Wednesday Nights are for the Locals at River Yacht Club
November 7, 2016
It seems bizarre, in a city nearly surrounded by water that there are so few warm and welcoming waterfront spots for us to breathe in the air with a fresh-made cocktail in hand. Don’t even get us started about rooftops. But that’s all going to change once you make your way to River Yacht Club for The Table at RYC, Miami’s only communal waterfront dinner. Here’s how it goes: every Wednesday, the European-infused hidden gem offers a $30 prix fixe menu complete with starters, mains, desserts, and a drink, all along a long, rustic table to share conversation over gourmet flavors. It’s basically Miami Spice every week.
Open for just 6 months, River Yacht Club is quickly becoming a serious local favorite with an excited reception from the surrounding downtown community. Right on the Miami River, it pays homage to the waterfront boom of the luxurious 50s, with a sleek modern finish for those more current characters looking for a tropical escape. Exposed wood, maritime colors, knotted ropes, dangling light fixtures, towering banyans, vibrant bougainvillea, do we need to say more? They even offer a platform for local artists to showcase their work, not just through their Jazz on the River series or DJ jams, but with art for-sale sprinkled throughout the property.
It’s almost too perfect; that was my first impression. It’s too close to the kind of atmosphere that everyone wants in this city: laid-back but sure of itself, with a little romance thrown in. The visual and textural crafting was spearheaded by Dupoux Design, the same haute taste behind Nikki Beach, with a collaborative effort by local landscape powerhouse, Raymond Jungles. So you have lush greens flirting your eyelids while drinking their house rosé as wake laps gently in the background. Each sense is writing a great review here.
We made our way over for their Wednesday communal dinner, inspired by the bustling family meals that usually take place on Sundays in European customs, bringing every member of the community together to bond and share over simple, well-rooted food. Over time, the dinners will feature a rotating host or guest chef, but for now, it’s one of the most intimate and multi-sensory experiences you can snag in the city. We sat down on the eve of head chef, Giacomo Pettinari’s menu premiere, their first executive chef having a Michelin star to his name. Pettinari will be infusing the restaurant with his self-coined “Cali-talian” style, a fresh take on the cuisine of his roots.
That night though, we tasted the last of Alex Chang’s creations, their inaugural in-residency chef. Chang has played a role in many of Miami’s now-favorite local spots like The Vagabond Hotel’s restaurant, and is quickly making a name for himself among the culinary community around the country. The Table menu looked like this: Gazpacho to start, served in martini glasses and sending playful giggles across the table, followed by communal self-serve salad and plates of roasted Shishito peppers heavily drenched in addictive flavor.The mains were tied between filet mignon skewers, shrimp and grits, and a veggie risotto–the grits, by the way, were some of the creamiest things I’ve eaten outside of The Big Easy. Then a passionfruit and citrus panna cotta to cleanse the palette, washed down with some of that aforementioned rosé for the perfect nightcap.
It’s pretty much the best deal in the city, especially if you’re trying to become a self-proclaimed culture crusader in search of Miami’s most magical experiences. Alliterations aside, River Yacht Club is a beautiful venue outside of their Wednesday dinners. Fresh seafood from their crudo kitchen, a bakery on-site that wafts the smells of all their house-made ingredients. Farm to table dishes with a locally-sourced consciousness, and boaters docking right at its edge to catch live tunes and the breathtaking skyline views. It’s one of the only places that really makes you feel like you live in a fast-paced city while reminding you to take a step back and relax.
However remarkable the scene may be, it’s the food that keeps bringing you back. As Pettinari best explained: “If you want to make something simple and well, you have to have a lot of knowledge. You have to go back to your roots.” The same can be applied to any discipline, we concluded, and River Yacht Club has done exactly that.
All photos by: Andrea Lorena