Geoffrey Zakarian wears many hats. Chef, restaurateur, TV host, Chopped Judge, City Harvest supporter and cookbook author, but hospitality is his favorite role. He enjoys being in the kitchen training and working with the chefs, but it is the front of the house where everything happens.
“ Any good thing in the kitchen can be ruined by the house not being right ”, he shared with me when we met last at the opening at his stylish Greenwich CT restaurant, The National.
That passion for making sure the “house is right” was very apparent at Saturday night’s media preview of Zakarian’s Coastal American restaurant, Point Royal at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood. Dressed fashionably in his signature blazer and tie, Zakarian worked the room, greeting old friends, chatting with the local bloggers and press and hanging out at the bar sipping a Plymouth gin cocktail and posing for pictures and obviously enjoying the opportunity to talk about food, his concept for Point Royal and being part of a huge hotel format.
The many servers were professional and well trained and we even scored as our server a young man who had just graduated with his Master's Degree in Psychology from Boston University.
Of course, the evening started with the most spectacular full moon rising over the oceanfront Diplomat Beach Resort, which just underwent a multi-million dollar renovation by Hilton and the addition of new restaurants, Diplomat Prime, Bristol’s Burgers and Portico.
Point Royal is a classy spot, with warm undertones, tabletop lamps and has the feel of an intimate club setting. I recognized many of the details from Zakarian’s The Lambs Club in New York City and The National. The three sided wood topped bar had large backlit geometric hanging light fixtures and reminded me of a classic Ivy League University club.
When I asked Zakarian about the menu, he responded, “ I want yummy food. It’s got to be delicious. I have been doing this for 34 years and have no tolerance for pretense or silly plating. There is something here for everybody. “
And indeed there was. From the 20 foot raw bar over flowing with fresh clams, oysters, prawns, and crab legs, to the signature Ugly Burger to the Pomegranate Short Ribs and Whole Florida Snapper.
MIAbites contributor and photographer extraordinaire, Andrew Giambarba and I started off sampling the oyster selection, which included 3 from Massachusetts, and 2 from California. Both of us being from New England meant we had high expectations and they did not disappoint. Incredibly fresh, crisp and with distinctively different flavors we found the Point Royal mignonette sauce a perfect complement.
I had to ask Geoffrey what was in the mignonette as it had a bit of a kick and a unique flavor. With a knowing twinkle in his eye he responded, “ Cucumber, shallots, chardonnay vinegar and a touch of chili”. A ha!
We also started with the Hamachi Crudo; the cranberry relish, Fuji apples adding a nice touch to the thinly sliced raw fish.
As our mains, we opted for some of Zakarian’s signature dishes including his Ugly Burger, a two-patty burger on seeded bun with bread and butter pickles, shredded lettuce, aged American cheese and a remoulade topping. Very juicy, it was a multi-napkin burger and at $19 will surely be a popular lunchtime item.
The GZ Butter Poached Lobster roll was chock full of wonderfully sweet lobster meat and topped with a creamy butter aioli and served on a toasted bun. Although delicious, we felt that at $35 it was a bit pricey and the side bibb lettuce salad with Coleman’s Mustard dressing did not enhance the dish.
Zakarian recommended both the Cornmeal crusted Florida Snapper and the Pomegranate Glazed Short Ribs, and while we did not order, the neighboring couple did and they looked delicious and confirmed to us that they tasted as good as they looked.
For dessert, we chose well. The Bananas Foster Crème Brulee and the Chocolate Budino topped with chopped hazelnuts and cinnamon ice cream were both light enough so that we did not feel like we had overindulged.
Wine list is extensive and available both by the glass and bottle, and the cocktail menu is reminiscent again of a private University club with top shelf spirits and creative offerings.
Point Royal opened to the public on Sunday February 12th. Also just opened is Counter Point, Geoffrey Zakarian's extension of Point Royal, which offers coffee and fresh juice. Designed for everyday convenience but dedicated to Chef Zakarian’s commitment to quality, Counter Point is the place for specialty espresso drinks, cold brew coffee and a daily selection of house baked breakfast pastries, salads and sandwiches with wine, beer and savory snacks for later in the day and evening.
Zakarian and Point Royal are also participating in this year's South Beach Wine + Food Festival as part of the Taste of Fort Lauderdale series with a Seafood Dinner + Clambake on Friday February 24th. Tickets at www.sobefest.com.
We recommend you park in the huge garage across the street and can be validated when you dine, saving you a few extra dollars to toss to your well-deserved and well-trained server.
3555 S. Ocean Dr.
954 602 6000
( Photo credit: Andrew Giambarba for MIAbites )