Solea at W South Beach Hotel – Marc Vidal Named Executive Chef

Solea Executive Chef Marc Vidal

Solea Executive Chef Marc Vidal

In the brief time since 32-year-old culinary star Marc Vidal was named executive chef of Solea at the breathtaking W South Beach hotel, his menu, offering the savory classic cuisine of Spain, has made it the place to dine for celebrities, foodies, tourists and trendsetters. Serving up artful plates of the finest authentic ingredients from a palette of fresh, soulful flavors that honor the vibrant cuisine of his homeland, the native Spaniard has been attracting a loyal cadre of seasoned diners and has made an indelible impression on the who’s who of local, national and international society. Within the exquisite indoor/outdoor environs of the stunning hotel, Solea, owned by partners Karim Masri, Nicola Siervo and Rony Seikaly of KNR Food Concepts (Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, Sosta Pizzeria) offers a world-class food and wine experience, from an innovative South Floridian viewpoint.

Nestled in the lobby of the exquisite W South Beach, Solea is a comfortable, yet breathtaking room overlooking the Grove, or outdoor garden, of the hotel and adjacent pool area.  Awash in warm chocolates, creams, taupes and golden hues with contrasting slate and grey flooring, wall tiles and fixtures, the ambiance is comfortably modern and casually chic.  Mammoth floor-to-ceiling sliding doors with flowing ivory organza curtains overlook the terrace, while banquette style seating and communal tables made from single slabs of fallen maple wood – rescued during a park conservation effort – are broken up by statuesque wine cases.  White clothed tables and comfy dark brown leather directors chairs fill the room, illuminated overhead by a cluster of oversized pendant lanterns with black linen shades that hang at various heights.  A granite top bar, seating 8-10, and subtly back-lit with a golden hue, sits next to rustic wooden shelves with jars of jellies, preservatives and olive oils on display.  An intimate VIP dining area boasts a long maple wood table for 12 and a breathtaking chandelier of delicate draped silver chains.  Additional seating is offered outside near the Grove where diners can enjoy the cool sea breeze, swaying sea grape trees and subtle sounds of the ocean.

Vidal was named one of the top young chefs of Spain in 2005 and began putting down roots in his family owned Barcelona restaurant at a tender age, earning two culinary degrees from the prestigious Restauracion y Hoteleria de Barcelona. He learned his craft working under such culinary icons as Ferran Adria in Spain, and Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse in Paris.  A move to Miami in 2007 cemented his star chef status, when he received rave reviews at Por Fin in Coral Gables.  Now, at Solea, Vidal is showcasing his talent with a delightful menu of pica-pica (small bites), ensaladas (salads), arroces (rice and paellas), pescados (seafood), and carnes (meats), which demonstrate his mastery of Spanish cuisine.

The Solea culinary journey begins with a tantalizing collection of pica-pica ($6-$16), hot and cold small plates that awaken the palette as perfect starters, or satiate guests who wish to savor the restaurant’s full range of beguiling Spanish flavors by combining and sharing with dining companions.  Vidal’s signatures on this menu include huevo frito con patatas, jamon y setas, the heavenly Spanish version of ham and eggs – Iberico ham and a perfect fried egg – served over wafer thin, house made crispy potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and truffle oil; cigalas – roasted langoustine with crispy garlic and shards of frisee to soak up the sauce; calamares a la Andaluza – tender fried calamari served with aioli and a creamy spiced brava sauce; an enchanting trio de gazpachos Andaluces, three small portions of traditional gazpacho, a creamy, buttery almond ajo blanco and tangy and sweet cherry; and the nidos de alcachofa y huevo – an artichoke heart stuffed with a whipped artichoke confit, poached quail egg and American sturgeon caviar.  A variety of meat and cheese pica picas offer the traditional cured hams, chorizo and salichon, as well as a daily selection of fine cheeses, all imported from Spain.

Ensaladas ($11-$16) offer refreshing choices including the gambas – cold shrimp atop mesclun greens with a sweet and tart orange reduction and creamy almond aioli; or the salpicon de pulpo – tender octopus and fingerling potatoes on micro greens with a flavorful sherry vinaigrette; as well as heartier flavors, such as the judias con jamon Iberico y foie – crisp haricots verts, creamy foie gras, chanterelle mushrooms, crispy Iberico ham chips and sherry vinaigrette that wonderfully meld the different flavors and textures for a perfect transition between picas and main dishes.

Arroces ($24-$28), served piping hot in a cast iron pot, can be enjoyed as a side or a main, and include arroz de montaña (mountain rice) which is Calasparra rice with squab, artichokes and porcini mushrooms; paella de langosta y setas with lobster, clams and chanterelle mushrooms; paella Valencia – shrimp clams, chicken and mussels; and arroz negro – squid ink blackened rice, cuttlefish and shrimp.

Vidal demonstrates his passion for seafood with the pescados ($24-$34) including lubina – branzino with lentils, smoked sweet paprika vinaigrette and potato puree; vieiras – scallops, white and green asparagus, fava beans and salchicon de Vic; and caldereta de langosta – Maine lobster casserole with Spanish brandy and bread sauce.  Rich and savory carnes ($21-$34) include the carrilleras de ternera – braised veal cheeks and porcini-Idiazabal cheese toast and costillas de cordero – Colorado rack of lamb with a reduction sauce and escalivada with black olive oil.  The pollo rustido, perfectly roasted free range chicken with cauliflower and crispy pork belly, delights as well.

To bring a magical close to an exceptional meal, pastry chef Antonio Bachour, most recently of Scarpetta creates stellar house made desserts ($10) that embrace Spanish cuisine with a South Floridian twist.  Standouts include pudding de pan – warm banana bread pudding, vanilla crème Anglaise and peanut butter ice cream; pan, chocolate y aceite de oliva – chocolate cremoso, olive oil ice cream, toasted country bread and sea salt; crema Catalana – cinnamon ice cream, orange confit and espuma de crema Catalana; manchego cheesecake, served with green apple sorbet and blackberry sauce; and delicate coconut panna cotta that floats in a guava soup, with caramelized pineapple and fresh coconut sorbet.

Food and beverage director, Antoni Yelamos, former director of operations and restaurant partner of ThinkFoodGroup with iconic Spanish chef Jose Andres, teams up with seasoned sommelier and general manager Dale LoSasso – who’s wine background includes working with Carmen the Restaurant, Mark’s South Beach, China Grill Management and Alfred Portale – to create one of the top international wine lists in South Florida.  Boasting a list that specializes in beautiful Spanish wines, they happily create pairings with Vidal’s cuisine, crafting individualized experiences for guests.

Solea, located inside the lobby of the new W South Beach hotel at 2201 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, with late-night dining available on weekends. A semi-private VIP room is available for up to 12 guests. For reservations, phone: (305) 938-3111.