What’s Hot in Miami? Chef Gastón Acurio

South Beach is buzzing with the arrival of top chefs like Peru’s Gastón Acurio and brand-new holistic spa treatments that you won’t want to miss

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Ceviche Clasico, from Gaston Acurio’s new La Mar restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Miami. By George Apostolidis

Miami has a reputation as America’s party capital, luring everyone from celebrities to spring breakers to its sunny shores. But scratch that shiny South Beach surface, and you’ll find true substance. The spa scene is surprisingly diverse, and the food scene has never been hotter. Here are some of our favorite places to experience both.

Mandarin Oriental MiamiJA14_whats hot in miami_feature

This stunning 20-story hotel has long been one of our favorite things about Miami. Set on a private gated island in the middle of Miami Bay, it offers sweeping views of downtown and the bay. We especially love the bathrooms in the 326 rooms and suites, with deep marble soaking tubs and separate walk-in showers. Social life centers around the pool deck, which juts out into the bay and even offers its own man-made beach in the heart of the city. Equally cool is their voluntourism program with the Everglades National Park, a day trip where guests can visit the unique ecosystem and help with everything from recycling to tree-planting.

 This stunning spa is spread over three floors; the main entrance just off the main pool sells the brand’s eponymous line as well as select products from ESPA and Aromatherapy Associates. Besides 11 traditional treatment rooms, there are six oversized spa suites with amazing views of the bay, including one dedicated beauty suite designed to accommodate LED and oxygen facials. The Hong Kong-based hotel company is known for Asian-inspired therapies that draw from Chinese, Ayurvedic and Balinese cultures, among others. It’s beautifully represented in the Thai poultice massage, a 90-minute holistic treatment with heated poultices containing 14 different herbs, including lemongrass, ginger and peppermint.

JA14_whats hot in miami_03THE FOOD Miami is buzzing at the arrival of the hotel’s newest tenant, Chef Gastón Acurio, whose restaurant, La Mar, opened to great fanfare in March 2014. The reigning celebrity chef in his home country of Peru, Acurio’s new-Andean cuisine gets an Asian twist via Executive Chef Diego Oka, who trained under Acurio in Lima. Dishes are offered via small plates that span traditional ceviches and soups as well as sushi-style nikkei, which plays perfectly with Miami’s multicultural vibe. After you dine, hit the expansive new lobby bar, which has added a seductive menu of cocktails as well as live music on the weekends, upping the buzz factor. mandarinoriental.com/miami

Eden Roc Miami Beach

Built by legendary Morris Lapidus in 1956, this architectural gem is a city icon with a storied history, hosting guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball and Sammy Davis Jr., and luring entertainers from Harry Belafonte to Nat King Cole to play in the Café Pompeii. Today the curved lines and iconic marble bar remain, and the emphasis is on the outdoors, where four heated pools and two hot tubs offer lots of options on your way to the beach. The 631 rooms and suites are spread between two towers; book in the newer Ocean Tower, where ocean-facing rooms are a generous 600 square feet and come with jetted tubs and balconies.

THE SPA Miami spa-goers were thrilled in 2012 with the debut of ELLE Spa. It’s a feast for the eyes, with high ceilings and whitewashed walls designed to show off green design elements and whimsical air plants. Arrive early to take advantage of the water circuit and custom scrub bar, and stay after to enjoy the beautiful relaxation lounge, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the pool deck and rooftop spa deck. The spa has a full selection of body treatments and fitness classes but is known for beauty treatments showcasing the product line by organic guru Tammy Fender. For select clients booked in advance, Fender will even come in to do treatments personally. All Tammy Fender facials are custom for an effect that goes beyond skin-deep. The shop is a must-visit, with an ever-changing array of beauty products selected by ELLE editors.

