Hotel Astor Debuts the Downstairs

It seems nothing is ever easy in the wild 'n' wacky world of Miami restaurants. Just ask the folks at Hotel Astor.

As part of a three-pronged relaunch that seeks to regain the buzz it had in days gone by, the 1936 vintage South Beach boutique hotel last Friday unveiled the Downstairs, a subterranean restaurant/bar/lounge promising "fine American dining with a European flair," cheffed by former DeVito South Beach and Vic & Angelo's toque Chad Ford.

That didn't last long. By Monday, Ford was gone, "taking [his] career in a different direction." Which, by the way, was all the way to Key West, where he signed on with a southernmost restaurant to be named later.

So now the job of fulfilling the "fine American dining with a European flair" promise falls to former sous-chef Carlos Neverez, an alum of Peter Luger and Blue Water Grill in NYC and Hotel Victor and our old pal DeVito South Beach. Neverez says his cooking style is "a mix of old-school and new-school cuisines, classic and fun, combining and showcasing the freshest seasonal ingredients."

Though the chef is different, the Downstairs menu remains the same, with riffs on culinary classics such as poutine short-rib tater tots, lobster consomme with seafood dumpling and gold leaf, lamb loin Wellington with mushroom duxelle, roast beet-salmon gravlax with pumpernickel bread and coarse-grain mustard, and banana rum cake with pistachio biscotti and marshmallow puff.

There's also a bar menu, featuring everything from chili dog sliders to barbecue deviled eggs to pork tacos and designed to play well with an extensive craft beer selection, including brews from local sudsmeisters Funky Buddha and Cigar City.

Orson Design Group designed the look, which features a 75-seat dining space plus bar and lounge areas with linen banquettes, whitewashed wood, communal tables, a leather-topped bar, and even bookshelves packed with real books -- you know, those things made of cardboard and paper that were popular sometime in the Pleistocene Epoch.

After dinner, the lounge will throb with a variety of musical acts, from DJs to live music, curated by Winter Music Conference cofounder Bill Kelly. An "eclectic selection of talent" is promised, along with themed events such as Throwback Thursdays, Musical Mondays, and Open Turntable Nights.

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