By Victoria Pesce Elliott
My husband has an expression: ''Bad service makes good food taste bad." Believe me, we employ it often when discussing Miami's dining scene but never has it held more sadly true than in the case of our two recent meals at the nearly 3-month-old Gotham Steak at the Fontainebleau.
At both meals, we watched as nearby guests at nearby tables munched on steamy golden popovers served in elegant little silver pots. Even after asking our waiter and a busboy, we waited almost an hour for our divinely crusty rolls to arrive with their tab of sweet truffle butter. And they were cold.
Large tables of drunken, name-tagged guys monopolized the attention of the clueless waiters on one visit. And on both, most of the staff's English was sub-par. Still, it was an arrogant young sommelier who made our last meal there surreal. We flagged him down for help negotiating the 500-bottle list with an eye to finding a good value under 50 bucks. Instead he sneered, stepped back as if we suddenly stank and spat, "You're on a
buh-jet?" In the end, he steered us to a Sicilian Nero'dAvola $10 above our limit.
Starters include a full complement of flashy raw bar items as well as petite Asian-inspired fish specialties. Pristine red snapper ceviche with bright flavors of pineapple, mango, jicama and chile as well as hamachi sashimi are welcome light starters in a steakhouse.
The house salad with hearts of palm, radicchio and frissee had a bitter, aged edge. Still, there is nary a piece of local produce or seafood in sight save some pricey stone crabs and heirloom tomatoes.
A decadent $38 lobster and crab cake is loaded with springy, fresh seafood in a creamy base but seemed oddly under-seasoned even with its foamy topping of Old Bay spice. Likewise, the wild mushroom spaghetti amounted to six forkfuls of fused strands in a watery, truffle-scented broth with a sprinkling of sautéed shiitake and white mushrooms.
The main courses, when they finally arrived, were fine but not overwhelming. A $75, 8-ounce Australian Wagyu strip steak is -- like all the meat here -- emphatically seasoned with a heavy hide of salty spice that made for dramatically blackened edges bursting with bright magenta juices and marbled like the Taj Mahal. It is, unfortunately, served sliced, so I enjoyed only a few bites before it was cold. The prime New York strip we had on another night was better, though a trio of extraneous dipping sauces included a vinegary tomato concoction that our waiter described as "like Heinz 57."
A gorgeously composed miso-marinated cod could have starred on the cover of a food magazine. It was served over a tangle of bok choy in a sweetish ginger and lemongrass soy preparation, but had a disconcertingly mushy texture. A rather common piece of salmon was deftly seared to create a luscious crust but failed to impress.
Desserts, comped on the night of our Godot-like wait, included a signature Gotham warm flourless chocolate cake with a sidecar of supremely cinnamony ice cream and a densely rich cheesecake with ground pistachios and a berry puree. Fried mint leaf garnish was a treat one night and distinctly rancid on another.
The snarky GM would not back up his waiter, who offered to comp much of our meal, and had only glib apologies for our four-hour debacle.
A lukewarm cup of coffee tasted as if it had been made hours before and left a bitter taste in my mouth, much like the restaurant itself.
Gotham Steak, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-4780. 6-11 p.m. Mon-Thurs, 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri & Sat. Appetizers $15-$34, entrees $28-$110, sides $10-$15, desserts $12
FYI: Full bar; corkage $35. Valet parking $10 with validation. AX, DN, DS, MC, VS.
Eaten here? Leave a review!