The third BALEEN-branded restaurant just opened in Miami. We spoke with Corporate Chef Adam Votaw about what makes them so uniquely popular.
The third iteration of Noble House’s restaurant brand, BALEENkitchen, just opened this past August at Solé Miami in Miami (the other two kitchens are based at The Portofino Hotel & Marina and LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort). In honor of that, we take a look at what sets these restaurants apart by chatting with the man behind the brand, Noble House Corporate Chef Adam Votaw, who’s been with the company since 1999.
What are you going for with BALEENkitchen?
We think of it as a coastal version of a seafood-centric steakhouse. There’s a heavy focus on the local community and special flavor in each location. Whether it’s the starters, shareable sides, full entrees, or the simply grilled, the focus is high-quality ingredients simply prepared. You can’t fake it. Then you layer the experience on top.
What sets BALEEN apart from other hotel restaurants?
People often visit hotel restaurants for the convenience, but what’s unique about BALEEN is that we have ever-changing menus with a wide variety of great price points that can easily support multiple meals per day. Whereas at other hotels, guests almost always want to go out, explore, try something different, but we do all of that here. We give them a real reason to come back, and they do.
What sort of atmosphere can people expect at a BALEEN restaurant?
People love hanging out in the bar area, and we’ve found that not only do they want to be social and stay in that fun environment, but they also want to eat a steak and have that full menu as an option. So, we merged our restaurant menu with our bar menu, and that became the BALEENkitchen style. Habits have changed, social norms have changed. People want to eat at small intimate tables. The restaurant became more successful because more people came to eat in the lounge, in that atmosphere. Now, we have a mostly empty dining room that we can use for large party functions, events, banquets, receptions, weddings, etc. Diners just love eating and spending time together in the more relaxed setting.
So it’s become a little more casual over time?
That’s right. We don’t want to be that restaurant with a specialty dining atmosphere that you only go to on, say, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or your birthday. We wanted it to be fresh food, great music, beautiful lighting, gorgeous ambiance, fair price point. People in the community mingle with the guests. If your vibe is all guests in the hotel, it becomes stagnant – we find that locals feed off guests and vice versa.
What makes the three establishments different?
There’s a common thread throughout, for sure, but LA, western Florida, and Miami all have their own little twists on the core dishes. In Miami, we can get away with more heat, more twists on the food, with the Latin influence. In LA, it’s a lot more western-coastal with lighter cuts of meat, more pasta for those cool SoCal evenings, and more salad. In terms of atmosphere, Naples is more traditional and refined: a 250-seat dining room flows into this wonderful grassy area, a lounge was built around the bar with an extension that goes down and looks onto the ocean. Miami and LA have a little more of a hip vibe, with tighter tables, more vibrant music and lighting, and lighter fare.
You talk about being a three-meals-a-day restaurant. How’s breakfast?
We have light, delicious breakfast menus, with trendy and healthy options. Fresh fruit, yogurt, smoothies, avocado toast, the breakfast burrito, huevos rancheros – fresh, fun flavors. French toast, buttermilk pancakes, omelets, benedict. Then, we still have the great American breakfast: two eggs on a plate, sausage, ham, breakfast potatoes, that sort of thing. We get really great feedback on our breakfasts.
Any must-try desserts?
The key lime pie. Our company’s owner – Pat Colee – is in love with key lime pie, so we developed a recipe back in ’99 which is a cashew graham-crusted key lime pie with vanilla bean cream. It’s a staple. So whatever Noble property you’re at, you’ll get a taste of something that’s very true to BALEEN and Noble House.