Thursday, May 28, 2009

BLT Steak Miami @ The Betsy Hotel

American steakhouses are genereally stuffy, overly-masculine affairs. Interiors permeated by the smell of well-worn leather commingled with cigar smoke, filled with dark wood and waiters in black jackets. There's drama to it, and a certain old-school charm evocative of men doing what men do best: drinking vodka martinis and eating copious amounts of cow. 
But things have changed in the steakhouse world and BLT is an example of that. The dining room is light and airy, with blond wood tables, lots of potted plants and soft lighting provided by beige barrel shades. It all melds with the luxe-Caribbean vibe of The Betsy. Besides the massive chalkboard "mural" that lines one wall outlining definitions of different cuts of meat - everything from Wagyu to USDA -  there's really no indicator that you're in a steak restaurant. And that's refreshing. 
The lightness translates to the food as well. It helps that the chef - Laurent Tourondel - is French and is known for his flair for fish.  This BLT Steak is one of a dozen "BLT's" scattered across the country (the chef has an enviable restaurant empire to his name) and while it's definitely somewhat of a cookie-cutter menu, there's plenty to differentiate this spot from the plethora of steakhouses that have opened in the past year.

First off, the freebies are great and on par with the free duck fat fries you get to munch on while perusing the menu at Bourbon Steak. At BLT you're greeted with a small mason jar of silky chicken liver pate and slices of toasted baguette. It's a rustic and warm way to start the meal. Next you're presented with airy popovers and their recipe (lots of Gruyere cheese in there). Lastly, a plate of charcuterie may also grace your table and at this point you should be ready to order or you may as well down a glass of wine and call it a meal. 
Highlights include the tuna tartar (above), nestled on a bed of ice and nicely seasoned with a soy lime dressing. The Wagyu flat iron is served in a hot cast iron pan which makes it difficult to cut but also helps the meat keep warm. The best side dish was a heaping bowl hen of the woods mushrooms, chewy and flavorful with slight hints of garlic and rosemary. The tower of onion rings was disappointing, with flavorless batter that packed no crunch (too bad, too as I was really looking forward to those). The gnocchi were fuffy and enlivened by lots of grated parmesean but no real revealations there. 

For dessert you could go for the carrot cake with ginger ice cream or the peanut butter chocolate mousse, both are elegant takes on American classics. Or you could opt for a cheese plate of which there are some amazing selections from American cheese makers like Cowgirl Creamery in Nothern Cali and Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia. 

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