December 22, 2014

Dining & Spirits

Steakhouse Options Grow in Florida

Chris Sherman | 10/1/2008

Cita's Italian Chophouse
Cita’s Italian Chophouse in Coconut Grove

Bear market or no, Florida diners are bullish on beef and could move higher on the steer, especially in south Florida. This time with truffles, fennel and beets. And chimichurri and wasabi on top.

Modern chefs now give the old-fashioned steakhouse of smoke and fire hip design, fresh ingredients and artisan trimmings. When Anthony McDermott opened Riley McDermott’s in Fort Lauderdale in January, it wasn’t his grandfather’s steakhouse. For a younger crowd of big spenders, he brought in Hawaiian fish, wagyu beef and four chefs, who put cilantro in the slaw and caviar on the oysters, baked a Granny Smith upside-down cake and topped out with a 24-ounce long-bone rib-eye with soy sauce jus and shoestring fries for $65.

This summer, Coconut Grove got Cita’s Italian Chophouse, billed as a simple place with pasta and vegetables as rustic as the salami and beef that was pure, prime, dry-aged — and priced from $29 to $72.

Wagyu beef
Upscale — and pricey — wagyu beef from Japan, America and Australia at Kobe Club in Miami Beach
When celebrity chef Laurent Tourondel brings his cast-iron pans and the nouvelle boeuf of New York’s BLT Steak to Miami’s Betsy Hotel this fall, he’ll find other celebrity toques in the beef barn. San Francisco’s Michael Mina has Bourbon Steak, L.A. whirlwind Govind Armstrong’s California menu at Table 8 is long on beef, and TV’s Anthony Bourdain feeds carnivores in French at Les Halles in Coral Gables.

The upgrade in beef and price is touted out front in the names of the likes of Prime 112, Prime 707, New York Prime, Hollywood Prime, Ocean Prime, Strip House or even Kobe Club.

As beef prices rise, prime rises higher and can command $40 to $50 — more if it’s a special class like Kobe or wagyu or if it comes from a designer-brand supplier like Buckhead, Niman Ranch or Allen Brothers.

The best new steakhouses prefer dry-aging. They hand-trim meat in-house and explore cuts from bone-in rib-eye to cowboy and tomahawk, hangar steaks, skirt steaks and short ribs — burgers and sliders too.

Some live up to the chophouse trend beyond beef with veal T-bones, double-cut lamb chops, pork delmonico (kurobuta, or Berkshire, is the pride of pork), shanks of all sorts, plus organic chickens and perhaps rabbit.

You’ll know the new guard by its sauces and sides. Steaks get more than a pat of butter, bleu cheese or onion rings. Kobe Club offers 12 toppings, including wasabi, Bearnaise, foie gras butter and bone marrow. Today’s potatoes are baked with sea salt, hashed with chorizo, fried in duck fat or goose, sliced in galette chips and formed in crusty cakes. Mac and cheese is enriched with truffle, if not lobster.

Vegetables — cauliflower and asparagus as well as broccoli and spinach — get new due and more than cream and Hollandaise. Most steakhouses offer a wedge of bibb or iceberg in a retro nod but also stock more serious greens. Mushrooms of the day are porcini and truffles or at least truffle oil in hash browns, Hollandaise and creamed corn.
Our steakscape dates back to the days of steak, lobster and creamed spinach with a broiled grapefruit.

Charley’s and Linda’s La Cantina have been on Orlando’s menu for 30 years; The Forge and Linda B.’s have fed Miami swells for decades. Tampa’s legendary Bern’s is now 52, old enough to spawn a chef-driven kitchen within a kitchen for new-generation carnivores and sibling SideBern’s.

In the last 15 years, Morton’s, Gallagher’s, The Palm, Shula’s Del Frisco, Ruth’s Chris, Capitol Grille, Smith and Wollensky and Fleming’s brought corporate standards to staffing and décor. Then came an invasion of sword-wielding Argentines and Brazilians, who have Floridians eating gaucho-style in dozens of parilladas and churrascarias, independent and chain (The Knife in Miami has five locations).

Now foodies can indulge their red meat lust too. Ultimately, big-bucks meat and potatoes is still comfort food. A luxurious comfort.


» Prime: Highest of USDA grades, determined by the marbling and age. The next grades found in restaurants and groceries are choice and then select. Shippers may rate beef further within grades; other countries have other grades.

» Dry-aging: A traditional, expensive-to-season beef hung in a cooler up to three weeks, allowing it to shed moisture and gain flavor. Wet-aging in vacuum-sealed plastic is newer and faster.

» Kobe: The famous area that fattens Japan’s prized cattle. Similar cattle raised in Japan and other countries are known as wagyu and are almost as expensive.

Tags: Dining & Travel

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