The Unkindest Cut

Another boxed entree, crackling pork shank, was a dramatic presentation. The shank stood upright over mustardy sauerkraut covered by what looked to be a crisp, browned crust. The crust, however, turned out to be pure fat, two inches thick. The pork was tasty inside, kept moist by the lard, but it dried out as it neared the bone. The pork was accompanied by a lidded jar filled with "firecracker" applesauce -- Granny Smiths spiked with chile peppers, an unusual garnish.

The third boxed entree we tried was easily the most successful. Veal "NY/Milan," a pounded veal chop still on the bone, had been breaded and fried to a golden finish. A salad of arugula, tomatoes, and red onions brightened the chop, but the succulent veal, like a thick Wiener schnitzel, didn't really need the distraction.

A steak dinner isn't complete without side dishes, of course. Smith & Wollensky may have the best creamed spinach in Miami -- minced greens smoothed with just the right amount of cream. Yuca pancakes, two large rounds cut into quarters and finished with sour cream, were heavy but flavorful. Whipped potatoes, though, suffered from an overdose of pepper; drizzled with herbed olive oil, they were almost too rich. And the hash browns should be outlawed; they were stale, the chunks of potato chewy and lukewarm.

Pastry chef Marta Braunstein's desserts were decorative enough to entrance and savory enough to entice. Milk chocolate creme brulee was perfection, served in a glass bowl with a lid that had two truffles attached to its underside. We thought a square of carrot cake was a bit too fruity with raisins and coconut, and not cakey enough. Its white chocolate top was stenciled with a likeness of the New York Smith & Wollensky facade. Clever.

But here in Miami we require more than just an etching of a steak house to be impressed. Several things need to improve at S&W. Service, for one. Our waiter, apparently too busy to wait for a pause in conversation, took to tapping us on the shoulder whenever he wanted our attention. The meat could use a trim. And above all, the kitchen needs consistency. Unless these things come to pass, Smith $ Wollensky -- oops -- is destined to become just another pretty picture, framed by the sun setting over Government Cut.

Smith & Wollensky
1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 673-2800. Open daily for lunch and dinner from noon until 2:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday brunch from noon until 3:00 p.m.

Wollensky's salad
$8.50
Crabcakes and ratatouille
$11.50
Crackling pork shank
$22.50
Veal NY/Milan
$29.75
Milk chocolate creme brulee
$6.75

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