First Look: BLT

 

Fine dining returns to Ocean Drive at this upscale eatery with a Florida colonial vibe.

BLT food
Lo grilled spiny lobster at BLT
 

By Sara Liss

The goods: Yes, it's another steakhouse and yes, it is owned by a celebrity chef. But let's be honest here, weren't you just a wee bit excited when you learned that Laurent Tourondel, the one who put the “LT” in BLT was opening an outpost of his famed BLT empire in our humble city? With over a dozen restaurants to his name (eight of which are BLT Steaks) from New York to San Juan, the French chef and restaurateur has become a formidable figure on the culinary scene. He's chosen the revamped Betsy Hotel for this Miami outpost, combining a warm and inviting Florida colonial vibe with an upscale atmosphere. Located in the lobby of the hotel the restaurant is outfitted in blond wood tables, soft lighting and ultra-suede chairs. A large blackboard mural details explanations of cuts of meat from Kobe to USDA quality grading – in case you were curious. The outdoor patio offers al fresco seating far enough removed from the tacky hustle of the rest of Ocean Drive.

The grub: Classic steakhouse fare with French flair. The chef doesn't veer too far from the chophouse formula with typical meat/poultry/fish mains and a la carte sides. He does infuse the dishes with a touch of the culinary zeitgeist by including things like tuna tartare with soy-lime dressing and hamachi with hearts of palm and yuzu vinaigrette that offer a respite from the usual Caesar salad-shrimp cocktail starters. A daily blackboard special includes more nuanced creations like a foie gras terrine with blood orange marmalade and a halibut with artichokes and meyer lemon sauce. Prices seem to bypass the current economic zeitgeist with mains starting at about $30 for fish and climbing to $85 for a 40 oz. porterhouse for two. Starters are $10-$23 and sides are $8.

Dinner starts off with a slew of freebies sure to soften the blow of the final bill. Before you even order a mason jar of chicken liver crostini is served followed by fluffy popovers and their recipe (hint: lots of cream and Gruyère cheese) and a platter of soppresatta. Still hungry? Order the burrata salad if it's on special and follow that with either the American Wagyu or the lemon-rosemary chicken. Tourondel is an accomplished seafood chef so don't ignore the oceanic offerings  like grilled swordfish and Dover sole. The supporting list of sides nearly steal the show with a tower of beer-battered onion rings, creamed spinach in a light béchamel sauce, Parmesan gnocchi and a heaping bowl of sauteed hen of the woods mushrooms.

Save room for desserts like the peanut butter chocolate mousse, carrot cake with ginger ice cream or the crêpe soufflé with passion fruit sauce. There's also a generous cheese selection with Humboldt Fog goats milk, cow's milk brie and a sharp blue cheese.

Verdict: Fine dining has returned to Ocean Drive with this polished steakhouse.

BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Drive, (305) 673-0044; Breakfast: Monday - Friday: 7 a.m. - 11 a.m.; Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Sunday - Thursday: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m., Friday - Saturday: 5 p.m. - Midnight; Brunch: Saturday - Sunday: 7 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

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