THE RESTAURANT At press time, Eden Roc was undergoing one of its biggest changes yet: a partnership with Nobu Hotels that will change the culinary offerings and room décor but keep the iconic architecture and service intact. Details were still being firmed up, but based on Nobu’s Las Vegas property, which opened in 2013 as a hotel-within-a-hotel at Caesar’s Palace, we can expect a few things: namely, a Nobu restaurant (the outpost at The Shore Club will be moving to Eden Roc) and stellar room service menu overseen by the master chef himself. edenroc.com

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach

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The stunning pool at Acqualina Resort & Spa on the beach’s ESPA

At the northern tip of Miami’s defining 35-mile strip of barrier-island beaches, you’ll find Sunny Isles Beach, a residential neighborhood wedged between the Atlantic and the bay.

The Acqualina’s 98 elegantly appointed rooms are spacious (the smallest is 600 feet) with luxe appointments including Jacuzzi tubs, separate sitting areas and terraces overlooking the beach or Intracoastal Waterway.

THE SPA The first stand-alone ESPA in the United States, it has all the hallmarks we love from the UK brand: a serene interior with stone and glass tilework, a great menu of treatments and the exclusive ESPA nature-based line. Arrive early to take advantage of the extras, including Finnish sauna, crystal steam room, and Experience showers with warm and cool mists. We also love the coed terrace overlooking the beach, home to a spa pool and an oversized whirlpool with Roman waterfall, and you can order up a bento box lunch from the exclusive spa menu. This is Florida, so opt for the Orange Blossom Treatment, a 110 blissful minutes using nutrient-rich citrus to regenerate tired skin via a scrub, scalp treatment and pressure-point massage with twin herbal poultices.

THE FOOD Culinary offerings are overseen by Executive Chef Dewey LoSasso, who has deep roots in South Florida; he was Donatella Versace’s personal chef, among other positions. He’s formed a close relationship with Paradise Farm, the leading organic producer, and uses their produce throughout the hotel. Italophiles will feel at home at Piazzetta Marketplace, which offers an array of Tuscan-style treats, pizzas and crostinis, and a coffee bar with 21 varietals. For elegant dining, there’s an outpost of New York City icon Il Mulino, which offers five-star service alongside homey classic Italian dishes. acqualinaresort.com

The Palms Hotel & Spa

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At the Palms Hotel & Spa, a delicious dish: Seafood Paella

When in-the-know locals need a getaway, they head to this family-owned hotel, where the vibe is more Caribbean-serene than Art Deco. “Nature is at the heart of everything we do” is their stated philosophy, and it’s found in every aspect of the hotel, from green cleaning and recycling practices (managed by the in-house Green Team), to quarterly beach cleanups and nutrition-related educational programs in Miami-Dade County schools. The 251 guestrooms are plush, with Aveda bath amenities and free WiFi. But the star of the show is the lush, landscaped garden, which hides a curved swimming pool and tiki bar before extending down to the beach.

THE SPA The Palms has the only full Aveda spa in Miami, as well as vegan line Spa Ritual for nails. It may be small (only five treatment rooms) but is known for exceptional therapists who obviously love what they do, and a dedicated hydrotherapy room with a Hydrocapsule. In this cutting-edge treatment, you lie in an oversized egg-shaped pod for a salt scrub, followed by a 30-minute enclosed treatment that includes color therapy, steam and a Vichy-like shower spray. Your head remains outside the pod, so it’s not claustrophobic, and it’s the perfect starter to up the benefits of an ensuing massage.

THE RESTAURANT Farm-to-table is a popular phrase these days, but few Miami chefs take it as seriously as Chef Julie Frans of Essencia. She has her own garden on site, growing everything from greens and tomatoes to herbs like Thai basil and Cuban oregano. She’s also built relationships with farmers and growers throughout South Florida, especially in nearby Homestead, which supports the local economy. Her cooking style is healthful by nature; almost all entries on the menu are gluten-free by design. Signature dishes include a tasty kale caesar salad, organic Korubata pork ribs with a tamarind-aji Amarillo glaze, and seafood paella. Complementing the food is a thoughtful bar menu comprising organic, sustainable wines and boutique liquors, the latter combined into crafted cocktails that use herbs picked daily from the hotel garden. thepalmshotel.com

The Palm Hotel's four spa tikis

At the Palms Hotel & Spa, Tiki Cabanas



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