When we heard Geoffrey Zakaraian opened a new restaurant in the Dream Hotel, we made reservations ASAP. While we anticipated Mr. Zakarian would not actually be there (sad face), we never expected the food and service to be so fantastic. Tudor House offers an impressive Miami Spice menu five nights a week, a serious rarity for upscale South Beach restaurants. Stef & I went on a Thursday night, assuming we would be fighting crowds of people in a tiny space. Tudor House was surprisingly empty, but the restaurant itself was beautiful.
From the moment we sat down, we had the full attention of a waiter and a great busboy, who consistently checked in with us, filled water glasses, and refreshed our plates of complimentary pretzel bites. The pretzels were a creative alternative to typical bread baskets, and the accompanying mustard sauce slightly blew our minds. Although I said I didn’t like the sauce, we literally couldn’t stop eating it. Mingled among the sweet, tangy, spiciness was a flavor neither of us could put our finger on. Was it mustard seeds? Whole grain brown mustard? We didn’t know, but we went through 3 cups of it in the process. To describe the potency of this mustard sauce, Stef said if she had a cold, it would clear her sinuses. However, it was still addicting. Next, the sangria. At $35 for what ended up being 6 glasses, this was a steal when one glass is $14. The sangria was strong and infused with allspice, cloves, and a little cinnamon. Delish.
P.S.- We also ate house-made pickles. Sweet yet not as sour as we would have liked. But note the pretty pickling spices clinging to the once-cucumbers.
I ordered the bruschetta trio, fried chicken, and key lime ice cream sandwiches. Stef opted for the panzanella salad, Cuban sandwich, and strawberry shortcake. Although each dish sounds pretty traditional, they were anything but. Each had a creative twist and tasted far better than any version either of us had ever eaten. The bruschetta trio included crab, burrata and tomatoes, and the most amazing chickpea salad. The crab and buratta topped the crostini and were both tasty, although we didn’t really find the crab to be anything special. The chickpea salad, however, was the star. At first, Stef and I were confused where the chickpeas were, because the ones on my plate resembled little green edamame. We asked the manager, Shane, where the chickpeas went and he ran off to the kitchen to find out. They were chickpeas. Green chickpeas. Hmmm..we assumed he made it up, but we were wrong. They do exist. Learn something new everyday. Regardless, they were so tasty, perfectly seasoned, rich, and slightly crunchy. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
Stef’s panzanella salad had heirloom tomatoes, crusty bread, feta, cucumbers, and onions and capers. Although not really a “twist” on a panzanella salad, the produce was fresh and crunchy, and the capers and kalamata olives provided a nice salty bite. Panzanella is traditionally made with stale bread, and the bread used in this dish had the perfect “3 day old” feel to it, great to sop up the juices from the veggies and light vinaigrette. The portion size is worth remarking as well – it was a huge platter of salad. I think I left behind one measly cucumber. Tudor House is not messing around with their portion sizes, as some restaurants do during Miami Spice.
The fried chicken was served with a gingered slaw. The slaw tasted more like a Japanese ginger salad speckled with raisins. I’m pro-ginger salad, but it seemed a little random. While a vinegar-based slaw would have been a more appropriate contrast to the fried chicken, I appreciate the creativity. Shane promised us that the fried chicken would be the best we’ve ever had. Bring it on. It was really good, but the best is a stretch. Stef vouches that the best overall fried chicken belongs to Sustain Restaurant, although the crust itself may go to Tudor House. But that’s another post for another day. Nonetheless, Tudor House’s fried chicken was super juicy on the inside with a crisp exterior that all good fried chicken strives for. Apparantly, the chef sous vides the chicken before coating in buttermilk and frying it, which left the meat exceptionally tender. While the crust was good, it peeled off the chicken after one bite, leaving little crispy nuggets on my plate, which I happily ate. Though I would have preferred they stayed on the chicken. I did, however, use these nuggets to trade Stef for a piece of her Cuban sandwich.
This f-ing Cuban sandwich. We literally have not stopped talking about it for a week. Growing up in South Florida, I’ve had my share of Cuban sammies, and typically try to avoid the over-pressed, greasy, mustardy variations. Stef lives in walking distance of Versailles and has given theirs a try as well. Tudor House’s Cuban was beyond anything either of us have ever had. They call it “Cuban style” because they replace roast pork with pork belly, add sweet & tangy pickles, and their house-made mustard. There may or may not have been cheese, but we ate it too fast to get a better look. The pork belly was tender, meaty and juicy. The bread, perfectly buttered and pressed, smushed the juicy pork belly and pickles together to form an unbelievably delicious, handheld entree. Our jaws dropped when we took the first bite. We immediately looked at each other across the table in awe, muttered some version of OMG, and continued eating. Seriously, people, go get this sandwich like, NOW. Frankly, I’m surprised Stef was willing to give up half. That is one great friend. I may owe her a kidney or something one day.
Prying the remaining sandwiches out of each other’s kung fu grips, we braced ourselves for dessert. The desserts looked like art. Stef loved her deconstructed strawberry shortcake. The combination of cold sorbet, warm graham cracker crumbs, and mascarpone cheese was like Strawberry Shortcake’s heaven on a plate. My key lime treat reminded me of Hung’s Quickfire “psychedelic Smurf village” from Season 3 episode 10 of Top Chef. Obviously, a more understated version. The key lime was authentic and tart, while the cookies were soft, doughy and sweet. My only complaint was that I wish they were bigger. At this point we were ready to roll each other home. Then, Shane insisted that we try the Rocky Road dessert: dark chocolate ice cream, burnt marshmallows, Manjary chocolate chunks, and toasted almond. I am a total sucker for toasted marshmallows. I forced Stef to take a bite because she was about 7 levels beyond full, and I was reaching level 9. The chocolate ice cream was super rich. The Manjary chocolate was crunchy and slightly bitter, which I loved. The marshmallows were, well, awesome. We topped the night off with a final drink, created with Godiva liqueur and crumbles of house-made Kit Kats. Our food babies were ready to go home.
Honestly, we could go on and on about how fantastic this meal was (which we just did), but we suggest you make a rez for Tudor House ASAP, before it becomes too trendy and filled with local socialites (oxymoron) who can’t tell the difference between Vahlrona and a Hershey’s bar.
*Special thanks to Shane. When the staff & management team are so passionate about the food, you know it’s a spot worth checking out.