City Hall, the planned Biscayne Boulevard restaurant, missed its April opening date. Driving by yesterday, we saw a light on...so we parked the car and walked over to find the doors locked but none other than owner Steve Haas behind the bar. We knocked and he answered. We started with the big question - when are you opening? "In two weeks", he answered proudly and asked if we wanted a tour.
Prepare to be transported to New York City circa 1935. The focal point in the main dining room is the City Hall mural, an homage to the artwork found in the halls of Gotham City gems like Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. The room includes dark espresso furnishings with burgundy leather on the wall and banquettes. The New York theme continues with a series of stained glass depictions of Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building, and other iconic reminders of New York's more masculine and industrial vision of Art Deco, in contrast to Miami's ice-cream colored designs.
Haas has spared no expense ("Don't remind me", he quipped). A balcony dining area was installed, as was a state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with pizza oven and second full station to be used solely for private parties in either the balcony area or the private 40-seat dining room, so regular kitchen flow doesn't get interrupted.
Haas even showed us the restrooms, complete with octagon black and white tile, popular in New York bathrooms of the era.
When asked about staff, he said that Tom Azar, former chef de cuisine at Emeril's, would take the helm, but some staff has already turned over. He gave us a preview of the menu, in which you can get everything from confit duck and wild mushroom pizza ($12) to a Maine lobster, scallop and shrimp pot pie ($24). Prices are in line with other Miami bistros, with a dinner entree averaging around $20 and lunch options around $15.
Haas wants City Hall to be a "locals" restaurant. The neighborhood boasts Cite and a group of other luxury apartments, condominiums and hotels, but few really good neighborhood dining spots within walkable distance, so City Hall seems poised to fill an immediate need.
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Haas also plans to take advantage of his proximity to both the Arsht Center and the American Airlines Arena by keeping the kitchen open 45 minutes after the end of the game or show, no matter what time that may be.
Like a proud papa, Haas showed us the special 150-inch screen that will only be put into play during Heat games (we're assuming that rule will be broken for other major sporting events like the Super Bowl), as well as the ironwork on the railings and the lighting fixtures.
Assuming the same care and attention to detail is taken with the food, we're looking forward to eating here. After all, if "you can't fight City Hall," you might as well enjoy it.