Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth's Sarsaparilla Club Opens at the Shelborne

During this past weekend's South Beach Wine & Food Festival, chefs Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis leaked the fact that their new South Beach restaurant, the Sarsaparilla Club, has soft-opened.

The restaurant, located inside the Shelborne Wyndham Grand, officially opens today. The American dim sum concept marks the return of the Top Chef alumni to Miami Beach. 

The couple, who met while working together at Gigi and again at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, will spend time in New York and Miami. McInnis likens the return to Miami to riding a roller coaster. "We're excited, scared, and happy all at the same time." The two are now doubling down on Miami, with plans to also open a seafood concept in Sunset Harbour.

Booth and McInnis left Miami to open Root & Bone, a small restaurant located in New York City's Alphabet City neighborhood. The restaurant's featured dish is tea-brined fried chicken, which Eater New York deemed, "Manhattan's best new fried chicken."
Although that iteration of the Southern classic won't fly south, Sarsaparilla Club will feature another bird. Sarasaparilla's fried chicken — green curry fried chicken with kaffir lime powder, coriander, and toasted coconut ($23) — will be offered.

McInnis says that although the flavor profiles are different, his fried chicken technique remains the same. "Ever since I first perfected my award-winning fried chicken, I've stuck to my guns and my techniques."

First and foremost, the chef sources free-range chicken from Central Florida for the Miami restaurant and from Amish country in Pennsylvania for Root & Bone. Next, he brines the chicken for a day. Then McInnis seasons the chicken "properly, without overdoing it." Finally, the key, he says, is to cut the fat, meaning add some form of acid or balancing agent.

"Here art Sarsaparilla, we've changed the flavor profiles and ingredients. At Root & Bone, it's a sweet tea brine; at Sarsaparilla, it's a green curry lemongrass brine. At Root & Bone, we finish the chicken with a lemon powder; at Sarsaparilla, we finish the chicken with a kaffir lime powder."

The restaurant's menu is global, taking playful turns with American comfort food. Booth says the kitchen will be "a platform for both of us to experiment and create new takes on American classics while paying respect to culture and traditions."
In addition to the fried chicken, other dishes include short-rib meat loaf with rendang curry, pickled chilies, lemongrass, kaffir lime, and jasmine rice ($28); rock shrimp laksa with coconut tumeric broth, tofu, egg noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro, and lime ($25); and a really big steak on a plate — a 24-ounce cowboy rib eye with Sarsaparilla steak sauce and sautéed local roots ($67).
Vegetarians will have plenty of options. A vegetable-forward menu of medium plates includes grilled graffiti eggplant with black garlic aioli, tarragon, basil, and pine nuts ($12); sweet corn grits with green onion and arugula marscapone ($12); charred bok choy with pickled chilies and a ginger miso broth ($13); and "Roots & Soil," a garden of baby heirlooms with pumpernickel soil and yuzu creme ($13). 
Dim sum items include drunken deviled eggs with pickled roots and sunchoke chips ($6); pork belly bacon steamed buns ($8); a beet-and-short-rib dumpling ($3.50); and carrot-and-beet tartare, a colorful dish previewed at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival event Lucky Chopsticks. 

The Sarsaparilla Club is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 6 to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday. 
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss