|Swank Farms beet salad with goat cheese. |
When chef Dean Max parted ways with 3800 Ocean -- the restaurant he helped to open last year inside the Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa -- at the end of 2011, chef Larry LaValley was given the reins (plus the role of resort assistant general manager). LaValley has been with the restaurant from the beginning, but the new title gave him the opportunity to restructure the kitchen to create a "collaborative" approach.
"I wanted to make it not about one chef or one person but a collaboration of chefs," LaValley says. The style means that multiple culinary viewpoints can shape the menu. Given that "design (or death) by committee" is a real danger in such a scenario, it's a testament to the leadership and team dynamics that the varying styles mesh for a cohesive experience. Last month, LaValley and crew invited Clean Plate Charlie to a complimentary five-course tasting menu to demonstrate
the restaurant's new kitchen concept and a self-proclaimed focus on local ingredients.
"It's a scratch kitchen; that was a major change [made] when I took over," LaValley said. He said the staff has been working to solidify a summer menu and is looking to consistently feature local and seasonal ingredients across the board.
Locally sourced fare was on display during my five-course introduction to the restaurant, from the beets and goat cheese (Swank Specialty Produce
in Loxahatchee) featured in the first-course salad to the Zellwood sweet corn used in the second course's roasted corn soup. Dessert meant local Florida strawberries used in a jam that accompanied a twist on traditional Key lime pie and Hawaiian bananas (grown on a farm in Davie) livening up a bread pudding.
|Key lime tart with a coconut crust and fresh Florida strawberry jam and coconut cream. |
Because they were catering to a vegetarian for this particular meal, LaValley said many of the dishes served -- the meal included a wild mushroom polenta presented in a robin-egg-blue Le Creuset and sweet potato gnocchi -- were a loose interpretation of the restaurant's typical offerings. The corn soup served during the second course, for instance, was a reinvention of a sauce that typically accompanies a pork dish, while the gnocchi represented an ongoing rivalry between LaValley and executive sous chef Frances Deskin (formerly executive chef at the Office) to determine whose gnocchi is better.
|House-made gnocchi with fresh ricotta and sage butter. |
In addition to Deskin, the team (put into place in January) includes executive sous chef Frances Deskin (former executive chef at the Office), chef de cuisine Adam Hervieux (former sous chef at Todd English's Kingfish Hall in Boston), executive pastry chef Deana Lezcano (formerly of the Ritz-Carlton Naples), sous chef Alistair Housen (former executive sous at the Westin Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta), and sous chef Ernesto Sierra.
The restaurant is branching out in terms of special events with a special "guest chef" dinner on Thursday, June 21 (read about it here
), and participation in a summerlong fundraiser for the James Beard Foundation wherein the restaurant will donate $1 for every pan-roasted Florida black grouper ($32) sold now through Labor Day.
|Wild mushroom polenta. |
For those who prefer to leave things in the hands of the chefs to steer the meal, a new "kitchen table" offer allows diners to reserve the semiprivate five-person "kitchen table" for a personalized off-menu meal. The option is offered from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and is $59 per person plus tax and tip. Reservations are needed at least a day in advance, and plan on the meal taking three hours or so. If you want wine pairings, be sure to mention that during your reservation; call 561-340-1795.
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3800 N. Ocean Drive, Singer Island, FL