The big review: Red the Steakhouse **

The dining room of Red, The Steak House in Miami Beach.

Miami has made room for its fair share of culinary clones from New York, Las Vegas, L.A. and New Orleans. But Cleveland? We’ll see. Red The Steakhouse has exported its big, brash, Cuyahoga County brand to South Beach, where it joins another half-dozen meat emporiums.

The 700-bottle wine list, mostly from this decade, holds two nice surprises: Prices are below the gouging range and by-the-glass are served at proper temperature. A tire rim-sized platter of heavily breaded and spiced calamari never seemed to shrink. Likewise, greasy tater tots proved the fry cook needs more training. An onion soup with a gunky cheese topping and a salad of heirloom tomato with stringy mozzarella lack authenticity.

Executive chef Peter Vauthy’s prime meats, including a mammoth porterhouse and petite filet mignon, are the stars of the show. The bone-in New York strip arrived minus the tasty bone, but was well-marbled, expertly seared, judiciously seasoned and delightfully tender. Also impressive is a simple, juicy Ashley Farms double chicken breast loaded with fresh herbs and seared until the skin is as blistered as a careless tourist.

Pastas are another story. I ordered the insanely priced bucatini and meatballs ($27) for one of my daughters because the waiter insisted the kitchen would not serve a half-portion. Three huge, chewy meatballs were juicy enough but loaded with enough dry oregano to choke a cat. The “red lead” sauce was the sweet, chunky, Italian-American variety. A similar experience some weeks later yielded an equally obscene portion of so-called carbonara pasta (really more like Alfredo). The thick, creamy sauce bore no resemblance to the eggy original, nor did the generic peas and meaty tail-on shrimp.

I have to admit that the trenne, a triangular penne-like pasta, was delicious if slightly over-cooked, and the huge hunks of chewy pancetta brought the dish together in a decadent way. Shrimp de Jonghe is another mislabeled though delicious entree. The classic, named for a 1920s Chicago hotel, is a casserole of shelled shrimp topped with toasty, sherry-spiked bread crumbs. Here, 10 butterflied shrimp arrive with loads of fresh herbs but no hint of bread or sherry.

Desserts include molten chocolate cake, white chocolate soup with coconut sorbet, a crème brulée trio and frozen Meyer lemon soufflé. But it is the hot, puffy doughnut holes the size of cupcakes dusted with powdered sugar and served with caramel, chocolate and strawberry dipping sauces that make for a decadent ending to a meal that ultimately feels more gluttonous than gourmet.

Red The Steakhouse, 119 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-3688. 5:30 p.m.-midnight Sun-Thurs, until 1 a.m. Fri-Sat. Appetizers $14-$16, salads $9-$10, pastas $26-$32, sides $8-$15, steaks $36-$89, seafood and chicken $25-$100, desserts and cheeses $9-$16

FYI: Full bar; corkage $25. Valet parking $10-$15. AX, DN, DS, MC, VS.

Published: 2/09


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