16 January 2008

South Beach Dinner #3: Creek 28

So when I started writing about our South Beach restaurants, I mentioned that we originally planned to eat at Santo for New Year’s Eve. When those plans fell through, we resumed our search.

We were fairly specific in our criteria. We wanted a great dining experience – food, wine, ambiance. We wanted to order off the menu, not a set menu. We wanted to eat late, but be done in time to be on the beach for the fireworks at midnight.

We used OpenTable to screen the possibilities for us. We found Creek 28, and it sounded intriguing. It has a very attractive web site. We used a Google map to figure out it’s location. It’s about a mile north of the Winterhaven where we stayed and a block off of Collins. That sounded about right. We’d eat at 9 or 9:30, then finish in time to stroll the boardwalk and arrive back at Lummus Park in time for the fireworks. The menu posted online was very intriguing. So we made a reservation.

Though we have developed a pretty good sense of how to judge a restaurant based on internet research, we didn’t want any unpleasant surprises on New Year’s Eve. So when we took our morning walk the day after we arrived, we walked up to check it out. We really liked what we saw.

Creek 28 is located in the Indian Creek Hotel. It is up the road from the Art Deco hotels and two blocks off the beach. But it was very appealing and the hotel décor featured an eclectic mix of interesting antiques and modern styles. We checked out the restaurant and learned that there are many tables in the courtyard garden. After confirming that we could be seated there, we finished our walk with anticipation of our New Year’s Eve dinner.

The only near-glitch in our dining experience occurred when we arrive at 9:30 sharp. Well, we were informed, your reservation was for 9, and we’ve given your table away. Oh. Honestly, we couldn’t remember if we’d made the reservation for 9 or 9:30, but we must have looked so forlorn that after a short wait, they said they could accommodate us.

We started with martinis. They were very nicely prepared and actually quite large. We had planned on having a glass of Champaign besides, but after finishing the martini, we decided to skip it. We also decided to split an appetizer – baked, herbed goat cheese. It was fantastic. The cheese was wrapped in a filo crust with carmelized onions and a fruit compote. They served wonderful, thin crackers to go with it.

My wife had grilled sea scallops which are a regular item on the menu. You could have it, as she did, as a small entrée or it could be a starter to split with others. The scallops were expertly prepared, cooked through to Linda’s preference, but still moist and tender. They were served with a tomato saffron sauce, currants, chorizo sausage and grilled bread.

I had been obsessing over a dish that I saw on the menu online – lamb osso bucco. Osso bucco is usually prepared with veal shanks, and I also love braised lamb shanks, so I was eager to see how they would handle this dish. I kind of expected that they would serve whole lamb shanks in a braising liquid like osso bucco. I was delighted when my dish arrived and they had sliced the lamb shanks into little cross sections like osso bucco made with veal shanks. The flavors were wonderful and the presentation superb.

Halfway through dinner, one of the other guests stood up and made a very loud announcement, asking everyone to lift a glass in celebration of the new year. It seems likely he’d had enough to drink to neutralize normal inhibitions. But all of the diners lifted their glasses and joined him in his toast. To me, it captured a feeling of generous understanding. So what if he was tipsy? The old year was ending, the new year was about to begin. Happy New Year.

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