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By Carla Torres | May 4, 2017 | Food & Drink
Geoffrey Zakarian stuns with his return to South Florida: a coastal American eatery at the newly renovated Diplomat Beach Resort.
A seafood tower comes with East and West Coast oysters, shrimp, lobster, Alaskan king crab legs, and stone crab claws.
“In 1994 I opened a restaurant called Blue Door at The Delano with Ian Schrager and someone named Madonna [ring a bell?],” says Iron Chef, Chopped judge, cookbook author, and bona fide culinary celebrity Geoffrey Zakarian. “It was an interesting experience because Miami Beach [back then] was nothing. There wasn’t much quality.” Fast-forward two decades. “Miami has become a destination—some of the best chefs in the world are here,” Zakarian says. He’s right: From denizens like Bradley Kilgore and Michael Schwartz to gastronomic giants Michael Mina, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud, Francis Mallmann, and even Thomas Keller and Joël Robuchon, everyone wants a piece of Miami’s culinary real estate.
It should come as no surprise, then, that 23 years after his initial Miami Beach debut, things have come full circle—back to South Florida. “I’d been looking to open something down here for a while when Howard asked me to come on as chef-partner,” he says of his friend Howard Wein (the founder of Howard Wein Hospitality and The Diplomat Restaurant Group), who was tasked with overseeing The Diplomat Beach Resort’s $100 million renovation. “A thousand rooms and the largest convention center in Florida? It was a no-brainer.”
Anchoring the Diplomat’s major renovation and top-notch food and beverage offerings is Point Royal, the seamless indoor-outdoor tropical oasis and shrine to seafood. Fiddle-leaf figs breathe life into the high-ceilinged space where glistening seafood towers sit atop virtually every table. Abundant raw bar combinations—like a hamachi crudo crowned with cranberry relish, cucumbers, Fuji apples, and crispy shallots—Zakarian says, “are some of the things you can’t get enough of in Florida,” especially when it’s 90 degrees in the summer sun.
But don’t let the heat discourage you from ordering some of the richer dishes, like the house-made ricotta agnolotti coupled with Florida blue crab fondue, lemon butter, celery, and caviar. “Crab and pasta are a marriage,” says Zakarian. Or the pomegranate-glazed short rib, which goes exceptionally well with the crispy Brussels sprouts smothered with mustard crème fraiche and speckled with candied pecans and green apple.
If you’re going to have only one dish, however, let it be the lobster roll. Setting Point Royal’s sandwich apart is the respectful use of the crustacean, whole and doused in a piquant Colman’s mustard sauce. “We don’t chop it up with mayonnaise,” Zakarian says. That would be a violation to the ocean, and at Point Royal, fish are treated with the utmost care, as best evidenced by the cornmeal-crusted Florida snapper, brought to zesty life through tomato, basil, eggplant, and saffron aioli.
And then there’s the ultimate sweet and boozy finish: a Key lime Pavlova whose meringue is delectably brittle, paired with a Key lime gelée and Graham cracker crust, and washed down with a frozen piña colada. Because if one thing has remained unchanged in Miami in the 23 years since Zakarian first opened a restaurant here, it’s that a proper piña colada is always in order. 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood, 954-602-8750
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY JAMES