By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
As I see it, women and restaurants are alike in exactly one way: Once they earn a reputation, they've got it for life. Only it's usually "bad" women who can't shake public disdain, and "good" restaurants that never fall out of public favor even if they should. This month, in honor of my own checkered past, I set out to determine whether several local eateries that are perennially touted as topnotch are still worthy of the praise.
3101 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 446-1400. Open Monday -- Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (Friday until midnight), Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.
A very drunk gentleman broke off his conversation about his successful gambling philosophy and leaned precariously toward me. "I've never been here before," he said, flashing his Rolex and his diamond pinkie ring. "How's the food?"
3101 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Region: Coral Gables/South Miami
"Delicious," I answered truthfully, though I could see it didn't really matter to him. What he was really asking was, Am I in the right place? And I could tell by his bourbon-scented breath that Christy's, whose motto is "aged beef and spirits," was indeed the right place for him.
As it is for most other folks. Christy's is an eighteen-year legend, feeding to the power-hungry generation that rebuilt Miami Midwestern corn-fed beef and calves' liver, not to mention veal piccata, broiled lamb chops, and stuffed fillet of grouper. And despite the highfalutin atmosphere that permeates the clubby upholstered dining room (and despite the chicken, shrimp, and lobster tail that dot the menu), the beef is the true focus here, and rightly so.
Even the black bean soup, a puree served with a snifter of sherry on the side, tastes of beef stock. This was rich and tasty, a nice prelude to the justly famous caesar salad served with all entrees. Loaded with Parmesan, garlic, and a huge number of whole anchovies, the crisp sweet romaine was a large pile of pleasure, a meal in itself.
Roasted for three hours, prime rib of beef is offered in two sizes, and the menu doesn't lie: At fourteen ounces, the standard (smaller) size is indeed an "ample cut." A lovely marbled hunk of meat was accented with juicy broiled mushroom caps and tangy horseradish sauce. The waiter added a scoop of house-grated white horseradish on the side, a practice he repeated with the sour cream and chives (which were actually green onions) on the baked potatoes that accompany entrees. A twelve-ounce filet mignon marinated in teriyaki sauce was requested medium-rare but arrived overcooked to medium-well, and was a little dry as a result. But the flavor was delicious, the slightly sweet-salty sauce (also served on the side) soaking into the meat.
Blackout cake, a luxurious chocolate layer cake topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, was the perfect finishing touch -- though I do believe my newfound friend substituted a cocktail for that course. But then, at least his cholesterol is low. Steak, sour cream, caesar salad, chocolate cake ... God knows where mine is now.
5225 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 865-6500. Open 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily (6:00 to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday).
In 1987 the inimitable local food writer Lucy Cooper declared this restaurant's "luxurious neo-French architecture ... a lovely backdrop for dining on traditional to new French cuisine, as well as such strange fare as alligator and kangaroo." She deemed Dominique's one of the best restaurants in South Florida, ranking it alongside Chef Allen's, Cafe Chauveron, and the Grand Cafe on her Top 10 list that year.
In the succeeding decade, a few things have changed. For one, the "strange fare" has been bumped, replaced by a new, lighter Florida menu. A more casual Garden Terrace now adjoins the ornate main dining room, which for its mirrors and carved chairs and polished tiled floors can feel formally stuffy.
And I don't know that I'd put Dominique's in a class with Chef Allen's. Some of the entrees -- pan-seared Atlantic salmon with black lentils, grilled tuna crusted with cumin and coriander seed, and a grilled filet mignon with a Maytag blue cheese butter, for instance -- are inventive, but many of the appetizers were mundane and indifferently prepared on the night I dined. The pine nuts garnishing the baby arugula salad were burnt, the balsamic vinaigrette too oily on limp greens. Juicy tomatoes and roasted peppers helped perk up the salad, but nothing could salvage the lobster bisque. The broth was dark as a roux and briny, garnished with chunks of tough lobster. "Crabcake Dominique's" was perhaps the best starter, succulent chunks of blue crab formed into a patty sans breadcrumbs and pan-fried. The pommes frites scattered over the cake were cold, however, and a tomato sauce billed as spicy added color but little else to the plate.
Main courses were a significant improvement. Roasted Long Island duck glazed with a hoisin sauce featured a crisp candied skin and rich, juicy flesh. Sauteed baby bok choy and a molded scoop of wild rice made a fresh match for the main event, which was marred only by the absence of the caramelized kumquats that had been promised on the menu.