Formerly a front-of-hotel bar that played sidekick to the Asian-inspired Lantao Kitchen, which has since closed, the Social Club is now on the main stage. "Lantao was great, but it was really specific," says executive chef Doug Sisk, who recently joined the Social Club team and led the menu revamp. "This front space is now really the main focus."
The Social Club's position at the front of the hotel, along with an outdoor terrace on Collins Avenue will give the operation more of a street presence.
Short Order was invited to check out Social Club's snazzy updates, so we're here to report back to you on the trendy atmosphere imparted by the Deco design, and the tasty new eats.
Chef Sisk said the idea was to come up with a fun menu with quality food: "I have a lot of experience in the Caribbean, in Jamaica and the Bahamas. I was a member of Jamaica's National Culinary Team. So that experience in the Caribbean, along with South American influences, meant I could do something recognizable and regionally inspired."
"Social plates" are a focus of the menu, which has a Floribbean feel and features small dishes and sharable, chilled seafood dishes. And now that Social Club's seating has gone from a couple of couches to tables and chairs, there's more space for everyone to enjoy.
We tried the Key West Rock Bass Ceviche ($10) -- prepared Peruvian-style with chunks of sweet potato -- and Bahamian Conch Tacos ($12). Wonton taco shells (gluten-free eaters can be accommodated with lettuce wraps) hold the conch, bell pepper, and avocado filling in place. And they're served atop adorable wedged lime taco holders -- an idea that's worth stealing next time you host a dinner party.
Both of those chilled plates are only $6 during Happy Hour, along with other bar bites, wines, and craft beers that are discounted from 5 to 7 p.m. And until 9 p.m., "Punch the Clock" Happy Hour means you can drink Pisco punch for the price of the hour (i.e. $5 at 5 p.m., $6 at 6 p.m. and so on).
Most interesting dish we tried: Seared Ahi Tuna. Creamy corn custard, sweet and smoky jalapeño jam, and a red pepper cooler were whimsical complements in aesthetics and in flavor. But most noticeable about the plate is the thick cuts of tuna, which are nothing like the typical slivers of yellowfin that would be served anywhere else.
Biggest surprise: Yuca fries served in a stack like Jenga pieces and topped with a garlicky cilantro sauce. Frying yuca sometimes ends up drying it out, but these fries were perfectly crisp on the outside and still unbelievably melt-in-your mouth on the inside. They accompanied the Cuban Sandwich, a classic that is a sin to mess with, and the most true-to-tradition dish we tried. The only tweak was one for the better. Miriam Bakery supplies the Cuban bread, which makes it thinner than your usual puffy version. The bread is rubbed with chorizo butter, and the flatter sandwich makes the roasted pork and ham more noticeable.
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Choose from a handful of "sweet endings," for which Chef Sisk promises some seasonal changes. Right now, the frozen mango mousse ($9) is an ideal light treat for the summertime. It's topped with fresh strawberry slices and accompanied by a satin chocolate sauce that really is the surprising star of the plate.
With the bar program still led by "bar chef" Chad Phillips (so called because he takes a culinary approach to mixology), cocktails like the savory New Cuban -- made with rum, vanilla syrup, lime, mint, bitters, and egg white -- will continue to bring in people looking for a unique drink on South Beach, in a place that was made (or re-launched) for prime-time socializing. And Social Club's updated eclectic décor -- from the bubble lights over the bar to the bright kitschy chairs paired with comfy couches -- is the conversation starter, if not conversation prolonger, that will keep guests hanging around.