Kane Steakhouse is able, but it's not Miami's greatest
Kane is not your daddy's steak house. Nor is it your traditional steak house, long-established iconic steak house, upscale chain steak house, Kobe steak house, organic steak house, or family-style cowboy-themed steak house. Kane is not your Argentine parrillada or your Brazilian churrascaria. It might almost be your Red the Steakhouse, located a bone's-throw away in SoBe's SoFi section, if it had a second branch in Cleveland. But it doesn't.
What Kane is: the latest steak house, and likely not the caboose on a seemingly endless train of modern meat emporiums that has pulled into Miami Beach. We'll spare you the lengthy timetable of entries, but besides Red, the limited acreage south of Fifth Street alone already houses Smith & Wollensky and Prime One Twelve (plus Prime Italian if we can include an Italian chop house).
Kane's apparent lack of any distinctive steak-house identity seemed even more apparent when we asked the waiter the origin of the restaurant name. "It might be Cain and Abel," he at first replied. When one of us said, "Really?" he added that it could also be related to Citizen Kane — before admitting they just needed a moniker and probably liked the way Kane sounded.
The 120-seat locale formerly housed Tuscan Steakhouse (and long before that, Savannah, then-star local chef Marvin Woods's take on low-country cuisine). The room was altered in a slightly Mexican manner during El Scorpion's short occupation between Tuscan and Kane, but the main design elements have remained steadfast throughout the venue's history: A white onyx bar backed by mirrors dominates the right side, a white stone masonry wall with semicircular white leather banquettes defines the left, and white linen-draped tables take up the center amid a series of square pillars. The floor is dark, the ceiling is low, the lighting is subdued, and the retro ambiance is enhanced by veteran vocalists crooning over the speakers (but the music gets younger as the night grows older). Waiters wear white dress shirts, ties, and black tuxedo jackets with thick white trim; bussers don white tuxedo jackets with black trim. The uniforms seem a caricature of '40s elegance, much like the outfits worn in the movie Dick Tracy.
A basket of bread was brought promptly, nightly specials were enunciated clearly, water glasses were filled efficiently, and food and flatware were placed and replaced expeditiously. Kane's pre-opening mission statement underlined attentive service, and the abundant staff on hand is clearly trying. Yet some waiters need more seasoning, and there were gaffes — such as having us wait much too long for the check (and pick-up of check) during a slow evening. After we dropped oodles of money on our meal, nobody was at the door to thank us or say good night.
The bread basket proved to be one of the more gratifying ones we've encountered lately: an onion-dotted sweet brioche bun, a pair of pointy minibaguettes (salty and cranberry-walnut), and a buttery biscuit with cheddar and tiny, smoky nubs of bacon.
Executive chef Daniel Ganem's brief, beefy menu at Kane reflects his time spent employed at Bourbon Steak and BLT Steak. So does a slender rectangle of steak tartare presented in a contemporary steak-house manner — a slight portion topped with "bread soufflé." The soufflé was simply oil-soaked squares of grilled country bread, but the beef was delicately balanced in traditional fashion with mustard, capers, egg yolks, shallots, and Worcestershire sauce.
We stayed in classic mode with shrimp cocktail: four plump, jumbo, freshly poached-and-chilled crustaceans with basic homemade cocktail sauce. Cucumber relish was originally offered as well, but not anymore. That's too bad, because when paying $18, one hopes for something a bit distinctive.
There are only a few other starters to choose from, and by our second visit, two of them were gone. The restaurant was out of its only soup, lobster bisque (early in the evening), and had removed crisp salt cod dumplings from the menu (replacing the dish with a sort of Caprese salad). So we went with a rather modestly sized crabcake, a tasty if not very lumpy pan-fried disk garnished with two teensy roasted shisito peppers atop spicy cayenne-spiked rémoulade mixed with sweet corn.
Steaks are categorized into six boneless and five bone-in cuts. The least expensive meat is an eight-ounce filet mignon for $37. Instead we corralled the other under-$40 offering: a $39 "dry spice rub" skirt steak, the sole Wagyu in the herd. The skirt, sliced into eight rectangles, was timidly spiced and weakly seared — surprisingly so, because Kane employs a 1,700-degree double broiler. The steak was otherwise juicy and boasted an abundance of beefiness. So did a hefty, tender, well-marbled 22-ounce bone-in rib eye ($51) that exploded with flavor under a crisp caramelized crust assertively seasoned with coarse salt.
There is no need to sally up a steak such as that one, but a complimentary sweet-and-tangy barbecue-like "Kane" sauce with tamarind and maple notes is offered just the same. A half-dozen other options are available for $2 each (bordelaise is $3), including blue cheese, béarnaise, peppercorn, chimichurri, and choron. We tried the last (it's really just béarnaise colored with tomato paste), partly because the classic French emulsion sauce is rarely seen on local menus, but mostly because it is a delicate and delectable way to enrich a steak with butter.
The rest of the steaks are $44 to $49, except a porterhouse and a chateaubriand (each meant for two; respectively $84 and $86). Rack of lamb, veal T-bone, and veal chop Milanese are the remaining carnivore picks. The meats come from New York, home of Kane's ownership team, the Glazier Group (Strip House, Michael Jordan's the Steak House).
On our initial foray to Kane, the only poultry on the menu was an organic whole chicken for two stuffed with bacon, spinach, and Stilton ($48), which is swell if you find two people at the same table with a quirky steak-house hankering for chicken and blue cheese. On our return, that dish was verbally recited as a special and had been replaced on the menu by a saner roasted half-chicken with herb butter ($27).
Also on our first trip, the seafoods offered were miso black cod, grilled swordfish, and battered yellowtail snapper with chorizo and tomato-crab sauce. The last sounded best by far, but we were again punished for procrastinating — by the time we cast for it, the snapper was gone from the menu. So we selected the swordfish, a fat, tough, mealy rectangle speckled with crushed coriander seeds and other spices. We hardly touched the fish (which went unnoticed by the staff), but gobbled up all of the plate's delicious garbanzo beans dressed in dried olive vinaigrette.
As an à la carte side, we chose duck-fat hash browns over duck-fat potato chips (although there is a suspicious lack of any duck item on the menu). Two golden-brown pucks with puffs of sour cream yielded a luscious potato purée perked with shallots and chives. Jalapeño corn pudding featured a cavalcade of corn kernels studding a grainy custard — tasty in a mildly sweet manner, but the jalapeño barely registered. Onion rings boasted the virtue of crisp batter and the vice of greasiness.
Chef Ganem wears the pastry chef's toque here too, and he spins out an array of creative sweets. The most sensible dessert after a hearty steak dinner is a shallow bowl of loose lemonade gelée with berries and orange sections semisuspended alongside refreshing quenelles of lychee sorbet and passion fruit granita. A $15 seven-layer chocolate cake melded to cheesecake (called a "black & white") packs the oversize wallop so appealing to steak-house diners, but lighter appetites should gravitate to a moist pineapple "upside down" cake capped with grilled pineapple and rum-raisin ice cream. Desserts were the high point of our meals.
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