Michael Mina knows what people want. And at his new StripSteak in the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the prolific, San Francisco-based restaurateur gives it to them with a side of fries.
The menu includes not only burly cuts of dry-aged beef, tender lamb chops, foie gras and truffles but also an assortment of local and seasonal vegetables and seafare. It’s all executed with fine technique thanks to seasoned chef de cuisine, French Culinary Institute grad Derrick Roberts.
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The vast former Gotham Steak dining room — more than 12,000 square feet over two stories with a terrace — manages to feel intimate. Cozy butterscotch faux-leather booths and sultry pendant lighting lend a retro glamour. It’s a palimpsest of the deco style that pervades the 1954 iconic hotel.
Mina’s crew has trained his staff to standards not usually seen in this town. From hosts to captain to waiters, bussers and runners. They all seem to think on their feet. They offered to plate shared entrees separately, refilled glasses, cleared empties and crumbed tables efficiently but unceremoniously. (Service at Mina’s other Fontainebleau restaurant is equally impressive.)
The wine list, the kind of tome I would like to keep on my nightstand, is full of lovely bubblies — including some vintage trophies — and some steeply priced lust-afterable Grand Crus from Burgundy, many rosés and some lesser-known and more affordable bottles from all over. Ask for help from the down-to-earth somm.
But first, just for fun, try resisting the decadent Parker House rolls, shot up with a dose of black-truffle butter that land on the table hot and toasty. Don’t come here on a diet.
Starters include the usual pricey raw-bar selections like king crab, freshly shucked oysters, stone crab claws and shrimp the size of baby lobsters. Those oysters are dressed in a subtle white soy sauce with tangerine juice, and the shrimp cocktail sauce is spiked with Bombay Sapphire gin.
A dish called “instant bacon” includes a gorgeous slab of pork belly slathered in a sweet and salty soy glaze and an intense waft of cherrywood smoke. The insane umami bomb is loaded with every textural element you can imagine, from crunchy jicama lozenges and burstingly wet orange slivers to crispy fried tempura oyster and dense coins of hearts of palm. It’s truly addictive, even for a critic like me who has ingested enough pork belly to keep me oinking for years.
Other exquisite flavors come by way of the toothsome, hand-rolled cavatelli. The thankfully petite portion is dotted with bright squares of tender butternut squash, strands of trumpet mushrooms with rich shreds of duck meat all crowned with the lightest puff of foamy parmesan.
A gently seasoned crabcake, thick with Peekytoe crab, sings under its dollop of avocado, cilantro and jalapeño sauce. Verdant salads, too, like a Caesar-inspired romaine and avocado number, are gorgeously balanced — this one with preserved baby plum tomatoes and white anchovies. The classic wedge with iceberg gets gussied up with ribbons of tangy pickled shallots and a mild blue cheese smoked in-house.
A sensational yellowtail snapper is just one of the several local seafood dishes done right. Here it swims in a light beurre blanc dotted with flavorful nuggets in the form of fennel salad, white beans and seared artichoke hearts. Only the overly acidic pickled baby tomatoes were off-putting.
Roberts handles sides as competently as mains. Standouts include black-truffle mac and cheese with a crispy top as well as what’s billed as “the best whipped potatoes ever.” They were good (though not best ever): smooth and buttery, the consistency of creamy pudding, with a subtle dash of wasabi and tiny chives.
Don’t think for a moment that any of this detracts from the beef experience.
Purists will love the dozen choices of serious meat, ranging from a dry-aged T-bone at 32 ounces to a modest skirt steak all cooked on the wood-burning grill. There’s also pricey A5 striploin and A4 ribeye from the Miyazaki prefecture of Japan. The beef is sourced from all over, but much of it is dry-aged in the resort’s own curing rooms.
We adored the perfectly medium-rare bone-in ribeye seared to black on the outside and yet as rosy and juicy on the inside as a just-cut plum. The tender and aggressively seasoned Chateaubriand is sliced on a hot metal plate and an ideal dish for a table to share. Lots of fancy sauces are offered for an additional cost, but none are necessary.
Speaking of rich, a lasagna-size casserole dish of rustic bread pudding crowned with a medallion of chocolate and bound with a sweet-salty caramel sauce could have fed a dozen hungry kids. Sugar-crusted, chocolate ganache-filled doughnuts are miraculously light and brought back to Earth with a velvety chicory crème Anglaise that tastes like butterscotch.
Like much of the menu, the flavors are bold, the textures compelling and the execution strong.
Mina knows what people want. StripSteak is the place to get it.
Critics dine anonymously at the Miami Herald’s expense. Follow Victoria Pesce Elliott on Twitter and Instagram: @VictoriaPesceE.