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Dec 20, 2008 08:15 PM

Canyon Ranch Grill - Miami Beach

OK, let me admit that I'm more than a bit skeptical of any restaurant that keeps a calorie count of each item on the menu. To me, it's a bit like the free hare krishna lunch - you're getting a message that you didn't necessarily ask for or want along with your meal. But (again, like the hare krishna lunch) if the food's good, well, why not? Life can't be all pork belly and foie gras, and the new Canyon Ranch resort is right in our neighborhood, so we decided to give it a try. I was actually very pleasantly surprised by the food.

The Canyon Ranch resort is in North Beach, around 69th & Collins Avenue, in a gigantic space backing onto the ocean. The restaurant is a nice-looking space done up mostly in earth tones, with mobiles of wood and agate slices hanging all around it. There's a huge dining room space, an open kitchen separate from the main dining room with bar seating around it, and also lots of outdoor seating that backs out onto the beach (the outdoor space may not be open yet). From within the restaurant you can't see much of the ocean in the dark, but during the day the view must be fantastic.

So as for that menu. There are maybe a half dozen or so ceviches and tiraditos (a good idea for health-conscious eating), a few hot apps and a few salad-type items, maybe 8 or so mains, and a few vegetable choices. The menu had been pared down from the one that I'd previously seen in circulation ->

And yes, the calorie count, fat, protein, fiber, etc. of each item are listed on the menu, and our server informed us that hotel guests are supposed to stay within 500 calories per meal. I immediately made sure to clarify that we were NOT staying at the hotel. But I did try to stick with the spirit of the thing, which was not so hard because everything on the menu is designed to be pretty healthy. I believe they said the menu was all-organic, and lots of the ingredients are sourced locally, many from Paradise Farms.

We started with a thai shrimp ceviche and a black bass tiradito, and had as entrees a quail, a bison tenderloin, seared tuna, and scallops, and also split an order of "cauliflower three ways". The flavors of the shrimp ceviche (actually not a true ceviche since the shrimp were poached) were indeed reminiscent of thai "jumping shrimp" with additions of grapefruit sections and matchsticks of jicama. The tiradito was thin slices of fish doused with lime and topped with slices of pickled jalapeno. Supposedly a smear of red miso was involved but its flavor was harder to pick up. Both good and fully flavored though Mrs. F didn't love the tiradito.

The quail entree was one weensy bird, nicely roasted with a sweet lavender-flavored glaze, along with some very whole-wheat-y tasting spaetzle, a roasted cippolini onion, and a couple very sweet dried figs, cooked with a sweet syrup. Good, though I thought the sauce was a little over-sweet. The bison tenderloin was a delicious piece of meat, served over a bed of polenta and a side of very tasty braised kale. The tuna dish was also quite nice, the loin seared (pretty well for Little Miss F though I'm sure they prefer to do it more rare) and served over a bed of nice veg (I saw some favas and peas in there, not sure what else) and a tasty herb pistou. The scallops were also very good, served over a farro risotto with beets. And the cauliflower dish was really, really delicious. It's done (1) as a puree flavored with chive, (2) roasted in the oven till its gets a little browned and caramelized (my favorite method for preparing at home), with a "puttanesca" sauce strongly flavored with good olives, and (3) diced small and done "couscous style" with curry flavors.

Against my wishes, the kids decided to stick it out for dessert rather than go down the street to Dolce Vita for gelato. Frod Jr. saw "warm chocolate cake" and of course couldn't resist. Needless to say, it was a verrrry small portion. Little Miss F had a chocolate sorbet which was very dark and very chocolately (mostly with the flavor of cocoa powder).

The wine list was more of the carefully selected rather than encyclopedic variety, and also focused on organic and biodynamic wines. We had a Gachot-Monot Nuit St. George burgundy that drank absolutely beautifully, but I was disappointed to see after getting home that I'd paid about 3x retail.

One of the ways that they keep the calorie count down is to control portion size, with 4 small shrimp and 4 strips of fish for the apps, one little quail for the entree (though the other entrees were pretty generous portions, the tenderloin being a perfectly reasonable size, the tuna being a generous serving, and 3 fat sea scallops). But while you may be on a diet, alas your budget will not. $10-14 for the ceviches seems perfectly reasonable in the abstract, but feels high given the size of these portions; add when I compare this quail at $22 to the one I can get at Red Light for $10, well, you know where I'm going for my next quail. But having said that, I was very pleasantly surprised that every dish we had, while prepared with an eye toward health, was fully flavored and genuinely tasty - a good meal you can feel good about.

