Some restaurant meals leave me floating on air. Then, there are ones that leave me fuming and feeling fleeced. Point Royal belongs in the latter category. A seafood-oriented restaurant from celebrity chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian, Point Royal opened in February in Hollywood as part of the Diplomat Beach Resort’s $100 million upgrade. The restaurant looks pretty, and some of the food is good, but the overall experience made me feel as if I had just fallen off a turnip truck or walked off a cruise ship.
Some unsuspecting tourists who show up for their soaking might be entranced by the bright, tropical, oceanfront room or the Zakarian name. But on a recent visit, my group was mostly mystified by a place with promise that fails on many fronts. The service was careless and indifferent, the food was uneven and uninspiringly plated, and the wine and drinks were exorbitant. At no point did our group feel pampered, or even appreciated, even though our tab surpassed $500.
When it came time for dessert, one diner in my group asked if the kitchen could assemble a cheese plate. Our server said the restaurant didn’t have any cheese. But I later discovered that Point Royal offered an “artisanal cheese” station at its Easter brunch buffet the following day, with loblolly Tomme, magnolia Gouda, goat cheese, jams and compotes. I guess it was under lock and key.
In a quote featured on his website, Zakarian says, “I dine out all the time because as a chef, you need to see restaurants from the dining room perspective, not just from the kitchen. As a chef, you have to be vigilant about every facet of the meal.”
He’d be wise to follow his advice and whip his troops into shape at Point Royal. How else did the restaurant disappoint? Let me count the ways.
— A “Flame of Love” martini ($14) was presented anticlimactically sans fire in an ordinary shallow goblet with vodka, sherry and supposedly “flamed orange peel” that bore no evidence of singeing. “If you want to see them light it, you have to sit at the bar,” our server explained. Oh.
— We ordered the Diplomat, an $80 seafood platter of six littleneck clams, six oysters, three chilled poached prawns, an Alaskan king crab leg and a small bowl of tasty tuna tartare. The clams were improperly shucked, with the meat stuck to the bottom shell because the lower adductor muscles were not cut. For 80 bucks, I want perfection. The sauces were good, with sharp mignonette, spicy cocktail and a garlicky mustard sauce that went well with the shrimp and crab. For some reason there were only two seafood forks on the platter. The rest of us made do with salad forks. At these prices, details matter.
— No breadbasket was offered, only a small plate of flatbread sesame crackers brought with the seafood platter, the kind one can buy at Publix. “Maybe they’re observing Passover,” one tablemate quipped.
— Wines were ridiculously overpriced, surpassing the three-times-retail markup that I use as a barometer to boycott ordering. A 2015 Belle Glos Clark & Telegraph Pinot Noir that sells for $49.99 at Total Wine was offered at $170. A 2014 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel that costs $34.99 at Total Wine was listed at $125. No thank you. When a toddler at a nearby table began wailing, I said, “He must have seen the markup on the wine list.” Besides lower prices, it also would be nice if the list had more wine from South America. We are in South Florida, after all. Only three Argentinian Malbecs were offered on a list heavy with wines from California, France, Italy and Spain. If you are looking for a bottle of 1997 Chateau Petrus ($2,000), you are in luck.
— We ordered three fish dishes — grouper, tuna and whole snapper — and all were served with the same weird, chunky tomato-caper sauce that resembled Pace Picante salsa. The sauce wasn’t a good match with seared rare tuna slices ($35). It worked with the grouper ($33), which was overcooked and could have been mistaken for chicken. The sauce overpowered the delicate snapper ($39), served head and tail on but with the bones removed. The snapper was mushy, with skin that wasn’t crisp. Each fish dish was accompanied by grilled lettuce, a novel touch that tasted like … grilled lettuce.
— Sticker-shocked by the wine, our table ordered Tito’s vodka-and-sodas to accompany dinner instead. Imagine our surprise when the check showed each drink cost $16.25. A 1.75 liter jug of Tito’s goes for $27.99 at BJ’s Wholesale Club. I suppose the hotel has to pay for $100 million upgrades in some way.
— The GZ butter-poached lobster roll ($35), a tribute to Zakarian’s Massachusetts upbringing, was an oversauced, albeit tasty, mess. It featured a hunk of lobster tail with claw and knuckle meat, drenched in butter and Colman’s mustard sauce, on a griddled bun rendered soggy and leaden. Fresh spaghetti with bottarga (pressed salted fish roe) and sea urchin ($18) sounded good, but lacked a funky, umami punch.
— When it came time to clear our plates, our server didn’t ask if anything was wrong with the mostly uneaten tuna, or if he should box it to go. He simply whisked it away. And he clumsily spilled bits of julienne green apple that topped a good Brussels sprouts side dish ($9) into a water glass and all over the table. A busser eventually came to clean it up.
— Coffee tiramisu ($9) was dry and lifeless, served in a small coffee carafe that looked cute but was impractical because it was impossible to scoop out the custard from the small, rounded edges at the bottom. A banana crème brulee ($12) was good, but the top was burnt.
There were some good bites. Lamb tartare ($15) was a nice change of pace, tender raw cubes marinated with harissa spice, herbs and bits of labneh, strained thick yogurt, a nod to Zakarian’s Armenian heritage. A warm baby artichoke salad ($17) with black garlic and bacon vinaigrette was tasty. Crispy oysters ($15), coated in cornmeal, were satisfying. The roasted Maine diver scallops ($33) were plump and well prepared, served in a bowl with a subtle, thin fish chowder, turnip and fennel. The chocolate budino ($10) was rich, creamy and not overly sweet.
Zakarian rose to prominence at New York’s Royalton Hotel and once ran the kitchen of the Blue Door at the Delano hotel in Miami Beach during its trendy 1990s heyday. He has a growing restaurant collection, with four in the Northeast and two in Los Angeles. He has a growing presence on Food Network, where he is a regular judge on shows such as “Chopped” and “Iron Chef,” and the host of “Cooks vs. Cons,” in which judges have to figure out whether contestants are professional chefs or amateurs.
For now, Point Royal feels like a celebrity con.
3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood (in Diplomat Beach Resort)
954-602-8750 or PointRoyal-Fl.com
Cuisine: American and seafood
Cost: Expensive to very expensive. Appetizers cost $12 to $21. Raw bar platters $45 to $160. Mains $26 to $59. Sides $9. Desserts $10 to $12.
Hours: Dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full bar with craft cocktails, beers and exorbitant wine list
Sound level: Loud when crowded, with music over speakers
Kids: Family-friendly with children’s menu items costing from $9 to $16
Wheelchair access: Manageable from valet area at hotel entrance, but difficult from self-parking garage (stairs leading from walkway bridge to hotel or crosswalk and ramp from street level)
Parking: Free valet or free self-parking garage with validation