Restaurant Reviews

Against the Odds, a Peruvian Steakhouse in Pinecrest Is Bringing All the Diners to Suburbia

Chef/co-owner Fernando Salazar and business partner Andres Maremolejos opened Platea Miami in Pinecrest.
Chef/co-owner Fernando Salazar and business partner Andres Maremolejos opened Platea Miami in Pinecrest. Platea Miami photo
Meat lovers in Miami have no doubt dined in steakhouses with all kinds of ethnic inflections: American, Japanese, Italian, French, Argentine, Brazilian, and kosher. This city’s steakhouses reflect the diversity of our communities. But unless you’ve trekked to (or live in) the Village of Pinecrest, you probably haven’t had dinner in a Peruvian steakhouse.

That’s because Platea Miami’s chef/co-owner Fernando Salazar and his business partner, Andres Maremolejos, are fairly confident that their year-old concept is the only one that exists. Not just here in Miami, but in the United States and South America.

In fact, they visited 48 states (except North and South Dakota) and various South American countries to find out. “There were two things in my mind when we set out to do this,” Salazar says. “Either somebody did it, and it failed. Or this is a great opportunity, and no one has done it before.”

Regardless, the novelty of their idea didn’t garner them a quick lease in Wynwood or Brickell the way they thought it would. Though Maremolejos is from Pinecrest, and Salazar grew up nearby in West Kendall, the pair had initially envisioned a more tourist-trod sector of the city for their business. “We tried everywhere from the Brightline station to places in North Miami Beach,” Salazar says about their search for a home. “But we were against all the odds. No one wanted to believe in us except ourselves, my grandma, my business partner’s wife, and our sommelier.”

Apparently, their ages plus the pandemic proved detrimental to prospective stakeholders. They were 28 (Salazar) and 29 (Maremolejos) when they started looking for a brick-and-mortar location in 2020 among staff and supply chain shortages. “They thought we were crazy to want to do a high-end concept at that moment and being as young as we are. They thought we wouldn’t be able to communicate with older clientele. And they said a Peruvian steakhouse doesn’t make any sense,” Salazar says. “It only made us more motivated. We thought, maybe we’re onto something that could change the steakhouse game.”

While searching for a permanent restaurant spot, Salazar kept busy with his Ceviche Bowl food truck. As if by fate, a customer at the truck fell in love with the fare. He turned out to be a property owner and offered Salazar a lease on the space where Platea would wind up.
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Platea Miami offers "Vineyard Wednesdays," when wines are 25-50% off and raw oysters are $3.
Platea Miami
It's not a stretch to say that those who turned them away lost out on more than tostones with Wagyu picanha saltado and inventive pisco-based cocktails. Not only is the menu at Platea Miami unique with its Peruvian articulations, but it's also elegant and egalitarian, with dishes ranging from foie gras dressed with orange passion fruit aji amarillo and balsamic pearls to pan-seared sea bass plated with tomato ragu, brown butter, and lemon foam. This is the type of perfectly prepared, just-right riskiness that draws Michelin attention.

Salazar and Maremolejos, along with their multilingual, Romanian-born sommelier Chip Iacob (43), quickly realized that they had lucked out. A couple of the locales they'd coveted have now fizzled out. Had they leased any of them, Salazar says frankly, "We wouldn't have hit our numbers. We probably would have been dead in the water."

Instead, opening in their familiar community gave them more leeway than they'd imagined. For one thing, neighbors have more self-interest than tourists; they truly want an excellent restaurant in their midst. And they root for the success of their own. So while the partners had the same kinds of growing pains as their counterparts — a severe lack of staff and rapidly rising food costs, coupled with unpredictable shortages — the slower pace of the suburbs allowed the gregarious Salazar to engage with his customers, many of whom he now calls his "regulars and locals."

It certainly helps that Maremolejos is also in the meat distribution/butcher business. That gives Platea Miami an edge over other steakhouses from the get, allowing them to offer prices for their USDA Prime steaks — what Salazar calls "the perfect mix of flavor and tenderness" — at a much more reasonable cost than many others around town.

This isn't just a guess, either. Salazar assesses his competition by dining at other steakhouses in town and checking in on meat prices with restaurant suppliers. "A porterhouse from Sysco would be $100, and I sell mine for $85," he says. This means he's selling his steak for less than what his counterparts are buying wholesale. Theirs then typically run the customer more than $200, according to the restaurateur.

Then there's Platea Miami's consistently sold-out "Tomahawk Tuesdays," a terrifically tasty deal. For $150, two people enjoy a three-course meal with a sliced 64-ounce USDA Prime tomahawk steak, signature salad, side dish, and dessert. Salazar says he recently ate a 52-ounce tomahawk at a brand-new competitor and paid $450 for just the steak alone. "How many people can pay that? How can you afford wine and more consistently after that?" he asks.

This doesn't mean that Platea Miami's tomahawk, sourced from packing houses in the Northwest and Midwest, is of lesser quality. It does mean that Salazar and his partners are willing to bring in a reduced profit but achieve greater loyalty from repeat clientele rather than soak a one-time guest with an exorbitantly priced meal. "We hold this operation to the highest standard. We're not the cheapest, and we're not the most expensive. We're fair because we take care of every single element," he says. "We invest in our team. We do this with intention."
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Platea Miami brings an elegant dining experience to the Village of Pinecrest.
Platea Miami photo
Salazar enjoys entertaining so much that he deliberately designed the restaurant after his living room with velvet and leather textiles and a living plant wall. He has an affinity for the '80s and plays a soundtrack that makes him feel like he's "being paid to play," but which also relates well to folks of all ages.

And despite what landlords thought, Salazar certainly does know how to chat with an older crowd. Or any crowd for that matter, even a group of Texans who recently stopped in on their holiday because they'd heard about Platea Miami. "They were real cowboys with hats and boots. They didn't know ceviche and lomo saltado and aji panca. But they knew their meat and were like, 'We're here to judge you for real.' I expect that kind of test. And at the end, they said this was the best they ever had," Salazar says.

Platea Miami offers other deals on different nights. Wine enthusiasts should check out "Vineyard Wednesdays," when you can drink select wines for 25 to 50 percent off and slurp down $3 oysters. Live music fans will want to congregate on Thursdays for entertainment, along with a curated selection of steaks.

But you don't have to wait for a special to enjoy Salazar's creativity and become one of Platea Miami's believers. In a city where a meal for two can run you $1,000 and taste like something you can make at home, Platea Miami stands out as a steakhouse that has changed the stakes.

Platea Miami. 12175 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest; 305-964-5108; plateamiami.com. Tuesday to Saturday 6 to 10 p.m.
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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick

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