The big review: Manny's Steakhouse *½

 

The bull with giant cojones isn't the only offensive thing about this place.

 Manny's Steakhouse 2
A painting of a bull at Manny's Steakhouse welcomes customers at the entrance to the dining room. Photo: Alex Kolyer.
 

By Victoria Pesce Elliott

From the slick black vinyl booths and cow-skin-covered columns to the huge portrait of a bull with cajones the size of papayas, Downtown's newest meat palace, Mannys Steakhouse, is a temple of testosterone.

Having grown up in a clan of mostly men, I can eat meat with the best of them. With so many other choices in town, though, I am not sure Ill be doing it here again. Big personalities, big portions, big prices -- nothing is subtle here. Some might like the raucous atmosphere and frat-boy servers, but when I spend a C note on a meal, I like a little more elegance.

It's much calmer on the wide terrace from a seat at the bar, where a cute bartender and friendly customers keep up a lively conversation. The wines are mostly big, young, fruit-bomb American reds to go with all the flesh. By-the-glass options include just one domestic pinot noir and some South American value selections, and all are served as warm as cough syrup.

The food was somewhat uneven in quality and uniformly heavy and oversalted on a couple of visits. I took it on faith that there were oysters in the very cheesy Rockefeller preparation but adored a textbook Caesar salad with anchovies lounging across the crunchy romaine. Both were delicious in small doses; I could have shared and still been full.

On another visit, our burly waiter started off by arguing with my girlfriend about the virtues of corn-fed beef. Then he turned to me as he fondled a plump, over-sized lobster tail and announced that it was served "in honor of Jennifer Lopez." Get it?!

The retro-style raw-meat cart, along the lines of Mortons, would send vegetarians screaming out the door. Though Manny's makes a big deal about its Kansas City-sourced dry-aged beef, it's choice grade, not prime, at prices that dont reflect the downgrade. Neither will you find Wagyu, Kobe, grass-fed or otherwise woo-woo-style beef. This is old-fashioned decadence, right down to the feed-lot.

Cuts range from a petite filet mignon to a humongous, bone-in rib-eye known as "bludgeon of beef" that truly does resemble some kind of prehistoric weapon.

We chose a bone-in filet ordered medium-rare and were happy with the super-charred flesh and drippingly red center. The nice, fatty grain was meltingly rich and had a funky bite from the dry aging. Too bad it had been left to sit until cold before finding its way to our table.

Sides -- steakhouse classics like macaroni and cheese, French fries, fried onions, sautéed mushrooms and mashed potatoes -- hardly lighten things up. A peppery creamed spinach was more milky than creamy with more salt than garlic, but a hot, greasy disk of hash browns is worth a try.

I usually try to sample entrees for non-carnivores, but here it seemed beside the point. Choices like farm-raised salmon and over-fished Chilean sea bass and tuna did not entice.

The huge vegetable plate looked like something out of a punishing New Age spa: brownish, slightly steamed white mushrooms; barely cooked, cigar-sized asparagus; warmed-over red pepper slices and a whole, raw tomato that was more pink than red, all served with a pot of hollandaise sauce that did nothing to improve things.

When I complained to our waiter, he scolded us for not knowing better than to order a vegetable plate in a steak house. Indeed, I should have.

An achingly sweet mound of chocolate cake doused with Baileys Irish cream and whipped cream hardly made up for the gaffe.

I'm all for decadence, but I like mine with a little higher quality and a lot more class than I found here.

Manny's Steakhouse, 300 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-938-9000. Dinner only, beginning at 5:30 p.m. daily (private group lunch service available). Prices: Appetizers $12-$20, salads $9-$15, entrees $22-$45, sides $6-$12, desserts $7-$8

FYI: Full bar; corkage $25. Limited metered street parking; $5 valet. AX, DN, MC, VS.

Keywords:
Illustrations:
Captions: PHOTOS BY ALEX KOLYER/FOR THE MIAMI HERALD MIAMI: A cart loaded with meat and seafood travels from
table to table at Manny's Steakhouse so customers can choose their entree. Below, painting of a bull
welcomes customers to the restaurant.

CUTLINE FOR DADE EDITION

ALEX KOLYER/FOR THE MIAMI HERALD MIAMI: A cart loaded with meat and
seafood travels from table to table at Manny's Steakhouse so customers can choose their entree.

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