When it comes to catering to special diets, Miami’s fine-dining chefs usually take an uncompromising approach. It’s either open a plant-based, raw or gluten-free restaurant, or pretend that your diners can and will eat everything and refuse to make menu substitutions. Neither way is ideal.
Enter The Strand Bar & Grill at the sumptuously renovated Carillon Miami Wellness Resort and discover the third approach: subtle compromise. While the resort, which tags itself the “luxury of wellness,” boasts the largest spa in the region, at 70,000 square feet—in addition to an integrative medical wellness center—Strand diners don’t get calorie counts on the menu à la Canyon Ranch. Executive chef and Miami native Stephen Ullrich doesn’t belabor the sourcing of each ingredient from local organic farms on the menu (although they are). The service staff doesn’t lecture you on the complex processes of how the dishes and cocktails—which boast names such as A Beet Up Mule and Gin It to Win It—are created in order to retain all the benefits of their vitamins and antioxidants (although they do).
Instead, once you’re seated in the large dining room, where the natural hues of a sunny beach day are superimposed onto the golden wood of the tables and the blue of the banquettes, the waitstaff will quietly inquire if anyone at the table has an allergy and respond accordingly. That means celiacs won’t be dismissed as if they’re simply trying the patience of the chef and management, but instead brought their own separate basket of (very good) gluten-free bread with French butter without having to request it. Even the amuse-bouche will be adjusted if necessary; one evening, a canapé of salmon tartare with crème fraîche was brought for a gluten-averse companion on a corn chip instead of lavash—a nice touch for sure.
Likewise, gluten-free and vegetarian options are marked throughout the menu with symbols. But there’s such a plethora of sumptuous dishes—caviar pie, soft-poached egg with lobster and mushrooms, roasted foie gras with apple soubise, and even a preparation for two of oxtail and bone marrow Wellington—even hardcore carnivores won’t notice this something-for-everyone approach.
The menu is divided into several sections, beginning with a small raw bar that offers simple selections: cold-water oysters on the half shell, shrimp cocktail and poached Maine lobster. The seafood is impeccably fresh and a clean way to begin a meal.
Plates then seem to increase by size. The first section is supposed to be starters, but even a salad such as the iceberg wedge is enormous. Loaded up with Point Reyes blue cheese, a double handful of crisp bacon, heirloom tomatoes and what is likely an entire Haas avocado, this platter could easily be a meal on its own. Similarly, the steak tartare—three quenelles of superbly fresh, raw, minced beef flavored with a mustard-egg emulsion, garnished with a dusting of Parmesan and rounds of beet-pickled onions, and scooped up with delicate phyllo crackers—is gargantuan.
Section two of the menu is the intermezzo pasta section, with a quartet of bowls and casseroles. The squid ink tagliatelle, black pasta placed over a pool of broccoli crema and tossed with sliced green olives, crushed tomatoes and rings of tender squid, features a number of contrasting yet complementary textures.
The lamb trio is also a tempting option. Under section three, the meat is prepared three ways: several slices of a spiced loin, a couple of confit belly meat, and a spicy sauté of chopped merguez. Cooling accompaniments include a swirl of smoked yogurt, skinned whole cherry tomatoes and a scoop of cucumber gremolata.
Also drawing from the Mediterranean region, the house’s paella, served in a traditional two-handled pan, begins with the standard bomba rice. But here, the usual fish, seafood and sausage are replaced by a golden assortment of crisped artichokes, cauliflower and garbanzo beans. A smooth salsa verde and an aioli piped in here and there create additional flavor pockets. If you prefer to order fish or seafood, don’t expect the usual local varieties. They’re eschewed in favor of Chatham cod with chorizo and romesco, king salmon with caviar served over an array of tri-colored cauliflower, and a trio of pan-fried sea scallops, practically caramelized and perfectly succulent. The scallops, the only shellfish main course, are plated over a shred of Brussels sprouts along with some pulled raw leaves, a few curls of Jerusalem artichoke, shavings of black truffle and a smattering of glowing pomegranate seeds for contrast to all the earthy flavors.
Dessert brings more Mediterranean flavors to the table in the form of coconut panna cotta with coconut sorbet and the compressed pineapple angled over an almond cake with a roasted marshmallow twirl and another scoop of sorbet, this time strawberry. Looking for some richer endings? The flourless chocolate cake with saffron custard and banana ice cream and the pecan pie bread pudding with pecan brittle are both irresistible—and probably just right for those who have appointments booked at the Carillon’s spa the next day or spots reserved in the more than 200 fitness classes the resort offers each week. Indeed, that said, spring break is on the approach and summer follows soon after, so whatever your diet, it may be just the right time to book this retreat for a fine-dining wellness staycation.
THE STRAND BAR & GRILL
Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, 6801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.514.7474
Open daily, 7am-11pm
Raw bar selections, $18-$40; starters and salads, $15-$28; pastas and casseroles, $19-$25; entrees, $28-$75;
desserts, $12; cocktails, $14; wines by the glass, $10-$26; wines by the bottle, $35-$819
For private parties, The Tambourine Room accommodates 14 people while The Wine Lounge can hold up to 30 (and is also connected to the outdoor terrace).
The dining room, with contemporary lighting that allows you to actually see what you’re eating, is open-format, with tables that are spaciously placed. Because of the elevation of the property, the outdoor terrace gets a great breeze even in the summertime.
Not just a retread of dinner, the lunch menu features a lamb burger, a New England-style lobster roll, Greek mezze and pizza topped with short rib, corn and piquillo peppers.