The Forge, one of Miami Beach’s most traditional, special occasion restaurants, celebrated it’s 40th birthday last year by announcing it would close indefinitely for extensive renovations. While any South Beach doyenne hitting 40 might totally relate to hiding out and getting a face lift, local foodies started to speculate whether the old school steakhouse was giving in to the pressure of culinary obsolescence in a town where big ticket fine dining is suddenly available everywhere. The nearby Fontainebleau Resort had recently reopened with superstar chefs Alfred Portale, Scott Conant and Lok Soon Ooi hitting high notes at Gotham Steak, Scarpetta, and Hakkasan. Was it possible The Forge simply couldn’t compete with all these blazing big guns? Absolutely not…
With Mayor Matti Bower’s proclamation that April 27, 2009 would henceforth be known as Forge Day and a key to the City of Miami Beach in hand, Shareef Malnik set about reinventing his brand to keep it current and competitive with the new marketplace. Asked about the decision to renovate during the economic downturn he told the Miami Herald, “this is an opportunity to do something wonderful. We haven’t been closed since 1991 when we had a fire… I want to use this summer as an opportunity to change, to redo everything – new furniture, new layout, new china, new glassware, new uniforms.” While Malnik had hoped to open in time for the busy holiday season, the $10 million dollar renovation took time to perfect.
As the first anniversary of Forge Day nears, it seems Malnik was entirely true to his word reopening the restaurant recently to rave reviews. Eschewing the traditional steakhouse atmosphere and shaking off the Sugar Daddy Disco scene, the new Forge is brighter, lighter and ready for guests to make a sweeping entrance into its blonde wood dining rooms sparkling with glass bubble walls. With a nod to the restaurant’s original splendor, intricate floral stained glass highlights the library space and guests dine in the glow of crystal chandeliers. But little of the stodgy old atmosphere remains.
Also new and very exciting are the culinary pyrotechnics of Miami’s favorite Mango Gang-ster Chef Dewey LoSasso who closed his own North One 10 Restaurant after many years feeding happy North Miami families. He brings a fanciful touch to the menu including a roster of snacks under $15 to start the meal that echo the bright spots on Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink menu and include Lo Sasso’s infamous salmon croquettas with “damn hot” guava sauce from his One 10 days. Tiny oyster po’boys, chicken liver topped crostini toasts and the highly touted Lobster Peanut Butter & Jelly break the ice quite nicely.
LoSasso created the Lobster Peanut Butter & Jelly by topping chilled lobster with minced peanuts and a savory onion marmalade. He’s also curing his own salmon for the citrus salmon starter and tempting patrons with house made dim sum, grilled shrimp waffles with wasabi caviar and oscetra topped johnny cakes. Steaks have long been a house specialty so the chef tweaks the prime beef with a coffee rub for “Coffee & Eggs,” seasons it with the “Chimichurri from Hell” or grinds it up into “Burger and Bordeaux.” The upscale burgers making their way across Miami Beach menus get a run for their money at the Forge where the Angus sirloin is topped with shredded short rib meat, lobster marmalade and a side of crisp (if ubiquitous) truffled fries. To up the ante, the posh $20 patty includes a glass of Bordeaux. Cheers!
While fans of the Forge may still order the classics – chopped or caesar salad, the prawn cocktail, a massive steak and a chocolate souffle for dessert – LoSasso hopes to hold sway with his Barolo-braised short ribs served over polenta, a tangy spice rubbed duck and a number of seafood and pasta entrees including the decadent three mushroom risotto redolent of white truffle oil which can be split and served as a heady side dish. The shiitake, portobello and porcini mushrooms make this dish an earthly delight while the weather still has a bit of crispness, but this may prove too rich for some diners during the dog days of summer.
If a big ticket dinner doesn’t fit your evening, stop by the Forge’s brand new stainless steel and glass-encased Enomatic Wine Bar where 80 bottles are electronically decanted into do-it-yourself tastings. These gleaming machines hold opened bottles both humble and notable in a state of suspension that prevents them from oxidizing so guests can craft a sampling with their own personal tasting cards or with the help of the knowledgeable sommelier. Try a simple Sterling Merlot, a Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a pedigreed ’95 Chateau Haut-Brion by the glass or work your way through the heft of the massive notebooks that document the treasure trove that is the Forge’s still legendary wine cellar. A quiet evening working the dispenser and sampling the chef’s savory snacks with a few good friends seems like something to add to your Bucket List!
After 40 years as the backdrop for countless anniversaries, birthdays and romantic rendezvous, the Forge returns once again as an extravagant night spot with a unique Miami Beach flair. Rediscover the luxury of formal, attentive service, innovative cuisine and the chance to dine amidst the who’s-who of local notables. Some things never change and – thankfully – some simply get better with age and experience…
The Forge is located at 432 West 41 Street in Miami Beach. Reservations suggested 305-538-8533.
(photos © Simon Hare)