Element of surprise
Locally caught grouper is served with seasonal fresh vegetables, fried kale and toasted pumpkin seeds in a miso butter sauce. GREG GARDNER PHOTO
Cobalt is a magnet for lovers of food and beautiful seascapes
BY GREG GARDNER
With the most oceanfront dining on the Treasure Coast, Cobalt Restaurant serves outside-the-box sizzling food and ice cold drinks inside or out — 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. — for visitors and Vero Beach locals alike.
Located in the posh Vero Beach Hotel and Spa on Ocean Drive, Cobalt offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and food prepared with “modern American flair.”
“We are different from other restaurants in town because we are doing things they should be doing,” says executive chef Daniel Traimas. “We bring in different takes on the classics. A lot of the old-school crowd is pleasantly surprised. You will get familiar food, but it will be done differently. We try to offer something for everybody. We want people to explore and try something new.”
Next door and also managed by Kimpton Hotel and Restaurants is Heaton’s Reef. The outdoor bar and grill with its own kitchen between the pool and the beach is named for the hotel’s owner, George Heaton.
“We have the view and the elegance,” Traimas said.
Every seat on the deck has an ocean view. Outside patios have hosted many charity events in addition to full moon, masquerade, New Year’s Eve, Sunday Funday and dress in white parties. Cobalt estimates 70 percent of its customers are from the Vero Beach area and 30 percent from elsewhere.
STAFF GETS CREATIVE
During the winter season, several fire pits are lit and hotel staff has been known to bring out the S’mores for guests to enjoy by the fire. “We have the opportunity to be as creative as our guests can be,” Traimas said.
The menu is altered slightly twice a year, but many exotic favorites are there to stay.
Brunch options abound including chicken and waffles, red velvet pancakes, local shrimp and grits (with poached egg and bacon), and the Cobalt Brunch Burger with fried egg, bacon, cheddar and caramelized onions. The organic omelet has too many goodies to list. One Cobalt Eye Opener is the Diablo Mary with Tito’s Vodka, sriracha and pickled jalapenos. If it is too early in the day, savor the delicious pineapple mint lemonade or mango lavender iced tea.
Happy Hour in the large bar area is popular among locals from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. with $3, $4 and $5 drinks and snacks. Heaton’s Reef outside has $5 daily deals. If the weather is nice, Cobalt is popular on weekends with live music Friday and Saturdays from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The staff of 50 does an amazing job of serving food and drinks sunrise to almost midnight seven nights a week. There are special menus for Valentine’s Day and other holidays.
WINDY CITY WAS HOME
Chef Traimas grew up working in his parents’ Thai restaurant outside Chicago. He was also a sous chef at a Kimpton hotel in downtown Chicago before being promoted to executive chef in Vero. He graduated in his hometown from Kendall College’s Culinary Arts Program.
Traimas was recently invited to the prestigious James Beard House to “perform and prepare” multi-course meals as a visiting chef. It has been a meteoric rise for the 30-year-old chef who spent 21/2 years studying criminology before switching career paths. Since he arrived one year ago at Cobalt, Traimas has completely revamped the breakfast and lunch menus as he monitors what sells and sometimes what disappears from the menu.
“We do everything from scratch and use local organic sustainable products wherever possible. All of our meat is natural and hormone free. We bake our own house breads,” he said.
The flatbread of the day could be chicken sriracha, bacon, mozzarella, aioli and onion. Or there is the Ahi Tuna Tartare, a smooth tasty blend of spicy tuna, avocado, wasabi crème, soy reduction and flatbread.
In the garde mange (cold prep room), diners can see the stone oven cooking skillet dishes and flatbreads. Truffle fries go with almost everything and are reasonably priced. Other appetizers are charred corn and lobster mac and cheese.
Grouper is served with seasonal vegetable hash, fried kale, and topped with a zesty mix of pumpkin seeds and a miso butter glaze.
Hanger steak arrives very tender, a more traditional dish complemented by sautéed onions, wild mushrooms, bacon lardons, redskin potatoes in a secret steak sauce. You probably won’t ask for steak sauce.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Finish off the meal with Key Lime Bavarian with blackberry sorbet, coconut lime cream, and coconut tuile. Each bite of the mixture explodes in your mouth with different flavors competing for palate time. Other desserts are gluten-friendly homemade cookies, turtle brownie sundaes and house-made ice cream or sorbet.
Whatever your tastes might be, the Cobalt menu seems to have something for everyone.
“We offer the best of both worlds,” said general manager Sean Smith, who has been at the Cobalt from the beginning. “You can walk up from the beach in board shorts and boat shoes and sit on the patio, have truffle fries and a beer or you can come into the restaurant in a three-piece suit and enjoy fine dining with a steak and a bottle of wine.”
Jim and Linda Peterson of Vero Beach have been dining at Cobalt since 2008 when Kimpton began managing the property (one of its 65 boutique hotels).
“We eat here three times a week and it feels like you are in a Palm Beach resort or in the Caribbean,” said Linda Peterson. “They have the best burgers and a great brunch and serve predictably consistent good food,” said Jim Peterson. “The staff is great and they maintain the standard of luxury.”
IF YOU GO…
What: Cobalt Restaurant
Where: Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, 3500 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach
Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
For more information: call 469.1060 or visit www.cobaltrestaurant.com