Quality Affordable Cuisine From the Four Seasons Steak House? Who Knew?
One of two lamb chops on my plate at Edge Steak & Bar was overcooked; it was supposed to be medium-rare but was served medium. A side order of haricots verts with mixed mushrooms was bland and made with too many crushed walnuts. Minor errors like those usually aren't noteworthy when reviewing a restaurant. But those missteps were notable because they were the only kitchen miscues I saw at Edge. Everything else in every meal — from fresh slices of sourdough bread before dinner to beautifully crafted desserts — was prepared to near perfection. And that is an unusual occurrence indeed.
There is nothing out of the ordinary about Edge's dining room inside Miami's Four Seasons Hotel. It's handsome enough, tastefully dressed in shades of taupe and beige, but there is a hotel-dining-room cookie-cutter feel about it. Plus the music, including some incongruous disco, is played too loudly early in the evening. If the weather is worthy, consider dining on the lovely terrace. The 76-seat area is lush with greenery; romantic with twinkling lights, lanterns, and gauzy curtains; and covered by a trellised canopy with a retractable awning. Except for being seven stories above Biscayne Bay, it feels like summer in the Hamptons.
Executive chef Aaron Brooks is a native Australian who spent the past decade journeying through Four Seasons kitchens from Vancouver to Boston. Chef de cuisine James King likewise earned his chops at Four Seasons venues, as well as at the Seafood Bar at the Breakers in Palm Beach and Ocean Grill at Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The clean, bright cuisine at Edge should greatly hone the already keen careers of both.
East Coast oysters, jumbo shrimp, stone crab claws, and a lobster cocktail with key lime crème fraîche constitute the shortlist of raw bar selections, which are served in bowls of crushed ice or upon grander, multi-tiered displays. Other starter options encompass "creamless" creamed corn soup with Maine lobster and a trio of salads culled at least partly from local farms. "Appetizers" are limited to mussels with bacon and citrus; wahoo tiradito with fried olives and saffron vinaigrette; tender calamari rings simmered with chorizo in a cilantro-laced, salsa verde-spiked tomato sauce (don't miss it); and pork belly with a crisp cap caving in to soft, succulent shreds of intense Berkshire pork flavor.
Four tartares can be sampled individually ($10 to $13) or as a combo. Samplers such as those often tease the taste buds without satisfying them with enough of any single flavor profile. The quartet here comes amply portioned on four sectioned plates, each as creative as the next. Ahi tuna tickles the palate with pickled shallots, watermelon, and fresh mint. Scallops with Florida pomelo, crisp jícama sticks, and a bite of habanero taste scintillatingly tart. Corvina refreshes via strips of cucumber, green apple, and celery in a piquant aji amarillo sauce.
Edge's pricing makes it the haute hotel restaurant with a heart. The most expensive appetizer — including soups, salads, and tartares — is $13. The seafood and Creekstone Farms steaks are offered in small, medium, and large cuts, with prices to match. A six-ounce Black Angus filet mignon is $27; the same size Boston cut prime strip is only $20. A terrific "butcher's cut" filet, firmly textured and fully flavored, gets assertively seared on the 1,800-degree infrared grill. The rich, natural taste of the beef needs no enhancement, but diners can choose from a half-dozen sauces, including a malbec jus and a textbook béarnaise.
The only "large" steak is a humongous 24-ounce "tomahawk" with a behemoth bone that indeed resembles the namesake weapon ($45). My dinner guest and I plucked the Aussie double lamb chops from the medley of medium-size meats (a list that also includes a ten-ounce prime churrasco or slow-smoked pork ribs for $26 and a 12-ounce New York strip for $33). The one chop that was correctly cooked was luscious.
Seafoods are likewise portioned to please. Snapper and mahi-mahi, both fished from Florida waters, are available in five- or seven-ounce servings ($22 to $24 for the former, $26 to $30 for the latter). We hooked a nightly special of grilled Atlantic stone bass. Our selection of lemon parsley butter as the sauce proved amenable, but we couldn't resist slathering the fish with that beautiful Béarnaise.
The wine list is people-friendly too. About a hundred bottles are categorized by simple flavor profiles. Desserts by German pastry chef Marko Krancher keep the consistency rolling. A "chiboust" translates to a cylinder of chilled whipped lemon cream — sort of mousse-like — capped with bronzed meringue. Even better is a napoleon layered with seven types of chocolate, a bit of gianduja crunch, a wispy wafer on top, and homemade raspberry ice cream (made with dried raspberries) on the side.
Our waiter was otherwise knowledgeable about the food and professional in his manner, although the table wasn't cleaned between courses; dessert plates were placed upon dinner crumbs like frisbees on sand. You don't expect that at a Four Seasons property.
But you also don't expect a Four Seasons Hotel restaurant to be this accessible and affordable. Upscale hotel chefs often cite the constraints of having to provide meals that appeal to conservative families and business clientele in order to justify staid, unimaginative offerings. Chef Brooks's menu stands as a blueprint for how to produce brilliant, innovative fare that appeals to all tastes. The answer lies not in a liberal use of foie gras and truffle oil, nor in gimmickry or gargantuan servings. Quality food that looks and tastes great will fit most folks' bill, especially if it's fairly priced. That's what gives Brooks's place the edge over its competitors.
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