Upstairs, two middle-aged men in shorts and white sneakers scarf down their steaks. They stop only to glance at the TV screens while their decidedly dressier female companions munch on salads. Downstairs, an attractive model type wearing a lace crop top and a fitted pencil skirt rubs her partner’s thigh while whispering into his ear. Despite belonging to a party of six, the couple appears to be lost in their own private world. Nearby, a blonde with an elaborate bouffant, slits for eyes, and alarmingly gigantic lips nurses a cocktail.
Though Lip Lady’s facial work has rendered her virtually expressionless, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. And why shouldn’t they be content? They’re indulging in pricey gourmet fare inside the iconic and glamorous Fontainebleau resort. More specifically, they’re dining at chef Michael Mina’s Stripsteak.
The Michelin-starred, San Francisco-based restaurateur is no stranger to Miami. His Bourbon Steak in Aventura and Michael Mina 74, also at the Fontainebleau, are hits. So Egyptian-born Mina was tapped to take over the massive space once occupied by Gotham Steak to launch the second outpost of Stripsteak. (The original is in Las Vegas.)
With its caramel-colored leatherette booths and copper art-deco-style chandeliers, the restaurant is — as Mina has mentioned — sexy. However, certain unfashionably underdressed tourist clichés bring the sultry vibe down a notch. And the dining room is freezing. Still, the chairs are comfortable, warm Parker House rolls infused with truffle butter are brought out quickly, and a friendly server is on hand to explain the menu.
On a recent visit, my guest and I asked for help selecting a reasonably priced red wine from the bevy of options and were pointed toward several bottles priced around $150. Maybe in the world of Stripsteak and Fontainebleau, that amount is considered reasonable, but in the real world, $50 is more like it. Fortunately, lower price points exist here.
Like many steak houses, this one features a wide selection of seafood items. The difference here is they’re caught by the resort’s daily charter boat, BleauFish. First out is yellowtail sashimi. Seven fleshy pieces of raw hamachi are crowned with serrano peppers, microcilantro, and cucumber slivers marinated in rice vinegar. A sprinkling of rice crackers and a yuzu-enhanced soy ponzu sauce ties things up. It’s a straightforward dish that succeeds in subtly coaxing out the fresh fish’s natural flavor.
Our subsequent choice of appetizer is even more ubiquitous in Miami than the sashimi: peekytoe crabcake. Stripsteak’s chef de cuisine and French Culinary Institute alum, Derrick Roberts, uses avocado, jalapeño, and cucumber to complement the crab’s luscious meat. The 35-year-old’s rendition is expertly spiced and delicious in its simplicity.
Conversely, the homemade cavatelli with duck, butternut squash, and trumpet mushrooms is far from al dente, and the dish itself is overly salty. It’s a shame because the main ingredients pair nicely and are quite tasty.
Chef Roberts is a Fontainebleau veteran. He has worked at all three restaurants that have filled this space — Gotham Steak, FB Steakhouse, and now Stripsteak, which opened this past November. The Oklahoma native says the meat program — from sourcing to dry-aging 80 percent of the meat in-house to cooking everything on a wood-burning grill — makes the restaurant unique.
There are also plenty of choices, especially for aficionados and/or those who think nothing of spending $150-plus on vino. For $35 per ounce, you can try the famous A5 Wagyu strip loin from Japan’s Miyazaki region. Miyazaki Wagyu is considered among the finest and most expensive beef from Japan. Alas, the price forced us to get our fix via the American versus Australian Wagyu entrée instead.
Representing the U.S. is a Wagyu rib cap, while the Wagyu from down under is a short rib that’s been braised and cooked sous vide for 14 hours. Between the protein lies a medley of parsnips, trumpet mushrooms, apples, and fresh horseradish. It added nothing to the forgettable dish our waiter so highly recommended. The fatty rib cap and short rib weren’t the scintillating, melt-in-your-mouth hunks of meat we so eagerly anticipated. In fact, the short rib was chewy despite its sous vide method of preparation. It was Wagyu, yes, but the taste was wimpy.
The restaurant’s bestseller is a classic eight-ounce filet mignon from Moyer Farms. It was all right but not nearly tender or juicy enough. For $46, one ought to be impressed, and such simply wasn’t the case on our visit. We devoured the lacinato kale salad with marcona almonds, cranberries, and sunchokes in a ginger vinaigrette with more enthusiasm than we had for the beef. Kudos for serving vibrant greens, but middling meat can’t be a good sign at a steak house.
Mina says he butter-poaches all of his steaks — a signature — and then slow-cooks them on the wood-fired grill. However, I could’ve sworn the filet I ate at Bourbon Steak last year was superior to Stripsteak’s.
Meanwhile, the “best whipped potato” failed to live up to its not-so-humble moniker. There was no trace of salt or anything worth getting excited about. Another beloved side dish, the twice-baked potato, was undercooked and so-so overall. Instead, try the addictive duck-fat truffle fries dusted with herbs and Parmesan. Another great meal accompaniment is the al dente broccolini lacquered in a piquillo pepper purée with a dash of lemon and salt.
For dessert, we ordered the hand-crafted chocolate doughnuts. Pastry chef Russell Karath delicately fries brioche as though it were a doughnut and fills the mounds with a smooth, delicately sweet chocolate cream filling. A little pot in the middle contains coffee-flavored crème anglaise for dipping, but the excellent dessert doesn’t need it.
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So, is the third time a charm for the beleaguered location? Depends upon whom you ask. Mina’s 20th eatery has received rave reviews thus far, and a survey of the bustling room and happy crowd suggests he has another hit on his hands. Perhaps they ordered the Miyazaki Wagyu.
The restaurateur says Stripsteak is committed to maintaining the fundamentals of a classic American steak house while striving to push the culinary limits and provide an innovative experience for diners. The restaurateur thinks steak houses have become increasingly chef-driven and focused on sourcing top-tier products. But while it’s clear that Stripsteak uses premier ingredients, meals here are neither innovative nor particularly chef-driven. Prices, however, are very high, even when you factor in the stellar service and sexy location.
Peekytoe crabcake $26
Yellowtail sashimi $22
Duck and ricotta cavatelli $22
Lacinato kale salad $14
American versus Australian Wagyu $65
Eight-ounce filet mignon $46
Best whipped potatoes $12
Salt baked potato $12
Duck-fat truffle fries $12
Hand-crafted chocolate doughnuts $13