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Malibu Farm’s alfresco dining room offers spectacular views of the ocean.

FEATURES

California Eating

By Jen Karetnick

Photos courtesy of Malibu Farm Miami Beach

08.20.18

Chef Helene Henderson’s West Coast flavors and traditions are alive and well in Malibu Farm.

From the outside, the Eden Roc Miami Beach hotel seems much the same as it has since it was finished in 1956: Stately. Storied. The Morris Lapidus-designed, Miami modern neighbor of former rival Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Inside, the waterfront property is a far more global, complicated picture. The Eden Roc runs 418 of the rooms, while Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, a boutique hotel within it, operates just over 200 of the rooms as well as the dining amenities. Those restaurants include the renowned Nobu Miami and relative newcomer Malibu Farm Miami Beach.

The East Coast sibling to chef Helene Henderson’s popular California eatery Malibu Farm Pier Café and Restaurant, Malibu Farm Miami Beach is one of the few restaurants here that sits almost directly on the waterfront. Located at the back of the hotel, past the main pool and up a set of exterior steps, it’s a little hard to find despite signage. On bright, humid days, it’s a bit sweaty under a retractable roof that blocks the blare of sun and occasional downpour, but also traps away the breeze. But, from the rustic wood tables, under strings of bulbs that light up at night, the view of the Atlantic is everything your travel app promises about the Magic City.

A former model, Henderson takes a natural approach to food preparation. With items ranging from fresh-pressed agave lemonade to raw chia pudding with banana and maple, the Swedish native’s restaurant dovetails into many wellness dining trends: local, seasonal, gluten-free and vegan. However, while some of the dishes read like a challenge, none of them taste forced. For instance, a raw Brussels sprouts salad might sound like the last thing you’d want to eat while in a belly-baring bathing suit, but the miniature cabbages are shaved, intertwined with leaves of tender baby arugula and softened by the acids from a smart mustard-lemon dressing. Slivered almonds add texture back in almost unnoticeably, and a garnish of watermelon radish slice curls on top like a flower petal for visual appeal.

That watermelon radish reappears often to highlight dishes, but another salad, the salmon nicoise, has no need for additional hues—it’s a color wheel of a plate. The pale-pink salmon, perfectly seared, is complemented by a hard-boiled egg that’s been dip-dyed in beet juice. Halved heirloom tomatoes, Kalamata olives, al dente haricots verts and firm fingerling potatoes are arranged around a mountainous heart of kale and arugula tossed with capers and an umami-invoking olive dressing. It’s a dish that’s as filling as it’s beautiful, which is the case often here. The Swed-“ish” Meatballs, for instance, are a pleasing combination of ground chicken mixed with ricotta and dotted with peppercorns (this is also one of the few dishes that nod to Henderson’s homeland).

Whole fish with coconut curry, shaved fennel and arugula

Some selections offer clever ways to consume greens without really tasting them. One example of this is the cauliflower-crust pizza, a lightly browned, gluten-free patty of pureed cauliflower mixed with cheese and topped with heirloom tomatoes, a mound of arugula and more shaved cauliflower. This is just one of a number of pies emerging from the double ovens that are located in the air-conditioned dining room. Framed with floor-to-ceiling windows, this attractive space often hosts special events such as wine tastings when not being used for restaurant seating. The Nobu private pool, comprised of glass, makes up a wall of this room, so you can have double entertainment in here—spying on the elite as they tread water and watching the cooks removing the various pizzas without burning their digits.

You can usually spot one of the most popular pies, the avocado pizza, right upon entering the restaurant. Layered with jalapeno-imbued ricotta cheese, then about four entire Hass avocados, it’s spritzed with lime, chopped cilantro and a touch of agave for sweetness. Striking and alluring, it greens practically every other table.

Fear not, though. For those who eschew hipster food fads, there’s plenty of booze and red meat—including a dry-aged ribeye and a slow-roasted lamb dish, both to share family style—that will satisfy without guilt. Whole fish with coconut curry, whole lobster with lime butter and a whole organic roasted chicken also tempt parties with multiple members. But if it’s just you and your appetite, head to the Large Plates section for a rich, grass-fed burger with havarti on a brioche bun, or a platter of fragrant, miso-poached shrimp. Drizzled with miso-tahini dressing, the half-dozen jumbo shrimp are plated with a heap of nutty farro that’s paired with a poached egg and earthy maitake mushrooms to lend some fried rice-like qualities.

If downing your watermelon juice-based cucumber vodka cocktail doesn’t finish you off, indulge in the grilled chocolate cake with a salted caramel swirl and a pouf of creme fraiche. The grilling makes brownie crust-like ridges on the roof of the cake, creating an irresistible dichotomy between the crunch and the moist crumb of the interior. This best-selling dessert is likely the most fattening of choices on this clean-eating menu. Which makes about as much sense as having a hotel within a hotel, a Malibu in Miami and a farm on the beach. In other words, it works for us.  

The Pear, a mix of Nolet’s gin, prosecco, rosemary-pear agave and lemon juice.

MALIBU FARM 
Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, 4525 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.674.5579

Breakfast: daily, 7-11am; lunch: daily, noon-5pm; dinner: nightly, 5-11pm

Bites, $14-$20; salads, $14-$22; pizzas, $18-$25; large plates, $17-$38; family-style plates, $48-$75; seasonal sides, $11; desserts, $12; cocktails, $16; wines by the glass, $11-$20; wines by the bottle, $32-$350