At AQ in Sunny Isles Beach, Dewey LoSasso Gets Fancy and Fanciful
Dewey LoSasso likes to have fun.
billwisserphoto.com Dewey LoSasso inside AQ's kitchen.
At AQ by Acqualina, the stylish restaurant that opened in a towering, Venetian-style Sunny Isles Beach hotel-condo this past April, the mustached chef plays with dishes such as green eggs and ham. A 20-minute wait precedes a bubbling martini glass layered with sweet mascarpone cheese tinted emerald green thanks to tiny chopped chives and an egg baked until the white is solid but still jiggly. The luxurious twin slices of fatty, salty jamón ibérico round out the Seuss-inspired starter.
Then there's the quartet of small falafels. Spheres of lightly fried, curry-infused chickpea fritters are presented like modern art, rolled freely onto a wide white platter amid dabs of rich ricotta cheese, a sprinkling of crisped prosciutto slivers, and small matchsticks of black olives.
billwisserphoto.com Falafel at AQ.
Serving light, playful bites in a lavish setting is the perfect fit for LoSasso, who until recently helmed the kitchen at the Forge, Shareef Malnik's iconic Miami Beach steak house. There LoSasso earned wide praise for reviving the dishes of a bygone era while expanding the menu with whimsical plates like lobster peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At AQ, the two-page menu is constantly being adjusted as LoSasso finds his bearings. Surprisingly, few items on the seafood-centric bill of fare crest the $30 mark. There's the clever Spaghetti "O" With a Kick -- small pasta hoops with mushroom crema and charred serrano chilies -- and grilled salmon with horseradish mashed potatoes and pickled vegetable spears.
Nevertheless, it is a hotel restaurant menu, with the compulsory caesar salad, hamburger, and steak.
Still, Acqualina is unlike any hotel you've ever experienced. Rolls-Royces line up out front, and after you hand your car to a valet indifferent to any vehicle worth less than $100,000, a white-gloved doorman greets you. He swings open the glass barrier to a grandiose lobby with intricately patterned marble floors and sprawling red-and-gold oriental rugs. A concierge motions you toward the restaurant, which lies beyond a pair of towering white Venetian columns and a black marble tunnel with a gently gurgling waterfall.
The dining room is set in an opulent space that could easily double as a cocktail lounge or an extension of the ritzy entryway. But the space is rather generic, and an adjacent bar loudly interferes with AQ's fine-dining atmosphere. This was especially evident one night when a group of parents eager for cocktails and World Cup action corralled their dozen or so screaming, pizza-chomping children at a raised counter overlooking AQ's dining room.
A massive tasseled chandelier floods the room in a yellow glow. It hangs from a soaring ceiling, where intricate flower patterns carved into the wood fan out in all directions. Stunning bouquets of ivory orchids surround ashen marble-topped tables sitting on sumptuous cherry-wood flooring. Couples wearing matching Gucci shoes sip wine while relaxing on oversize pink-and-green floral sofas.