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Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Dutch takes on Korean BBQ

     Recently it seems like every restaurant in town offers some gimmick to lure in hungry diners.  Gone are the occasional wine and food pairings, and instead, Miami is replete with beer dinners, special tasting menus, and weekly clambakes (not that this is a bad thing). The Dutch decided to throw their gauntlet into the ring as well, offering a weekly summer BBQ series at a meager $30pp ("meager" compared to a normal full price meal here).  With the promise of Andrew Carmellini's genius and a generous serving of Korean BBQ whetting our appetite, we made our way to the Dutch.
     The W Hotel has always been one of my favorites spots on the South Beach, a chic and lavish spot that oozes sex appeal.  Color me surprised to discover that amidst the deep woods and sumptuous fabrics, the Dutch appeared as a beacon of comfort.  It is definitely still elegant, however, there is something about it that reminds of an IKEA-obsessed, retro-toy collector's living room.  While it verges on kitsch, somehow the fanciful pictures and knickknacks compliment the streamlined whites to make the entire venue feels laid back yet classy.
Part of the draw to the dinner series was undoubtedly the collaboration with Bar Lab, the geniuses partially responsible for the Broken Shaker.  Accordingly, we could not resist getting one of the specialty pitchers offered that evening, the Not So Standard Mule, which came with generous amounts of raspberry puree, and tasted kind of citrus-y, like it was made with grapefruit juice.  An ideal summer beverage.
We also ordered an English Rose off the normal drink menu.  Plymoth gin, Dolin Blanc, rhubarb syrup, muddled strawberries, lemon, Burlesque bitters, and egg white combined to produced an immaculate dusky rose pink cocktail.  It was light, smooth, complex, and so utterly addictive, I probably could have downed ten in a row without even realizing.
While waiting for our main meal (and sipping drinks that look like the alcoholic embodiment of Valentine's day), we were brought a jalapeno cornbread accompanied by a luscious butter.  It was moist, and the jalapeno added a much appreciated kick, however, I was disappointed by the absence of actual corn, which I personally feel always enhances the taste and monotony of a loaf of cornbread.
The Korean BBQ delivered a pretty generous range of dishes, which were served family style and portioned out depending on the party's size (in our case, there was four of us).  This is what it looked like when split for each person:
On the main platter the meat was served up several different ways.  There was beef bulgogi skewers, pork belly with grilled napa cabbage, and kimchi glazed beef ribs.  In addition, this was also where they placed the pajeon, which are basically green scallion pancakes.  The bulgogi skewers were phenomenal, really flavorful and tender.  While I did also enjoy the fall off the bone meat of the ribs and the pork belly, both erred on the fatty side, in my opinion.  However, these may have just been the pieces I received since my dining companions were far happier with theirs.  As for the pajeon, I thought the were a bit chewier than the traditional versions I've had elsewhere (like Gabose), but this is not to say they weren't still quite delectable.
The meal was also accompanied by bibimap, white kimchi, and cucumber kimchee.  The cool white kimchi provided an appreciated contrast to some of the hotter elements of the meal, like the pungent heat from the other kimchi.  Also, the bibimap was served in the traditional style, with the bottom crisping ever so slightly, and a lovely egg perched on top of the rice in the skillet.
In honor of the Korean BBQ theme, they offered a white miso ice cream for dessert.  While I was concerned it might be too savory a selection to cleanse the palate, I was pleasantly happy to admit how wrong I was, instead finding it entirely gratifying, and a unique balance of sweet and salty almost like a salted caramel.  We also chose one of the regular menu item desserts, devil's food cake with vanilla meringue, fudge sauce, and White Russian ice cream.  The golden meringue peaks were the perfect accompaniment to the rich chocolate layers of cake and buttercream, and I appreciated the bitterness and crunch from the crumbles, which tasted like they had a tinge of espresso beans.
The biggest gripe of the evening was the unexpected water charge, which was not too outlandish ($12 total), we just hadn't foreseen it since we hadn't been informed.  Overall though it was a great experience, and I would definitely go back to try another of the themed dinners.
    The regular menu is quite interesting on its own too, with choices like a lobster salad with hearts of palm and mango, or mustard glazed pork chops with cannellini bean ragout, and kale, or Colorado Lamp Chop with spicy Merguez and stewed peppers.  Caremellini's Miami outpost, manned by Chef de Cuisine Conor Hanlon, really delivers on upgrading American cuisine and is well worth checking out.  The comfortable spot manages to deliver on quality while never quite feeling pretentious, making it ideal to take a date, a business associate, or that out of town visitor.

   To check out the Dutch for yourself head to:
 2201 Collins Avenue  Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 938-3111
The Dutch (W South Beach Hotel) on Urbanspoon

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