Seafoods satisfied, the pleasantly sweet taste of fresh corn-crusted yellowtail snapper aptly offset with lemon boniato mash; and grilled salmon lightly glazed in barbecue sauce, adeptly accompanied by chunky applesauce, asparagus spears, and a soft, cream-cheesy potato gratin (though I wasn't sure what to make of an incongruous bagel chip perched on top of the salmon).
Steaks are prime USDA beef aged for 28 days. A ten-ounce Black Angus filet mignon and black skillet-seared, eighteen-ounce New York strip were sumptuously textured, but didn't possess the crisply seared, well-seasoned crust of a steak house product. They did, however, boast steak house prices ($38 and $42 respectively) and presentation (naked on a white plate). Not to fret about the latter the service staff will be more than ecstatic to make suggestions on ways to fill that blank space. Side dishes ran the gamut from sensational (thin, truffled french fries with deliriously tasty lobster gravy) to so-so (creamed spinach), to sad (dry, puny-noodled, "five-year-aged cheddar" macaroni and cheese).
The pastry chef at Johnny V Las Olas, Malka Espinel, also provides desserts for the Astor. Banana cream pie, chocolate decadent torte, and Asian pear cobbler all passed muster, but her creations seem brighter and more creative at the northern branch. The coffee is also better up there here it was old and cold. When we pointed this out, the cups were removed from the table and brought back just a minute or two later reheated, but certainly no fresher.
At white-cloth restaurants like this, where entrees run $27 to $42, it is not unusual for guests to get pampered with little gastronomic gifts an amuse-bouchée, intermezzo, whatever. This is especially true when the bill for a table of diners approaches $500, as ours did. No such tokens were tossed our way, which is okay (trust me, we weren't going hungry). But the bottom line is that no matter how talented a chef may be, getting treated as nothing more than a bottom line makes for an unpleasant dining experience. Johnny has come marching home again all right, but our hurrahs are decidedly muted.
Hotel Astor, 956 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 305-672-9998. Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday 6:00 to 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6:00 p.m. to midnight.