Born and raised on a farm in the Transvaal Province of South Africa, Big Easy Winebar & Grill (Brickell City Centre, 701 S. Miami Ave., Miami) executive chef Maryna Frederiksen has fond memories of her father raising cattle and sheep for the country’s minister and eating vegetables fresh from her family’s garden.
Today, Frederiksen is living her dream through a concept that combines two of her favorite things: authentic South African comfort food influenced by Indian, Malaysian, and European cultures, married with a touch of spicy Nuevo Latino taste, an homage to her new home in Miami.
Last month, Coconut Grove-based Grove Bay Hospitality Group unveiled Big Easy Winebar & Grill by Ernie Els, a project in partnership with the nationally renowned golfer-turned-winemaker who has been affectionately called "the Big Easy" for his stature and gentle disposition. The concept's grand opening signals Grove Bay’s leap to downtown Miami following the 2016 debut of chef Giorgio Rapicavoli's Glass & Vine in Coconut Grove.
With cuisine influenced by Dutch, Indian, and English cultures, the Big Easy menu highlights prime cuts of meat and seafood, much of it sourced directly from the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans. To pay homage to it all, Frederiksen's menu ranges from small plates dubbed "Tid Bits" ($6 to $9) and sharing plates "For the Table" ($10 to $26) to a section naming some of Els' favorite dishes.
You'll also get a taste of South Africa in your glass. The region is perhaps best known for its wines, and Big Easy features a number of unique vintages, from hand-selected labels to a number of award-winning blends from Els’ own vineyards.
Here's a look at four dishes from Big Easy's opening menu:
Dry-Aged Tomahawk Steak
When it comes to food, South Africa is famous for its braai (or barbecue), typically enjoyed and shared at social gatherings. With the "From the Grill" ($34 to $110) section, guests can get a taste of the real thing with the chef's prime dry-aged Kansas City strip, bison rib eye, and, for the ultimate sharing experience, the Big Easy braai — a mixed-grill feast that serves two to four guests and comes with South African farmers' sausage, a 12-ounce top sirloin, double lamb chops, and Nigerian prawns (plus a choice of two sides).
Cape Malay Seafood Pot
Big Easy isn't just about the meat, though. Frederiksen also offers classic dishes "From the Sea" ($29 to $46), reminiscent of the South Atlantic’s freshest catches. That includes a platter of grilled Nigerian prawns seasoned with garlic butter and house-made peri-peri chili sauce, and the Cape Malay seafood pot (pictured above) with the day's fresh catch, PEI mussels, and Nigerian prawns simmered in a coconut-curry broth.
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Vegan Toasted Couscous Risotto
Els’ comfort-food go-to's are listed under "Ernie’s Favorites" ($16 to $35). Options include "angry duck curry" (duck breast, red Madras curry, and basmati rice) and "Durban bunny chow" (slow-roasted lamb shank served in an artisan bread bowl). The chef has her own favorites too, found under "Chef’s Selections" ($24 to $42). Here, Frederiksen’s top pick at the moment: a vegan dish of toasted couscous and risotto seasoned with baby shiitake mushrooms, butternut squash, kale, and a Parmesan-thyme cream sauce.
South African-inspired shareable plates include peri-peri chicken, prepared with an African chili sauce. It's one of many signature sauces and butters made in-house daily to pair with (and elevate) any cut of meat. That includes the Madagascar pepper sauce and braai barbecue sauce, or butters such as "Miami Spice," infused with citrus, cumin, and ancho chili; "Malaysia Spice," with fennel, ginger, and mustard; and "Durban Spice," with annatto, jaggery cane sugar, and turmeric.