PM Buenos Aires Fish & Steak House: Grilled Steaks at High Prices in a Gorgeous, Bicultural Setting
There are steak houses, there are Argentine steak houses, and then there is PM Buenos Aires Fish & Steak House, an utter hybrid of the two. Diners are privy to provoleta and empanadas but can also opt for salmon tartare or carpaccio of smoked marlin. Ceviche and tirados are on the menu, and so is a tuna-watercress salad with soy vinaigrette. There are steaks and Wagyu steaks but no churrasco or entrada. Both Spanish and English are spoken by the staff and by most of the clientele. Bilingual, multicultural: PM Buenos Aires Fish & Steak House is, in other words, very Miami.
It is also a little Mexican. The owners are from Argentina, and PM stands for Puerto Madero, a port city in that country, but the company and most of its restaurants are located in Mexico. They can't be much more impressive-looking than this one, which is arguably the most beautiful steak house in town. (The build-out alone is rumored to have cost around $2 million.) The exterior of the restaurant, tucked into the One Broadway complex on South Miami Avenue, is fortified with the same imposing red brick that composes the soaring walls inside. Industrial elements and large, colorful photos of its namesake Argentine city break up the brick interior, as does an open kitchen with grills blanketed by sizzling meats. The dining space is divided into separate rooms that work in cahoots with giant wood ceiling beams and strategically placed oversized mirrors to lend 202-seat arena an even grander aura. Add in the acoustics and kinetics of a packed house and a nattily uniformed staff surging through the aisles and dinner becomes a notable night out.
What distinguishes PM from other lavish locales is the largely local and Latin American clientele from the surrounding Brickell area. During lunch, the room bustles with a business crowd, but at night, it feels almost like a neighborhood restaurant — just monumentally larger in size, scope, and price.
A basket of bread, sliced and in sticks, gives diners something to chew on while perusing the somewhat confusing menu. For instance, after looking over the list of starters on the left page and at entrée options such as pastas, steaks, and seafood in the central section, you might consider yourself ready to order. Not so fast. A flap that folds over the opposite page features "The Chef's Whims," with additional appetizers such as tirados, tuna rolls, and king crab tempura — and extra main courses too. You won't need a Navajo decoder to get by, but be ready for a little extra effort.
We began with a couple of "Argentine turnovers" culled from the shortlist of hot starters. Spiced meat and black cod were our choices of filler, but the latter got lost in the hustle and never arrived. The meat empanada was delicious, its tasty chopped beef encased in light, flaky dough with a thin, wonton-like crust that formed tiny blisters when fried.
A more substantial appetizer brings a garlic-accented stew of shrimp and octopus simmered with potatoes, peppers, and onions in olive oil. You might consider splitting this one — it's quite hefty as a prelude to the sizable portions to come.
Lighter choices abound by way of carpaccio, sashimi, ceviche, tirados, tartare, and raw-bar items; all but one are seafood-based. We sampled the exception, veal carpaccio alla Parmesan, which features pounded wisps of red meat drizzled with a criolla sauce of peppers, tomato, olive oil, and vinegar.
Chocolata clams are among the raw-bar selections, but the description of them being "alive and giant" had me looking for other options. I don't mind my clams being alive or giant, but both attributes together sound like a potential threat.
We enjoyed a Madero medley of mixed greens tossed with avocado, tomato, palm hearts, mushrooms, and goat cheese in a creamy dressing. Other salads globetrot from caesar to Roquefort to a Buenos Aires potpourri of shrimp, lettuce, and anchovy-accented mayonnaise.
No Argentine restaurant would neglect to proffer pasta dishes. The half-dozen items here include spaghettini Pomodoro, spaghetti with clams, eggplant lasagna, and lush fettuccine noodles cooked just right and bathed in a sumptuous, meaty ragout (known in Italy as Bolognese sauce).
The modest roster of meats is composed of skirt steak, tenderloin, rib steak (most in the $40 range), and a trio of cuts meant to be shared: rib eye, rib chop, and porterhouse for two. The range for all is $28 to $84. Wagyu choices are tenderloin, New York strip, and hamburger ($66, $68, and $25). We went for the only budget item, a 14-ounce skirt steak that was exceedingly juicy and exuded a pleasantly smoky flavor from the grill's charcoal.
A bouquetière of asparagus and carrots accompanies it and other main courses. So does chimichurri, and if the quality of such is a gauge of gaucho cred, PM passes muster; too often, garlic overwhelms the herbs, but not in this rendition.
Grilled "lamb chops" brings a hefty half-rack of meat, with roast-like tenderness in the cool center — too cool in our case, because we'd requested medium-rare. Still, the flavor-packed lamb was delicious, which is more than I can say for the stiff, bland, seemingly dairy-free mashed potatoes. Brown gravy helped but only in the minor way a glass of water might aid a person dying of hunger.
PM represents the antithesis of hunger: Portions tend toward the gargantuan, as evidenced by the big fat square of Alaskan black cod served with a sprinkling of hazelnut crumbs, fried capers, and a light lemon-butter sauce. The sweet, semitranslucent flakes of this fish are naturally moist and luscious, so the accompaniments are aptly delicate (nonsteak entrées run $18 to $50).
Souffléd potatoes are a house specialty. Making a classic pommes soufflé involves paring potatoes into neat rectangles, slicing the rectangles into thin slices on a mandolin, blanching the slices in 325-degree oil, frying a second time in 375-degree oil, and salting and serving the potatoes immediately. The desired result is crystalline-crisp pillows of potato puffed by steam — dainty, refined, special. Those three words should never be used in the same sentence as PM's soft, lukewarm, unevenly shaped potato puffs. Our waiter plugged the Provençale version (which also comes with cream cheese) and seemed mildly distraught that we wanted the plain variety. In retrospect, I understand why.
For dessert, chocolate "soufflé" brings a well-executed version of the flourless chocolate lava cake created by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and imitated so many times since. Diners can also cap dinner in Buenos Aires fashion via a Pavlova of meringue garnished with fresh fruits and white chocolate shavings.
Our waiter was a pro, and we were taken care of in competent fashion. There were, however, too many mistakes: Dishes never arrived, meats were served at the wrong temperatures, and we were overcharged for items. Plus there's a real problem with getting food and drinks to diners in a timely manner. I'm not sure if more personnel are needed in the kitchen and dining room or just faster personnel, but there is far too much waiting around; sometimes it feels as though you won't get served at PM until the a.m.
Speaking of getting overbilled: When we received our check, it included a $37 charge for our $27 skirt steak. It turns out prices had been hiked, but the menu we were given didn't reflect the changes. Emails from management concerning pricing suggested it was still being worked out; an employee told me over the phone that the skirt steak was $28 and that prices hadn't been raised as far as she knew.
Our tab that evening was adjusted to $27, but that's not really fixing things. The overall high pricing puts the restaurant in league with the finest steak houses in town. PM is gorgeous and offers formal-style service and upscale cuisine, but it can afford comparisons to Miami's best steak houses the same way working-class diners can afford $40 steaks.
Printed at the bottom of the check: "Thank you!! Gracias!!"
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