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  1. Frodnesor, sir: an update: Since we are also in the neighborhood we decided it was a nice day for a beach walk and lunch. Gorgeous day to be out of doors; walked along the sand and over to Canyon Ranch. There is a sign posted on the access gate stating that it's only open to guests, but it's not locked. We walked up the steps to the outdoor patio. Right now there are only four tables for four and umbrellas set up, with some cocktail seating along the side, but there are very nice banquets and tables in a larger area ready to go once the permits are complete. The hostess told us this was only the second day they've been serving outside, and I must say, it's delightful. There really aren't very many spots around town to sit beach-side and enjoy a good meal - with a clear view of the ocean!
    The tables were all full when we arrived, so we spoke to the hostess who told us it would be about 20 minutes or so. We decided to have a drink at the kitchen bar and wait; this way we got a chance to check out the interiors and watch the kitchen work. They brought us a veggie plate and some flatbread, and then a very nice "blond Cuba Libre" made with organic light rum and a house made soda that was refreshing and nicely herbal. ( Later the beverage manager told us they make the soda from sugar cane and another sweetener I can't recall, boiled with citrus, coriander, cinnamon and other ingredients. ) Pricey at $14, but not out of the crazy South Beach drink range.
    Our table was ready so we moved outside with our drinks. Nice lunch menu, pretty straightforward, fish, salads, sandwiches. I started with the heirloom tomato salad, which was spectacular. Five different tomatoes, from Paradise Farms, and each seasoned differently. Since lately some pretty mediocre fruit is passing for heirloom tomatoes, this was a treat. And nice shaved salt around the plate, which I didn't expect at Canyon Ranch. I believe it was $10. My husband had the mixed greens, very nice, but redundant, since his burger came with greens. I appreciate it when they warn you about that.
    My main was a roasted halibut with bonito mash - nicely seasoned loved the mash, but the fish could have used a minute less in the oven ( I like my fish on the underdone side ). $19. and I couldn't finish it. Husband went with the afore-mentioned burger; I didn't taste it, but he's a burger snob, and he was pretty pleased, although he said the bun was a touch too sweet. The "fries" are fried artichokes, which I liked a lot. We skipped dessert, but the roasted pineapple with basil sorbet sounded appealing.
    One thing I must mention: everyone there was absolutely lovely. ( even when we left a small pile of sand under our seats at the bar! ). I've noticed lately that service in general seems to be improving around Miami Beach, although there are still those stunningly clueless moments, but this was unusually welcoming. ( We have also been turned away from hotels when trying to enter from the beach, which seems crazy if you're a beach front restaurant. ) Everyone here was friendly and professional; the hostess, the servers, the beverage manager who came around to explain about the sodas when we asked. He also told us that they had been working to bring down the menu prices so that they could attract more of the local clientele.
    I hope they do, because it seems like they are really making an effort, the place is lovely, the food was good, and you really cannot beat the view!

    1. Went to Canyon Ranch over the weekend and thought it was quite tasty.

      When we arrived, we were handed the wine list and drink menu. The list was full of organic and sustainable wine options and a creative twist of cocktails. It's important to note that this is the only Canyon Ranch property where alcohol is even served. (Miami loves their wine!) I started off with a lavendar vodka with blueberries cocktail. Flavors were delicious and I felt like I was being healthy, while sipping on my cocktail. For me, there was a bit too many parts to this cocktails and I would have enjoyed it more strained, but a nice diversion from something I'd typically order.

      The menu at Canyon Ranch consists of a large number of small plate options (ranging from $6 - $15; 60 - 205 calories), simple eats (or their a la carte menu), entrees with suggested pairings ($17 - $24; 280 - 490 calories) and desserts. Although the portions sizes tend to be small (5 oz for proteins), you do have the option of doubling your protein.

      Although many small plates sounded tempting (Roasted Pineapple with Duck Prosciutto, Tuna Carpaccio and Saffron Steamed Clams), we decided on the Poblano Pepper with Shrimp and Goat Cheese. The portion was small, like we expected, but the flavor was extraordinary. The spiciness of the pepper combined with the creaminess of the goat cheese and the citris flavors of the shrimp combined well - this was our favorite dish of the evening. You must love goat cheese though, as it is the first thing you taste when you bite into this dish.

      When I came to the restaurant, I thought that it would be mostly focused on vegetarian, seafood and poultry dishes with a few meat dishes thrown in, but the menu was well-rounded. We opted for the Sustainably Caught Chilean Sea Bass ($24) and the Austalian Lamb Chops ($24). The Chilean Sea Bass was served in a spicy pineapple broth and cool Key Lime cucumber. It was served with some sweet potatoes. The fish was served perfectly. It was simple, yet flavorful and the fresh ingredients came through. The potatoes were lacking and didn't have much flavor to them. The other dish we tried was the Austalian Lamb Chops, due to our server's recommendation. Once again, the meat was done to perfection - juicy and melted in your mouth. There was a match made in heaven with the fruit relish that it came with, though the roasted plaintains were chewy and tough and were the only thing we left on the plate.

      Check out my complete write-up at: