The Local House Raw Bar and Grill is located on the ground floor of Sense Hotel at 400 Ocean Drive, in the South Pointe neighborhood. It is on the quieter section of Ocean Drive south of Fifth Street with more locals and none of the desperate aggressiveness found above Fifth Street. Sense is a chic 18 room boutique hotel, with its entrance on Fourth Street. Local House is in the front, along Ocean Drive. It is a small restaurant, with perhaps 30 seats indoors and another dozen outside. It is done in a relaxed and comfortable beach house style reminiscent of a stylish Hamptons cottage, with bleached wood floors, white painted tables and white drapes puddled on the floor. There is a large floor to ceiling room divider separating the dining room from the tiny hotel lobby. It is filled with books, model sailing ships, coral and other interesting items. There are upholstered chairs and high backed benches that provide intimacy.
There is a small, eight seat bar of pickled wood along the back wall. Servers wear khakis and white button down shirts. The music is upbeat classic rock and the lighting is subtle and flattering. You feel as if you are in the living room of a chic friends home, instantly comforting and inviting. Bathrooms are pleasant single-user style, perfectly clean, with gray tile, gray patterned wall paper, high quality fixtures, with the same music playing – a nice touch. Black and white rock star photos graced the walls.
The menu is eclectic, and, not surprisingly, leans towards the sea. It is divided into three sections, “snacks”, “raw bar and crudos” and “Tapas and Grill”. Snacks have four offerings, from $6.50 to $8.00, including goat cheese croquettes and smoke French fries with smoke salt and truffle aioli. Raw Bar and Crudos range from $7.50 to $16, with choices like seasonal oysters ($9 a half dozen; $16 a dozen) tuna caliente ($12), local ceviche ($11) and octopus carpaccio with chorizo dust, fried capers and tomato lemon aioli ($15).
Tapas and Grill prices start at $8 and go to a very reasonable $19. There is a double cut hangar steak ($13), dates stuffed with Dubliner cheese, ground beef, and bacon with aji Amarillo cream, grilled octopus with whole wheat couscous ($16), lamb sliders, a house favorite we were told ($14 for 2), black seafood risotto with shrimp and calamari ($19), and a charcoaled prawn with a pea shoot salad ($17). Most unusually, brunch is served everyday from 7:30 AM until 5:30 PM, offering 25 choices, from pure breakfast choices like a fruit plate , bacon and eggs or eggs benedict (three versions) to an angus buger, buratta salad or a BLT. Prices range from $7 for the fruit plate to $14 for steak and eggs. Amazingly, prices include endless mimosas!
The drink menu offers six beers ($6 or $7), five cocktails ($12 to $15)and a concise wine list well matched to the food and fairly priced. Nine wines are also offered by the glass (Prosecco $9, wines $12).
A full bar is also offered.
We were immediately welcomed by the manager, Andres, as well as the hostess, who offered us our choice of tables, which we always appreciate. Our server, JC, (Juan Carlos) arrived within a minute, warmly welcomed us and brought us our menus and water. He helped us with cocktail selections and explained the menu concept, which is meant to be served family style and shared. He suggested that two starter items and two from the tapas and grill list would be a good idea, and he was exactly right.
Our cocktails were the pomegranate caippirinhas, with cachaca, pomegranate syrup and a splash of prosecco, and the localrita, with herradura reposada, mandarine napoleon, passion fruit puree, and a salt rim. We noticed that the chef, Guilly Booth, came out from the kitchen to make the cocktails. JC explained to us that she wants to be sure that the same care that she puts into the food is reflected in the drinks as well. They were excellent, delicious, strong, perfectly balanced and large.
We also saw the chef come out mid-meal, going from table to table talking with the diners about the food. She is charming and engaging, and her love of cooking is clear. We started with a dozen oysters, thoughtfully divided onto two plates. There were ice cold, briny, and startlingly fresh. There were served with a superb Asian mignonette with rice wine and red wine vinegar, ponzu and sesame oil. We also chose the grouper ceviche with red onion, cilantro and toasted choclo, which gave a welcome crunch. The fish was as fresh as could be, and meltingly tender.
Our larger dishes were the grilled octopus and the black seafood risotto. The octopus, a favorite of ours, served in a small cast iron pan, was perfectly grilled, served over whole wheat couscous, with potatoes, olives, tomatoes, and unexpectedly, a drizzle of caramel. The salty-sweet juxtaposition was superb. The seafood risotto was as black as we had ever seen, the Arborio rice perfectly cooked, full of shrimp and calamari. In this case, the sweet green peas, which seemed like nothing more than a decorative touch, was key to proving that salty-sweet combination which make chef Guilly’s food so surprising and satisfying. With dinner we had a lovely Napa Valley sauvignon blanc from Groth ($43), well matched to our food.
We had a lot of questions about the food, and JC was well versed in the menu and helped us navigate through it. What little he didn’t know, he freely admitted and went and got the answer for us. We found it refreshing for a server to want to get it right and take the time to do so. For desert we had the passion fruit pie, a take on key lime pie, deconstructed and served in a small jar with layers of cookie crumb, passion fruit puree and a delightful meringue. A chocolate desert was equally delicious, also served in layers, with dark and milk chocolates, ganauch and topped with crumbled cookies.
The Local House has everything going for it. A comfortable, welcoming, stylish and intimate setting. An eclectic and inviting menu, reasonably priced and superbly executed. Friendly, knowledgable staff, and a talented chef. An easy access location, close to, yet separated from, the crowds. Frankly, we cannot recall a meal that was so delightful and memorable. We walked home talking about it, woke up comparing notes on it, spoke about it throughout the day, went through the list of occasions we would go there on, what friends we would bring there, what we would have again the next time, what new dishes we would try, how we might replicate some of the dishes. It is that rare, exciting dining experience that we cannot wait to repeat, and to share with our hotel’s guests, but also with our friends as well.
Reviewed by Henry Ruiz from the Albion South Beach Hotel