Background: While "big" and "bold" were once the watchwords of Miami Beach restaurants, "quiet" and "intimate" are slowly becoming the new normal. Nowhere is that more apparent than at Tudor House. Back in the '90s, chef Geoffrey Zakarian operated Blue Door at the Delano hotel when it was still run by Ian Schrager. Zakarian's more recent successes include the Lambs Club and the National in New York, and TV fame on "Chopped" and as the newest Iron Chef. Zakarian found a perfect executive chef to oversee his Miami Beach kitchen in Jamie DeRosa, who has worked for our own Allen Susser, Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and Mark Peel at Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles.
Ambience: While I love Miami Beach's art deco architecture, I'm not always a fan of restaurants set in diminutive hotel lobbies. There's often way too much foot traffic. That's not true here. This pristine, art deco treasure was designed in 1939 by L. Murray Dixon, the architect responsible for more than 300 Miami Beach hotels, apartment houses and condominiums. Last year, the Tudor Hotel and the Palmer House, also designed by Dixon, became Dream South Beach Hotel. Tudor House sits in the former lobby of the Tudor Hotel, but hotel guests use an entirely different entrance. There are 44 seats inside, where marble-topped tables, sleek armchairs and teak screens look right at home on the original terrazzo floors. A small bar is housed in an alcove where hotel guests once checked in. There's room for another 125 diners on the patio and courtyard.
Overall impression: Like the streamline-moderne architecture, the cooking style owes as much to France as it does to America. It's a wonderful melding of traditions.
Starters: Diners start with complimentary soft and warm pretzels served with red-wine mustard sauce. The meatball ($11) is an Italian-American ideal served with tomato sauce and pecorino. English pea soup ($9) will satisfy eat-your-peas purists and delight them with the surprise of lime marshmallows. Steak tartare ($18), made with chanterelles and creme fraiche, comes in an old-fashioned wire bail jar. It's old-fashioned in that it doesn't have the heat of so many modern tartares. Classic French pistou gets reworked as 10-vegetable soup ($9), a wonderfully fresh concoction in which a pecorino-covered slice of grilled bread is submerged.
Entree excellence: Thanks to the rise of pork belly, lamb belly ($29) is finally getting its due. Braised and served with carrot, peas and salsa verde, it is the essence of lamb: tender and flavorful with the fatty crust finished off crispy. Quinault River salmon ($29) is served with sweet corn and artichokes. Braised beef short ribs ($33) are exquisitely tender and are matched with roasted asparagus and house-made Tater Tots unlike anything your mom ever reheated.
Side issues: While entrees are served with sides, we couldn't resist sharing Brussels sprouts ($12) with Serrano ham and shaved apple, and interesting broccolini ($12) with preserved lemon chili and not-quite-hot, not-quite-cold burrata that melts over the top in unappetizing strings.
Sweet! House-made Oreos — soft and fresh, as opposed to crunchy and packaged — are served with coffee-hazelnut milk. A popcorn milkshake tastes just as described, and it's served with what looks like homemade Kit Kat fingers. There's also a bananas split and torrejas served with peanut butter ice cream and strawberry jelly. All desserts cost $10.
Service: Friendly and efficient.
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Dream South Beach Hotel, 1111 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Cuisine: New American
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
Reservations: Strongly suggested
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Can be noisy when full
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Boosters
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Metered parking or $15 valet with restaurant validation