Review: Pied a Terre restaurant, South Beach

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Last night I discovered a well-kept secret, an upscale contemporary European menu-style restaurant.

Tucked away in the famous, but less conspicuous Art Deco Cadet Hotel, Pied a Terre, offers distinct haute cuisine that proudly and strategically obtains ingredients and fish from local farmers. All part of the current movement for sustainable growth and support of area farms.

The exterior of the hotel is still masked by the massive road construction, but new white street light poles with the base still covered in plastic, hints at an unveiling of an Art Deco gingerbread-like neighborhood.

Detracting from the popular sherbert pastel colors of pink, yellow and blue, the Cadet Hotel is cloaked in an olive green paint, perhaps in reverence to the military history rooted in this hotel.  As an Art Deco tour guide and per the majority of client feedback, I would suggest returning to the favorite pastel colors. But alas I was here for dinner and not as marketing consultant.

Upon entering the lobby, my heart skipped a beat. The Cadet Hotel retained the Art Deco charm of the 1940's and I soon learned this was the hotel that housed a famous actor who served a military training stint during World War II. Black and white vintage photos are carefully staged opposite a charming bar and patio area. 

The interior dining room of Pied a Terre is vintage Parisian fine restaurant in a familiar Kennebunkport Green (a Facebook fan color for Benjamin Moore ) paint and mini crystal chandeliers.  The intimate space seats only 30 people. However, the restaurants extends to a more spacious but secluded outdoor patio bordered with bougainvillea and greenery, anchored by a petite pool.

So what does the name mean? Literally "Pied" means "foot" and "terre" means "earth".  "Foot has earth".  But the figurative translation --one has an another home to arrive at during their travels. Whether it's a vacation home, a second home, or a friend's place to stay.  Best said, a home away from home. That is Pied a Terre, from the tender-loving care in the food preparation, the personal butler reception by the stately manager Patrick Calvarese, and the careful setting and staged presentation by our waiter, Arthur Bialevich. 

Chef Andrew Balick, Manager Patrick Calvarese, and head waiter Arthur Bialevich
I don't know which was more memorable, the personal attention and fascinating stories by the charm-incarnate manager Patrick or the chariot of delectable food samples. I would characterize it as a painful tease-- each bite defied the law of diminishing return.  My tastebuds begged for more.

To begin, Arthur served us warm Canadian bread and imported French butter.  We learned the bread is half baked in Canada, and returned to the oven before serving.  The French are experts at baking bread and churning butter to peak perfection, it alone is almost a delicacy.

Next was a grilled octopus medley sample as shown below. The fregola salad, saffron rouille and crumbles of feta cheese do not overpower any single flavor and instead like piano keys create a new melodic flavor. Excellent.

Then a shallow bowl with a single scallop topped with caviar was placed on the table. The scant serving signaled a presentation. Patrick gracefully balanced an elegant gravy boat containing white asparagus and cauliflower soup and poured it slowly to hug the scallop without drowning the crown of caviar.  This I have to say was my favorite.  Since I began restaurant reviews, a creamy, homemade soup will demand the question "will it surpass the last soup?" Indeed it did.

And the rounds of servings continued.  For sample number two, the chef chose a corvina fish and shrimp scampi with ratatouille.

Following the surf sample came the turf, a duet of braised short rib and New York Sirloin served atop a pancake of potatoe puree and onions. The tenderness and flavors of short ribs has become my oft favorite menu item selection. The sample lived up to its reputation.

For the cleansing of the palette was "La Tur" a three cheese block of blended sheep, cow and goat's milk. Absolutely heavenly! (I was so inlove it clouded my mental capacity and I forgot to take the photo). But you can picture a block of cheese.

For dessert, we were served homemade cheesecake topped with balsamic and red wine blackberries and hint of mint chocolate.  You can never go wrong with cheesecake and berries. It reminded me that years have passed since I baked a cheesecake with blueberry topping and filling. I dare not compete.

I pray the glitterati do not descend on this restaurant for appearance sake. Leave that to the overpriced, restaurant next door.  Pied a Terre is not for the weak of wallet.  The average ticket is $100 per person including wine which I must say the manager chose an excellent white wine.

However, the service, exquisite food and personal attention is a recipe for a memorable dinner, worth every penny. As another, older, elegant couple next to us stood up for their departure, I asked them how they learned of the restaurant. Through Open Table. And their opinion? "Fabulous--and we're from Chicago".  In scanning the dining room, patrons were notably well-heeled locals.

How long will Pied a Terre remain a secret I wonder? Not long, according to Executive Chef, Andrew Balick. This ambitious chef has plans for cooking demonstrations perhaps even lessons and other ideas to raise the bar of "fine dining meets sustainable growth".

 Now if only there was a way to coax Patrick to be my personal butler or manager. He is absolutely delightful.

Pied a Terre
1701 James Avenue
Miami Beach, FL  33139

p.s. the entrance to the restaurant is to the right of the lobby entrance on 17th Street.

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  1. Oscar Wilde's "The best usually satisfies me" quotation would apply to our dining experience at Pied A Terre in South Beach. Under the sophisticated direction of Patrick Calvarese, the professionalism of our server Arthur Bialevich, and the satisfaction created in the kitchen by chef Andrew Balick, we experienced dining, as if in the villa of a friend with attentive creative staff. The food has been described in detail, but could never convey the experience of the soft-shelled crab and the other sophisticated preparations & presentations. It was the best, and totally satisfying. Oscar Wilde would agree!
    JDV & BC

  2. Well detailed review. Very helpful.

  3. This place looks delicious. I will definitely check it out when I go to South Beach.

  4. Had a wonderful cocktail prepared by Patrick. I was transported to the south of france with a little carribean flavor! Be prepared to have your senses delighted!!! All I can say is "what a wonderflight of pleasure". Jewel from NYC


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