Azul, Miami

March 31, 2015

On February 24, 2015, Linda and I were staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Brickell Key in Miami. The highlight of our day was the Dale Chihuly exhibition at the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.
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In the evening we watched the sunset over downtown Miami from the balcony of our hotel room.
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Then we went downstairs to one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Azul.

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The dining room has a glass wall with a view towards downtown. There are tables outside, but we chose to sit inside the window. This was the view into the room from my seat.
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The cuisine is eclectic with French and Asian influences. The only tasting menu offered that week was a four-course Chinese New Year menu, which did not appeal to us, so we ordered à la carte. We started with a glass of Prosecco for me and Piper Heidsick Red Label for Linda. We ordered a bottle of Brewer Clifton “Mount Carmel” Pinot Noir, but the last bottle was gone and the sommelier brought us a bottle of 2012 Chanin “Los Alamos Vineyard” (Santa Barbara) Pinot Noir.  It was good and appropriate for the cuisine.

The amuse-gueule was a little cup of chilled beet and orange soup with a beet sprout.
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Nice, but a bit small.

Linda’s first course was
Creamed Corn Risotto
Black Truffle, Coach Farms Triple Crème Brûlée
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Creamed corn is an unusual base for a risotto, but combined with a triple crème goat cheese, it was a great success.  The cheese brûlée added a sweetness that went well with the black truffle slices that topped the risotto. 

Mine was
Alaskan King Crab
Yuzu Dashi, Umeboshi, Rouille, Cucumber
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The crab was excellent. It was served three ways: a meaty chunk, leg segments and a warm croquette. The fusion saucing was restrained and appropriate.

Linda’s main course was
Colorado Lamb Saddle
Marcona Almond, Piquillo, Roasted Garlic, Eggplant, Wild Grain
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The two thick slices of lamb were succulent, wonderfully tender and had plenty of flavor. The sweet piquillo pepper purée and eggplant purée served as a base for the well-prepared wild grain. Nasturtium flowers and leaves added color.

My main was
Pan Roasted Duck Breast
Forest Mushroom, Herb Emulsion,
Orange Compote, Whipped Chèvre
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The duck was nicely cooked, with red meat contrasting with the confit leg. The herb sauce with flecks of goat cheese underneath was not really a good combination with the duck. 

For dessert we had
Chai Tea Milk Chocolate Cream
Caramelized Banana Cake, Aged Rum Ice Cream
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Very well done. 

There was a nice little tray of mignardises.
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After dinner we looked into the kitchen, which opens onto a side of the dining area.
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The chef, William Crandall, was on the plating side of the kitchen and took time to chat with us.
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We had a good time. The cuisine was at a much higher level than one expects in a hotel restaurant. The service was good, although sometimes intrusive. The pace was brisk, but one could linger.

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