, so it pays to visit multiple times if you want to sample other varieties. Joining the oyster tower was a crispy lamb, squared and perched on a landing strip of cous cous with tomato, olive and caramel. Classic corvina ceviche with avocado and fresno chile, sides consisted of creamy parmesan polenta with bacon bits and green onion and a cast iron skillet overflowing with roasted mushrooms, garlic crouton and parsley.
You could tell that each dish was constructed with care. That same care was taken to make sure that the flavors were balanced. The tomato and olive didn’t overpower the subtle gaminess of the lamb, and the cous cous lent an added texture and creaminess. The ceviche, which could have easily been ruined by a heavy-handed use of chile, was spot on. The fish was fresh and bright paired with the avocado that brought a silky mouth feel. Roasted mushrooms and polenta are always sure to bring that cozy home cooked aspect to any meal, the green onion and bacon bit accoutrements gave a slight nod to the classic baked potato.
For the second course, the group split between choices from land and sea. The mature individuals at the table chose the more sensible dishes, namely a steamed red snapper in a coconut curry broth with mint, and Scottish salmon with beets, horseradish crema and caviar. Us foolish young’uns went for the more audacious choices, a fiery Jamaican jerked chicken with peas, rice and pineapple chutney and ravioli formaggi with mushroom bordelaise, and blanketed by freshly sliced winter truffle. As you’d expect, the truffle dish was mine, after all, I have a reputation to keep.
The consistently fresh and balanced flavors continued through with the entreés. Both fish dishes were perfectly cooked and broke into smooth flakes at the touch of the fork. The salmon was especially tasty with its beet “relish” and horseradish crema. I’m a notorious loather of cooked fish in most instances, but my motto continues to hold up, when it’s done right, everything can be delicious. The guys and gals behind the scenes at The Dutch are proving that point on a nightly basis.
As usual, the time came where our waiter left us with that difficult question…dessert? Were we full? Yes. Could we leave without trying their banana cream pie and homemade dark rum donuts? Of course not. Both were delicious, the donuts winning out slightly over the pie for me, simply because of the bowl of fresh raspberry jam. I allowed everyone a small dunk after which I hoarded the rest for myself to greedily slather over the remaining donuts. I’m a raspberry whore and I’m not afraid to admit it.
As we left satisfied, I felt that familiar feeling wash over me, like a piece of New York had broken off and planted itself in the south, awaiting my arrival. Not to take anything away from the amazing eateries Miami calls its own, but The Dutch fills a specific culinary void that I felt when I first moved down. Hopefully other New York establishments will see the demand and follow suit, opening up their own branches south of the Mason-Dixon line.