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If I were to award the prize for the best vegetables at any restaurant in Miami, there would be no hesitation about my choice  — Essensia, 3025 Collins Avenue, T.305-908-5458. It’s not just the sourcing of the products – following the farm to table approach – but also, the creativity of the pairings and the global influences. Chef Julie Frans brings her years of experience with what is known as California cuisine, peppered with inspirations culled from being a chef aboard a yacht sailing around the world to the table. And her “baby” – an onsite organic herb and vegetable garden where she grows kale, lemongrass,spinach, basil and others depending on the season.

But don’t think Essensia is only about vegetables and fruits. Meats and seafoods are sourced from purveyors across the state of Florida and sustainable wherever possible. Even the wines and spirits are chosen for being “good to you and the environment”.

Menu selections are creative and different –  none of the same old, same old. As you know, Mr.W and I  do love our rich, indulgent food. But it’s totally refreshing to see a restaurant that is a 360 degree change of pace. Everything we had was uniformly delicious, plus we didn’t walk away feeling stuffed.

The combinations in every dish were a symphony of exciting ingredients and  flavors that worked, so much so that I’m going to elaborate on the contents of each dish we sampled. For starters we had snapper ceviche with papaya, radish, cucumber , herbs and sweet chile vinaigrette; local lobster with avocado, mango, heart of palm and spicy cilantro dressing; Hawaiian style ahi poke with sesame, edamame, radish pickle. How’s that for  combinations? And that was true across the board.

Then we tried the signature kale Caesar with 7 year aged parmesan and, get this,  Israeli quinoa salad which combined arugula, quinoa, cranberry, hazelnut, halloumi cheese, beet puree and tahini vinaigrette. A standout.

The waiter recommended the signature snapper which was another serious winner. The snapper was very fresh, and came on a bed of tomatoes, olives,capers, quinoa with toasted pepitas, grilled corn and grilled mini peppers. I could hardly pull myself away from the entrée to try the seared grass fed filet with horseradish and aged cheddar hashbrown, mushroom, asparagus, pink peppercorn balsamic demi, and crispy fried onions. Also very good.

Desserts were  departures from the usual – dishes like apricot parfait and coconut and lime semifreddo.  There’s a very good selection of carefully chosen champagnes and sparkling wines, and super fun cocktails like spicy thai basil gimlet and pineapple cardamom caipirinha that also feature bounty from the garden.

Pricing offers quality and value. Starters and salads average around $12 and entrees range from $18 for vegetarian to $44 for the filet, but most are in the low $30’s. There’s also an enticing list of side dishes.

Seating is offered inside or outside on a white porch- like terrace overlooking the lush gardens.  Chef Frans has also come up with very appealing Miami Spice menus that rotate every 15 days and a highly popular Yoga, Spa and Garden-to-Table Dinner Series. The event is monthly through the fall,  from 6 to 8 PM . The evening begins with a yoga class on The Palms’  South Lawn, adjacent to the garden, where shortly thereafter Chef Julie Frans hand-crafts a  farm-to-table dinner. Aveda spa therapists are also on-hand to provide complimentary chair massages.

For a total change of pace, don’t miss Essensia Miami.

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