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View our Forge Restaurant/Winebar slide show.
The Forge is as famous as any South Florida restaurant not named Joe's Stone Crab. It debuted in 1969, and as the fortunes of Miami Beach have shifted like sand over the decades, so too has the reputation of this iconic steak house. By the time it closed its doors for a $10 million renovation last year, the Forge's museum-like mahogany interior seemed antiquated — and its clientele wasn't getting any younger either.
The new Forge looks quite different. The library room, for instance, appears as though it's been soaked in a gargantuan vat of bleach; it still has the same book-lined shelves and stained-glass windows, but now they jump out from a white palette rather than melt into a musty, old brown one. The remaining dining rooms have been reconfigured, and while some bricks, wood, and chandeliers remain, the entire space is lightened and brightened to invigorating effect.
432 Arthur Godfrey Road
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Region: Mid/North Beach
If the revamped décor doesn't convince you that things have changed, maybe the menu's quinoa pancake with fig marmalade will. Or a grilled shrimp waffle with caviar and basil butter sauce. Or perhaps the lack of creamed spinach and pommes Lyonnaise will snap you out of your nostalgic steak-house reverie. In place of those classics are sautéed spinach salad with a fried egg and pancetta, and moist cubes of duck-fat home fries delectably flecked with sautéed onions and meaty bits of duck confit. (And as an aside on sides, don't miss the fava beans sautéed with wasabi caviar and Plugrá butter.)
Owner Shareef Malnik made it clear the Forge would forgo steak-house status when he hired Dewey LoSasso as reopening executive chef. LoSasso has long been on the shortlist of top local toques, from helming Lincoln Road's Foundlings Club way back when, to Tuscan Steak, to more recently his own North One 10 restaurant. He has always been a highly creative chef with a penchant for cleanly layering numerous ingredients and tastes onto each plate.
Take, for example, a salad composed of local tomatoes stacked with Bermuda Triangle goat cheese brûlée, two thin onion rings, meaty slices of prosciutto di Parma, and a vinaigrette made from Château Margaux wine. That's a mouthful of complementary flavors (and one delicious dressing), although the components would have melded better if the tomatoes, cheese, and onion rings had not been chilled. Crisply refreshing standards, such as the chopped salad and iceberg wedge, are still crowd pleasers.
The aforementioned shrimp waffle is one of a dozen "starts," as opposed to that quinoa stack, which is listed under "savory snacks." It's not clear why chilled roasted beets are a snack while a cheese plate for two is deemed a start, but the overall notion is that items such as an oyster po'boy or lobster peanut butter and jelly are more suitable as something to munch with your drink, as opposed to an introductory course to a substantial entrée.
Or at least I'm guessing that's the case based on the hefty nature of those two sandwiches. The po'boy was plump with crisply fried oysters plunked into a mini hoagie roll spread with potent roast garlic mayonnaise. A crunchy clump of lemony jícama salad was a sassy side. The lobster peanut butter and jelly sandwich jolted to signature status right from the beginning; curiosity no doubt plays a role in the large number of diners ordering it (that was certainly my impetus). Four triangular sandwich quarters of toasted, crustless brioche are filled with pieces of poached lobster between a thin veneer of sweet, caramelized onion marmalade and a fairly thick spread of coarsely ground, chili-spiced peanut butter. If this dish works at all, it would be as a stand-alone bite to down with a drink, but for my money, it does not work at all (and that money, incidentally, is $17); peanut butter obliterates the delicate crustacean. LoSasso is a chef who rarely errs on the side of too little flavor.
Steak house or not, the six cuts of proffered beef remain the most sought-after entrées. None is more renowned than the Super Steak: a 16-ounce, 21-day-aged, oak-grilled Prime New York strip. None is more expensive either, although an 18-ounce bone-in filet mignon matches the $55 price.
I went instead with the cheapskate steak (my term, not theirs): a modest 12-ounce Angus New York strip for $29. The slender slab of meat, cooked to a proper medium-rare, touted a tender texture and beefy taste barely bold enough to compete with an intensely smoky infusion of oak flavor. Five petite white porcelain cubes alongside the steak were filled respectively with tangy béarnaise; thick, house-made Worcestershire; sweet, grainy mustard sauce; coarse black pepper; and smoked salt. Applying the last to up the smoke ante would be like tossing a match into a fire to fuel the flame.
If you don't care much for oak notes, the coffee-crusted rib eye (another Forge standard) is pan-seared and comes with a goat cheese frittata (thus called "coffee and eggs"). And two delectable, double-cut Colorado lamb chops proved a lot less smoky than the steak, probably because each was twice as thick. One chop, cooked to the requested medium-rare, came topped with a mildly piquant pear chutney tinged with ginger and vanilla; the other, overcooked to medium, was capped with mandarin orange segments and fresh mint leaves. Two quinoa blinis and a scattering of smoky plum salt completed the dish.