Originally Written for Destination Luxury, July 2017
Dating back to the 1920s, The Forge Restaurant & Wine Bar is a Miami Beach institution. Having welcomed the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy garland and more recently Justin Bieber through its doors, there is no question of The Forge’s credentials as a luxury dining venue. In 2015, owner Shareef Malnik appointed celebrated Chef Julia Doyne to lead the dining operations in the role of Executive Chef, bringing modern techniques and flavours to the established American Steakhouse genre.
A Cleveland native, Chef Doyne began her culinary career at the age of 5, learning to cook with her mother at home in the family kitchen. First setting foot in a professional kitchen at the age of 13 as a dishwasher, Chef Doyne’s culinary career blossomed at the University of Pittsburgh before moving to New York City to continue her training under some of the finest chefs in the country. Having built a long and successful working relationship with celebrated Chef Christopher Lee in New York, she followed him to The Forge as Chef de Cuisine before being promoted to Executive Chef in 2015.
Since assuming ultimate control over the culinary operations at The Forge, Chef Doyne has been quick to put her personal touch on the menu, which has long been celebrated for its Steakhouse Classics. According to owner Shareef Malnik, “Her dishes are thoughtful in presentation and offer bold flavours and masterful presentations that are influenced by her passion, precision and technique.”
Similar words could be used to describe the interior of The Forge, which is a seamless blend of traditional and modernist features. Having undergone a number of changes over the years, the most significant refurbishment took place in 2009 when the restaurant was closed for a year to allow for a $10 million regeneration. Lead by renowned interior designer Francoise Fossard, The Forge was reborn with a modern décor, ambience and philosophy. Hand carved wooden wall panels, Murano glass chandeliers and colourful upholstered furniture are plentiful throughout the main dining room. For private dining, the glass-enclosed ‘Board Room’ features a 22-foot long tables carved from a single, polished Indonesian tree trunk. For a more traditional feel, one can dine in the ‘Library’ room with its stained glass, light wooden furniture, open fire and extensive selection of books adorning the high walls.
The trademark design feature of the new-look Forge, however, is the labyrinth-like wine cellar which also boasts its own private dining room for up to 25 guests. With over 25,000 bottles of wine stored in this cavernous site, the Wine Cellar at The Forge is one of the largest collections of fine wine in the country. The list features exceptional vintages dating back to 1822, as well as over 60 wines available by the glass, dispensed and preserved using state-of-the-art technology. Upon our visit, we were fortunate enough to be given a private tour of the extensive cellars by Dean, one of The Forge’s many wine experts. The sheer size and complexity of the operation is staggering, and the tour was a definite highlight of our visit and an experience which should not be missed.
Having taken our seats in the wonderfully light and airy main dining room, we were taken on a journey of gastronomic delights as Chef Doyne introduced us to the dishes which she has personally hand-crafted for the menu at The Forge. To start, I opted for the Artichoke Ravioli, served with crispy pancetta, brown butter and pine nut biscotti. The balance of textures was outstanding and the freshness of the artichoke sang through the rich butter sauce. My partner’s Crispy Crab Cake was wonderfully light and worked perfectly with the smoked remoulade. A burst of fresh acidity was delivered masterfully through the addition of fresh green apples and pickled fresnos.
As would be expected from an American Steakhouse, The Forge features an extensive selection of cuts ranging from Japanese A5 Wagyu through to a mammoth 35oz, bone in dry aged Porterhouse for two. Add to the mix a number of creative spice rubs and a plethora of sauces and butters, and it’s clear that the emphasis on delivering world-class grilled meats lives on at the heart of the kitchen.
To complement this excellent selection of steaks, Chef Doyne has added two composed entrees of her own creation which elevates the menu well beyond that of a typical steakhouse. A tableside classic, the 2 Pound Lobster Pot Pie with root vegetables was both hearty and refined. The generous chunks of succulent Lobster were coated in an indulgent sauce and topped with rich, buttery pastry, whilst the sweetness of the root vegetables complemented that of the lobster meat superbly. My partner’s whole Salt Baked Branzino was perfectly light and delicate, and was supported by a wonderful warmth from the smoked paprika vinaigrette.
As far as side dishes are concerned, a number of classics have been given the chef’s twist, such as the Haricot Vert which are delicately seasoned with Szechuan chilli sauce and sesame seeds. The Creamed Spinach is adorned with a soft poached hens egg and parmesan cheese for richness; Cauliflower with English cheddar is a classic reborn through the inspired addition of capers for acidity. For the ultimate indulgent side, it’s hard to resist the house special of Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Confit Duck and verjus raisins.
To round off such an indulgent meal, it would have been amiss of me not to sample Chef Doyne’s signature sign off: ‘The Forge Dome’. Rich chocolate cake, homemade banana bread ice cream, vanilla infused walnuts and pineapple sauce come together in a satisfying blend of old school flavours and modern culinary technique. Served under shiny dome of chocolate, the hot sauce is poured over the top of the dome at the table, thus melting the chocolate and revealing the delights within. Being renowned as a venue at which to celebrate special events and milestones, the ‘off the menu’ Birthday Cake Soufflé is a testament to the skills of the kitchen team and a desert fit to mark any special occasion.
As The Forge approaches the 100 year anniversary of its original inception, it is comforting to know that the dynamic team of Malnik & Doyne are at the helm. Together, there is little doubt that their respect for the traditional values, yet forward-looking approach will continue to keep The Forge at the very forefront of the American Steakhouse genre for the indefinite future. Here’s to the next 100 years.