How can you guarantee to diners that the seafood they’re eating is indeed fresh? Let them walk down into the basement and pick their dinner right out of the tank.
That is what’s happening at the four restaurants inside the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel. When Turnberry Resorts bought the Fontainebleau in 2005, c.e.o. Jeffrey Soffer’s vision was to restore the property to what it was in the swinging ’60s: the center of nightlife in Miami Beach. To get there, he first focused on a diverse food-and-beverage program.
Soffer hired executive chef Thomas Connell and the rebirth culminated late last year with the addition of Michael Mina’s Stripsteak and a fishing boat that would leave in its wake one of the most progressive seafood-to-table programs in the country.
”The rooms are here, but the restaurants and nightlife create the vibe and the reason people come to the Fontainebleau,” Connell says.
The BleauFish Ocean to Table program allows Connell and captain Michael Henry to helm their own 44-foot fishing boat and bring in local seafood for daily specials, which range from yellowtail snapper and mahi to wahoo and grouper. The fish are kept alive below the restaurants in “water world,” which consists of six 300-gallon tanks. Diners can hand-choose their crabs.
Soffer is convinced if the Fontainebleau owns its own boat, chefs can better control the consistency and volume of their seafood, meaning they can fish based on needs without overcrowding the tanks.
“In most cases, diners don’t know how old their fish is,” Connell says. “We’re able to take our product and tell the customer: ‘This fish you’re eating tonight has been out of the water for two hours.’”