Chow Down Grill, Morgans open in South Beach

View a slide show of Morgans.

If an initial restaurant is often based on the proprietor's dreams of feeding people and making them happy, the second one is usually propelled by prayers of finally turning a profit after so much hard work. Operating a dining establishment is tough, and making substantial money doing so is even tougher. The decision to open a follow-up venue comes down to a matter of math: The additional locale can strengthen purchasing power and thus lower food costs, while the increase of seats yields higher intake of cash. Plus, in the case of Chow Down Grill and Morgans, the sequel eateries just happen to be in South Beach, which inflates the visibility and viability of both businesses. The only real downside is the potential watering-down of the brand, because chefs and/or owners responsible for the success of the primary operations can't be in two places at once.

Morgans Wynwood opened in January 2010; the Surfside Chow Down debuted six months later. Both spots proved popular with the public and critics alike. The new Chow Down Grill is larger than the first, with an extra bar-and-lounge room; altogether it seats close to 100. The décor is thematically consistent with that of the Surfside space: richly earth-toned walls, bamboo-woven globe lamps, wood benches and tables, and cocoa-hued banquettes providing most of the seating. An open kitchen draws attention at the far end of the room.

View a slide show of Morgans.

Chef Joshua Marcus at Chow Down Grill.
Chef Joshua Marcus at Chow Down Grill.
Roast chicken from Morgans South Beach. View a slide show of Morgans.
Roast chicken from Morgans South Beach. View a slide show of Morgans.

Location Info

Map

Brewhouse

920 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: South Beach

Morgans

1787 Purdy Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Beach

Details

Chow Down Grill

305-674-1674; chowdowngrill.com
Lunch, dinner, and late-night Monday through Saturday noon to 5 a.m., Sunday 4 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Chicken basil dumplings $6.95
Udon noodle soup $12.95
Tea-smoked duck with green curry sauce $20.95

Morgans South Beach

305-397-8753; themorgansrestaurant.com
Lunch and dinner daily 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (sometimes later).

Hamburger $12
Roast chicken $18
Skirt steak $24

View a slide show of Morgans.

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Chef Joshua Marcus's menu, too, is a similar version of the original. Handmade dumplings remain specialties of the house. There are five types offered; four to an order are presented on an open plate. I'd prefer having these served in a covered dish — preferably a small bamboo steamer, which adds an alluring aroma when opened at the table — to retain the heat. That said, carotene-colored carrot dumplings are tastily filled with slightly sweet pork-and-chive filling, and jade-tinted basil dumplings please with fennel and chives mixed in with minced organic chicken. A sextet of sauces in squeeze bottles is placed on the table: soy, sriracha, spicy mustard, hoisin, sweet duck, and peanut; all but the sriracha are prepared in the kitchen.

Chow Down Grill doesn't profess any allegiance to authenticity, so it's probably not fair to say the pair of white duck bao (buns) lacks whatever it is that make Chinatown versions so addictive. But it's true. The ones here are filled with sweetly tasty duck, but they are not as puffy, not quite as white, and don't possess the same airy texture.

All aspects of appetizers are made in-house, including dumpling doughs and egg roll wraps. Excepting barbecued eel lettuce wraps, each is $6.95 or under.

Traditional soups such as won ton and sweet-and-sour are similar in nature to those found in neighborhood Chinese restaurants, but the flavors are noticeably fresher; there is no sugar, MSG, or cornstarch used. Waiters are likewise without filler — just honest, friendly, and efficient.

Noodle soups and stir-fries ($9.95 to $12.95) come with a choice of chicken, pork, shrimp, braised beef, vegetables, wild mushroom, or tofu. Among the soups, meaty, tubular udon noodles in a mirin-sweetened dashi broth are enriched via a softly poached organic egg. Those seeking sharper flavors should go with the pho, a beef broth invigorated with jalapeño and cilantro.

A bowl of wide, chewy chow fun noodles, like the rest of the food here, exudes the crisp flavors that come from getting cooked per order. The fun is flush with onion, red pepper, Oriental kale, garlic, and ginger. It may lack the intensity of tastes found in real Chinese cuisine, but you're not paying Hakkasan prices either (on the other hand, you are paying a couple of dollars more per item than when Chow Down first opened).

Entrées also entail a choice of protein matched with a selection of sauces. The former includes sirloin and rib eye steaks, sautéed shrimp, organic chicken, roasted fish, tofu, and duck. House-made tofu, of soft-to-medium consistency, was smooth, fresh, and characteristically sponge-like in soaking up a spicy green curry sauce. A few wedges of roasted baby potato and some sautéed kale filled out the plate.

Green-tea-smoked duck brought neatly sliced breast with shiny skin and moist, smoky meat. The duck is $21.95, rib eye is $19.95, fish is market price, all other entrées are $14.95 to $16.95.

If you're a stickler for dessert, go with the moist pumpkin bread pudding instead of the dry chocolate Swiss-roll cake.

The Surfside Chow Down's strongest virtues are freshness, flavor, and value. This new place offers more of the same, only in a bigger format, at a hipper address, and with later operating hours (until 5 a.m. daily).

View a slide show of Morgans.

Barclay Graebner's new Morgans South Beach takes over the Sunset Harbour space that was occupied by Joe Allen for 13 years. The simple square room hasn't been tampered with much, except the streamlined walls are now hued in subdued lavender. The bar area up front is still separated from the dining area by a wood-and-glass divider, and tables are still dressed in white linen — although now the cloths are topped with white butcher paper and a cup of colored pencils for doodling.

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5 comments
Damon
Damon

I am a young and beautiful woman from US. i just think here is a good place to meet friends. i just wonder if i can meet a rich daddy here, because i am at the beginning of my career and i need someone's support..i uploaded my hot photos on ----[Sugarmingle. C óM-]----under the name babylove , maybe you want to check out my photos firstly!

Camille Lamb
Camille Lamb

Love the Woody Allen quote, Lee! Hahaha.

AshtonC
AshtonC

Morgans on Purdy is amazing on both food and service !!

wokstar
wokstar

Lee, I don't know when you last had Chow Down's steam bao but a month ago I had it and the dough was as close to any bao in Asia. It took them a year to perfect it but they did it, tried it from day one. What I love about Josh and Jason are they stuck their necks out in 'Chinese' food and made it fresh and pleasing instead of greasy and chop suey, so hats off to them! Their duck and ribs are outstanding, so is their house made tofu - creamy and yummy.

Lee
Lee

Hey Eleanor, Agree with you about Josh and Jason doing a good job. I used to work in a deli as a kid and knish doughs on some days came out better than on others. Maybe I hit a bad bao day.

 
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