Oysters with white soy and dehydrated tangerines
In my next life, I’d like to be reborn as Michael Mina. Actually, scratch that. I’d prefer to be Michael Mina now. The chef-owner, who leads the Mina Group, has 24 eateries under his care, a collection that has garnered him awards that include the 2013 induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. With his latest launch of Stripsteak at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, it’s clear he’s perfected the art of resort dining—which means that he pleases all comers, all the time, no matter the day of the week, week of the month or month of the year.
Feeding the frequenters of resort accommodations is an art that one must continually hone to get right and keep getting right day in, day out. Mina has, does and, as far as I can tell, will continue to do so. He places most of his restaurants in luxe hotels and high-traffic buildings. He researches local products to bring to the table and changes the menus seasonally. He tailors food and cocktail lists, as well as decor, to reflect the rich histories—or bright futures—of the locales. And he hires executive chefs also experienced in heading up resort restaurants, such as Stripseak’s Derrick Roberts, whose résumé includes stints at high-end, tropical five-star outposts such as The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas and Hawaii’s Hualalai Resort.
Mina’s third restaurant in Miami, Stripsteak, a sibling to the eatery by the same name in Las Vegas, debuted almost a year to the day after Michael Mina 74 (which is also located in the Fontainebleau) was introduced to the dining public. Unlike Michael Mina 74, however, to which you must descend a staircase to reach, Stripsteak is immediately accessible. A two-story, indoor-outdoor restaurant that can seat up to 340, this 12,000-square-foot behemoth is actually cozier than it sounds, thanks to the rotunda design with the bar as centerpiece, a back wall of wine and a ceiling of art deco, geometric graduations. With textile tones of caramel, butterscotch and burnt umber, it reminds me of nothing more than a giant creme brulee sitting in a white ramekin.
That metaphor is apt, considering that the fare here, whether savory or sweet, is the sinful equivalent of a glorious dessert. You can dare to be on a diet walking in, but you will surely break it within seconds of being seated and the quartet of poppy seed-studded Parker house rolls, injected with liquified truffle butter, hits the table. The restaurant is essentially a steakhouse, with its requisite selection of Moyer Farms Angus, American and Australian wagyu and Japanese Mizayaki (A4 and A5) steaks to be charred to your preferred temperature on the wood-burning grill. There’s also a small selection of fish and shellfish for cooking a la plancha—local grouper, scallops, king salmon—as well as accompaniments ranging from smoked blue cheese to stone crab Oscar to add on. No matter the cut or country, the beef is all of outstanding quality, and if you can’t decide just which steak to order, take a stab at the American VS Australian wagyu main course, which allows you to adjudicate a juicy rib cap against succulent short rib. I call it a tie, given that the two preparations are so different, and secondary flavors of freshly grated horseradish, parsnip mash, trumpet mushroom and honey crisp apple also come into play. It’s certainly a fun way to taste-test wagyu-bred beef and see if you can actually tell the difference between countries of origin.
As stellar as its cuts are, “steakhouse” barely begins to define the Stripsteak experience. Personally, I have found that even the seared tuna, the sushi-quality freshness of which is complemented by a healthy wedge of sizzling foie gras, can be just as supple and filling as any of the chops. Plated over a crisp potato cake with rolls of compressed spinach leaves, chopped maitake mushrooms and a pinot noir sauce, the tuna-foie may sound like an odd combination, but the textural interplay is an inviting proposition that makes you want to repeat the experience.
Foie gras plays several roles in this menu. It has its own starring turn in an appetizer, paired with a miso-cocoa macaroon, but it also more subtly shines in the prime steak tartare. For this dish, it’s poached in port, diced and mixed in with the beef, which is molded and served with a raw quail egg and lotus chips. It’s a simple but effective approach, the port-soaked foie adding a hint of sweetness and depth.
Duck is also difficult to avoid, especially if you love it as much as I do. It’s used both for its rendered fat for the truffled, herbed and Parmesan-infused french fries, which fans of Bourbon Steak (Mina’s Aventura eatery) already know are excellent, and for its meat, which is pulled off the bone and tossed with pan-sauteed ricotta cavatelli, black trumpet mushrooms, cubes of butternut squash and a unifying flurry of Parmesan.
Likewise, Maine lobster is a lauded ingredient, given just due on its own in the Ice Cold Shellfish and Caviar section, and also as a butter-poached diva over a vanilla crepe with a sweet corn filling. Accented with a kaffir-scented Thai curry sauce, the lobster meat contrasts beautifully with sections of raw cauliflower that are shaved on a mandolin.
If you’re sticking to New Year’s diet resolutions, begin with the oysters, which are Beausoleils on the half shell, sourced from the icy oceans off the coast of New Brunswick, squirted with soy and topped with dehydrated tangerines. These are clean, gently farmed mollusks, ideal for those more timid raw-oyster eaters who prefer less-briny varieties. Then follow it up with the yellowtail snapper, a perfectly seared, skin-on fillet dressed with pickled and skinned grape tomatoes, quartered artichoke hearts, white beans and shaved fennel.
All that means to me, of course, is that if you follow this route, you get to splurge on dessert. Most folks adore Pastry Chef Russell Karath’s Valrhona Caraibe Chocolate Bar, which is a gorgeously layered concoction that alternates luscious chocolate with creamy, whipped peanut butter and is topped with salted caramel ice cream. I prefer the honey crisp apple and cranberry cobbler, which not only has the sweet-tart aspect that I favor in my desserts, but big, luscious, buttery streusel crumbs on top that remind me of my grandmother’s best baked goods. Or, if you like to go full circle with your metaphors, you can finish with the pumpkin-flavored brulee, spooning up the spiced Chantilly cream and cranberry sorbet on top while you contemplate the resemblance between your dessert and the restaurant’s interior.
If I were ever lucky enough to wake up one day as Michael Mina, though, I would make a tiny improvement here. The Fontainebleau is a mighty expansive place, and the rooms are awfully far from the restaurant. Given the food coma this fare puts you in immediately, I think some tableside cots might be in order. And maybe even some pillows.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.674.4780
Raw bar, $18-$295; appetizers, $16-$36; salads, $14-$17; entrees, $32-$65; grill and a la plancha dishes, $25-$150; sides, $9; desserts, $12-$16
Dinner: Sun.-Thu., 6-11pm; Fri.-Sat., 6pm-midnight