Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited ( on an Ocean Drive Magazine assignment) to an off-the-charts fine dining experience at the revered Palme D’Or restaurant in the Biltmore Hotel. If you’re from Miami, you’re familiar with the Biltmore Hotel- that grand and illustrious Mediterranean style structure that’s housed presidents, celebrities, and socialites alike, and sits in the elegant hood of Coral Gables.
Sure, Bad Boys was filmed here and Al Capone used to walk it’s corridors afterhours, but did you know it’s also home to one of the most iconic and delicious restaurants in Miami? I would call it our own local treasure. Creating the masterpieces in the kitchen is Michelin starred chef, Gregory Pugin, who once trained under the helm of French top chef, Joel Robuchon and is now making culinary history in our Magic City with his classic and timeless recipes. After eight courses (yes, eight!), and some additional surprises from the kitchen, my J.Crew skirt felt a little more snug than when I first arrived.
The chef indulged us with a savory sampling of the restaurant’s upcoming summer menu and each dish by far exceeded my expectations. From the Langoustine Au Caviar (relished with Passion Fruit Tapioca and Vodka Gelee) to the stupendous LOursin Dans Sa Coque (a Sea Urchin soup with bay scallops, fennel confit, kefir lime sauce) served in a porcelain shell bowl, every first bite delivered a mouth watering gasp from our table of 10.
The seared Branzino (above), buttery and crisp, was one of my favorite dishes of the evening, and just plain delicious. I’m running out of adjectives to describe this memorable five star dining experience! And no French cuisine repertoire is complete without some fois gras. The foie gras terraine with strawberry salad and cranberry bread was a delicious treat. I had to practically restrain myself from licking the plate. Yes, that good.
We capped off the meal with the a few desserts, but the one that hit the mark for me were the fruit forward chilled peaches with verbena ice cream, and blackcurrant coulis served in a funky lit up ice bowl. Paired with a New Zealand Riesling, it was off the charts.
Fine dining is alive and well in Miami and one reservation at Palme D’or will have you eating like a king for an evening. Chef Pugin made a special (and quick) appearance during dessert and I had the good fortune of asking him a few questions (see below)!
FSF: After so many years, what continues to makes Palme d’Or such a dining institution?
GP: Palme D’Or has a legacy of French fine dining, which is what attracted me to come and work here. It is quite rare to have such a restaurant in any city but especially in Miami. I continue to build upon this legacy and hope to take the restaurant to another level of luxury dining experiences.
FSF: What inspired this summer menu?
GP: Fresh produce, lots of vegetables, light fare with a mix of Mediterranean spices and hints of flavor from Basque region inspired the summer menu. Also, more fish for a lighter summer fare.
FSF: Do you have a favorite dish on this menu that all yours diners should try?
GP: The Sea Urchin and the Langoustine Caviar are staples on my menu; however, the flavors will change seasonally. In the current menu, the Sea Urchin has lemongrass and the Langoustine has lemon verbena, both light and fresh tastes for the summer.