May 29, 2019

THERESA JAVA/Free Press
From left, sous chef Jevan Smith, executive chef Phillip Lowd and banquet and kitchen supervisor Robert Ramos all take great pride in being called 'chef' at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

THERESA JAVA/Free Press From left, sous chef Jevan Smith, executive chef Phillip Lowd and banquet and kitchen supervisor Robert Ramos all take great pride in being called 'chef' at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

ISLAMORADA — The lionhearted chef at Cheeca Lodge & Spa has redefined fine dining at the luxury resort’s main restaurant, Atlantic’s Edge.

Executive Chef Phillip Lowd has rewritten the menu completely.

The menu, modern with honest and simple ingredients, offers plated dishes that are flamboyantly heavy on the vegetables.

Contributed
The Atlantic Edge’s roasted beet salad is as visually stunning as it is delicious.

Lowd’s artisanal dishes are visually stunning and flavorful. The roasted beet salad combines Chioggia beets that look like red-and-white pinwheels with watercress and white asparagus.

Lowd fawns over fresh pineapples lined on the kitchen shelf, righting a toppled one.

“They have to be really ripe and really fresh,” Lowd said. “Everything in this kitchen has to be perfect, this is Cheeca.”

Pineapples are served at breakfast as part of a cold-pressed juice blend, as pineapple and cranberry chutney that adorns a chicken sandwich at lunchtime and as a pineapple mignonette that comes with the seafood tower at dinner.

“Mignonette is a vinegar-based condiment,” Lowd said. “We use a chardonnay vinegar here. It’s really good.”

Lowd said the Atlantic’s Edge menu is an interpretation of the different cuisines found on the outskirts of the ocean.

“Atlantic’s Edge is a culinary journey through the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean islands infused with local, fresh ingredients native to the Florida Keys,” according to Cheeca’s website. “This chef-driven restaurant is a modern take on island-inspired cuisine that celebrates flavors, cultural influences and native cooking styles of islands from Islamorada to Cuba, Bahamas to Turks & Caicos.”

The dehydrated sorrel hibiscus flowers that are reconstituted into a reduction glaze for the swordfish highlights the tropic-infused theme.

“They’re the only edible hibiscus,” said kitchen and banquet supervisor Robert Ramos, who works alongside Lowd and sous chef Jevan Smith. “The most time-consuming part of the glaze is dehydrating it, but it’s delicious.”

Lowd, a Coral Shores High School graduate, worked his way up to top chef from running food. He appears to be unfazed by long hours and hot grills.

“I am one of those people who get to do what they love every day,” he said. He draws inspiration from chefs he’s worked with and looks up to Dean Max and Niven Patel, who have both gone on to be successful restaurateurs.

His daily mantra, he said, is to create gastronomical memories.

“I want everyone seated here at any of the restaurants here to leave happy,” he said.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa has three restaurants and nine service outlets with a total of 390 seats, according to Lowd. In addition to Atlantic’s Edge, the resort includes Mia Cucina, a family-friendly Italian restaurant, and Nikai Sushi Bar & Restaurant, which offers Japanese cuisine.

There are also 214 guestrooms that offer room service.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa underwent a $25 million renovation following 2017’s Hurricane Irma. Atlantic’s Edge offers panoramic ocean views with inside or outside dining options. It’s open to the public for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa is located at 81801 Overseas Highway in Islamorada. For more information, call 305-517-4447 or visit cheeca.com.

tjava@keysnews.com