When Hemingways restaurant closed in 2016, a collective sigh was heard from those who frequented the popular venue. It felt like yet another familiar property on the beach was being taken away, reducing the already small number of similarly loved hangouts by one.
Therefore, when it was announced that it was reopening earlier this year, people flocked through the doors with a sense of nostalgia and curiosity. The new owners of the business, Paolo Polloni and Andi Marcher, also known for Ragazzi and Luca, barely had time to catch their breath. There was no soft opening, as word spread like wildfire and the reservations came pouring in.
It also did not hurt that they had recruited beloved restaurant manager Reno Mancini, who has worked in the local restaurant industry for many years.
But did the food measure up to the legend? I booked a table for dinner a few weeks after the opening date, and I am happy to report that this restaurant is a winner.
Change of theme
Rather than continuing the tradition of the cuisine previously served at Hemingways – a mixture of Italian and Mediterranean dishes – Polloni and Marcher have decided to go the way of Asian fusion. In a way, it is a tribute to the Bamboo restaurant that long-time residents will remember and have missed for many years. In fact, a number of the dishes took me back to great memories of those days.
On the night I went, I was joined by friends Lynne Firth and Carol Rouse, whose birthday it was. Bit of a risk to take her to a new place for her special day, but that is what we are: risk-takers.
We got a table inside due to my addiction to air-conditioning, but Hemingways has a lovely wraparound patio usually favored by tourists or locals who appreciate the warm sea breezes.
The evening began with a cocktails order and I looked no further than the Hemingways Lemonade at the top of the menu. Stoli vodka (or Beefeater gin) mixed with fruity ingredients and topped with club soda sounded like a fine idea, particularly at $10. In this day and age, any well-made cocktail at a nice restaurant or bar coming in at $10 or less seems like a bargain.
The drinks menu covered a range of tastes, including classic recipes, tropical beverages and frozen treats. Anyone not in the mood for a cocktail could order wine by the glass or bottle.
The a la carte dining menu is one of those where you will be hard pressed to choose the standard couple of dishes plus dessert. I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that I could easily have ordered several cold and warm appetizers, along with some sushi, tempura pieces and a main course. I would not have been able to eat it all at one sitting, but making hard choices seemed more difficult than throwing caution to the winds.
In the end, my friends and I agreed to share dishes, which is what I would advise future diners to do. They are not family size portions by any means, but there is easily enough on each plate to share so everyone can have a taste.
What arrived on the table, in no particular order, was the wagyu beef tataki, crispy pan seared lobster gyoza, seared fresh diver scallop, a selection of sashimi, the olguita sushi roll (tempura shrimp, cream cheese, avocado, smoked salmon, fresh jalapeño, spicy mayonnaise, sweet soy), lobster and shrimp tempura, mizo marinated sea bass and the trigger fish dish.
Did I mention that the menu has its own tempura section? I was sold right there and then.
The service at Hemingways was excellent. Our server was attentive but not intrusive and the drink service was speedy, which in this golden age of mixology seems to be an issue for some restaurants. I love a well-made drink and by all means, make things from scratch and use fresh ingredients, but when it takes 15 minutes to get a cocktail, let’s cut back on the lemongrass-infused-this accompanied by smoked-and-muddled-that.
Our food was terrific; I loved every dish I had. That wagyu beef tataki is wonderful, yet so is the sushi and the scallop. If you were looking to this review to help you narrow down what to order, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
I cannot fault the Hemingways Lemonade either; I stuck with that choice all night.
Desserts all around at the end, with each of us trying the white chocolate mousse with green tea sponge and mango sauce and the dulce de leche custard served with local coconut vanilla ice cream. I recommend both of them.
Had we felt like a digestif, we would have been in our glory with the limoncello, amaretto and other suggestions, or perhaps a special coffee for the road. I could not find the space, but it was a tempting prospect nonetheless.
As we were leaving, we promised to return. I’ve certainly kept my word. I’ve been back at least twice since that dinner and I have found the service and food to be consistently good. The new Hemingways has quickly become one of my new favorite restaurants.
Come one, come all
Something very worth noting, touching on my earlier comment of almost-historical properties on the beach slowly disappearing, is how Hemingways has embraced the local social crowd. There are very few places these days where residents can feel like tourists for a day, relaxing by a pool on a lounger while sipping a drink, without booking a hotel room.
Here, they are given full access to the swimming pool and loungers, along with umbrellas and chairs on the beach. All they have to do is support the business by buying food and/or drinks and they are welcome to use all the facilities. Cabanas are also available for rent, including some bubbly.
With DJs spinning tunes on most nights, an enviable location on the beach, and, it has to be said, some great food and drinks on the menu, it seems that Hemingways is here to stay … and that is a good thing.