By Mitchell Nover
Gili’s Beach Club (18001 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach) is not your typical casual beachfront eatery. Serving up sophisticated Mediterranean-inspired fare like whole grilled fish, grilled lobster tail, and paella, the restaurant foregoes the the typical fried offerings that have, for some reason, become so popular on the sand. Making meals even more interactive, Gili’s features a “Lava Stone Experience” menu where guests grill their own food the table on a scorching 700-degree lava stone.
Menu highlights: I recently visited Gili’s Beach Club for lunch, enjoying simple yet sophisticated beach bites between a spa visit and sun bathing on the sands of Sunny Isles Beach (thanks to Miami Spa Month deals still available through the end of August). Unfortunately the Miami Spice lunch menu does not incorporate the lava stone experience, so you’ll want to wait for dinner if that sounds like your thing. For me, despite no table-side grilling, I did still get to eat some pretty darn delicious food.
The Miami Spice lunch menu at Gili’s features two appetizer choices, three entree options, and two dessert decisions. In the standouts, I’ll run you through my picks for the complete Spice experience, but in the meantime feast your eyes on the also-rans below: Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, compressed watermelon, strawberry, vincotto, and flat bread; Organic Chicken “Piri Piri” with quinoa salad, sous vide baby fennel, pomegranate, tahini greek yogurt crema, and sesame seeds; Grilled Salmon with mushroom sauce and crispy Jerusalem artichokes; and Shortcake with strawberry compote, dough crumbs, whipped cream, and toasted almonds.
Standout dish: So, if I had to pick my favorites from each selection on the Miami Spice menu, I’m going with a “surf and turf” theme. To start, you have to seafood – I mean, we are literally on the beach after all – and the Grilled Shrimp with paella rice and walnut basil pesto did not disappoint. At first I was a little trepidatious because at approximately 976 degrees outside the thought of paella rice seemed a little heavy for the heat, but alas with only a spoonful of saffron rice and two perfectly grilled shrimp, this appetizer was the perfect portion and is a superb start to the Spice lunch.
Sticking with perfect portion sizes, the Skirt Steak with caramelized onions, stilton rarebit, steak fries, and basil pesto was another great choice. The two petite portions of grilled meat dolloped with some blue cheese and thick cut fries on the side was satisfyingly savory without being too much. And, unlike most Miami Spice dining experiences, I was actually still hungry when the dessert came.
Speaking of dessert, the Passion Fruit Tart with Swiss meringue, yogurt streusel, black sesame seeds, and condensed milk whipped cream is both beautiful to look at and enjoyable to eat. The tart of the passionfruit custard cut the sweetness of the meringue and whipped cream, finishing off the meal in fine fashion.
Are we boozing? No special drink deals here, but since we’re beachside how can you not order one (or two) tropical libations to accompany lunch? Either the Hibiscus Key Lime Agua Fresca with Don Julio tequila, hibiscus syrup, key lime juice, fresh oregano, and house-made jalapeño shrub or the White Peach Sangria with Leblon cachaça, rosé wine, peaches, and seasonal fruit are great choices for drinks – and are also available in pitcher portions if you’re planning on taking a roadie back to your beach chair.
Check this place out if you like: seaside dining without all the fuss associated with most Miami Beach restaurants. Brunch at Newport Pier (also in Sunny Isles, btw) is a very similar vibe to Gili’s – just swap out the sand for the dock.
Mitch’s take: On paper, the menu at Gili’s Beach Club seems a little on the heavier side, and not all that appealing for a meal that would be taking place outdoors, under the sun, in the middle of August. That said, I was surprised by the restaurant’s ability to serve up beachfront dining as it should be – real food cooked well, served simply. And if you add in the Miami Spa Month deal, you can make a whole beach day out of it. Not too shabby, Sunny Isles, not too shabby.