Thomas Keller's first restaurant in Florida featuring classic continental cuisine for a contemporary audience

A quick visit to Miami made a visit to Chef Thomas Keller's east coast restaurant a must. Keller is arguably the greatest American chef ever, best known for The French Laundry and Per Se. Here, he takes over a historic club found within the Four Seasons Hotel right on Miami Beach.

The restaurant used to be a private club from 1930s with regulars such as Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill. They preserved the history beautifully, with each mural on the dining room wall representing a piece of the space's history. For example, there was a peacock in one mural, a refer to "Peacock Alley" - the beach area just outside which, in its day, featured famous boxing matches.

We dressed up, but the restaurant is surprisingly casual. The menu, facility and service are all formal. But many were there in shorts and a t-shirt, and were not out of place. Our server mentioned it, that there is no dress code whatever. Perhaps a requirement when you serve patrons from Miami Beach.

The menu is outstanding - diverse with all of the right highlights. A bit older school in content (tableside caesar...), but there isn't a dish you don't want.  

And the food? This is Thomas Keller. The food is outstanding.

The tableside caesar was spot on and delicious, though the presentation could have used a bit more engagement. An explanation of caesar salad's origins...something to connect you to what was going on. My scallop crudo was extraordinary. I couldn't get enough. I've learned that shellfish with buttermilk and acid is one of my favorite combinations, and this version did not disappoint.

The braised beef and forest mushroom lasagne certainly was. Overloaded with ricotta, you had to strain to find any semblance of the two beautiful ingredients it is named for. This was a serious miss.

But the fettucine alfredo? Perfection. So well done. It's not a dish I would typically order but I saw a picture of it online and fitured it had to be top notch. It was.

We finished with the short rib wellington which was so delightfully made, but heavy. I'm not complaining. It's short rib. But let me tell you - that's a lot of marbled meat to eat. I didn't get through it.

Finishing with the chocolate layer cake was perfection.

The lovely general manager offered us a tour of the kitchen. I'm not sure why they picked us, but I'm glad they did. Visiting a Thomas Keller kitchen is always special. At the height of a busy service, they warmly welcomed us in and allowed us to spend all the time we wanted, insisting that they they were in our way in this tight space. So lovely and generous.

The Surf Club is a terrific evening out. Perfect for a special event like an anniversary. I'd be delighted to return and look forward to returning.

Side note: the restaurant has 3 dining spaces and I found incredibly difficult to learn what the differences were. So I made sure to document them so I could share them here. All spaces serve the entire menu.

The dining room at The Surf Club Restaurant in MiamiDining Room

The dining room is the original Surf Club and contains all of the history. The murals around the room reference the club's historic past and you do feel that you're in a pretty special space.

The Banyon Room at The Surf Club in MiamiBanyon Room

The banyon room - named for the large banyon tree right outside - is a large glassed-in porch directly off of the dining room. It feels fully enclosed and is a brighter, less formal and quite welcoming space. Feels more "Miami" than the formal dining room.

The bar area at The Surf Club in MiamiBar Area

The bar area is exactly that. They have live jazz music here most nights. Plenty of tables to enjoy your meal.

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