There are usually some clear signs when a restaurant is on a roll. Lots of busy signals for the reservations phone number. A crowd around the maître d'. An overwhelmed valet parking business, with the Ferraris, Porsches and Rolls-Royces lined up in the prime spaces outside the front entrance. Some restaurants would be happy with any one of those three scenarios. The Forge, in Miami Beach, often faces all of them on the same night.
With good reason. Recently named one of Wine Spectator's top steak houses in America, The Forge combines extraordinary aged beef with one of the largest wine lists in the world. On top of that, the restaurant recently opened the Cuba Club next door, an upscale cigar room with a members-only humidor room, and a full-service bar and restaurant open to the public.
At The Forge, red meat dominates the menu. You can feast on prime rib, sirloin, "Super Steak" (a New York strip), Porterhouse (a 48-ounce behemoth for $68.95) and filet mignon as well as the requisite lamb, buffalo and venison. Unlike many steakhouses, however, the Forge prides itself on its non-meat offerings; you can choose from a full range of fish, including Florida snapper, tuna, Gulf shrimp and lobster. Chicken and duck dishes are available, too. In addition, The Forge's appetizers set it even further apart from most steakhouses. Everything from Forge's house salad to the jumbo stone crabs (in season) are prepared well and worth the extra calories. Desserts are steakhouse appropriate, too: the signature soufflé of chocolate and Grand Marnier requires 30 minutes to prepare, so order it early; but don't overlook the chocolate velvet cupcake or The Forge's Blacksmith Pie, a concoction of chocolate chip crust with a dark chocolate filling.
The wine list is almost too much to handle. If you ask to see the reserve list, which has long been a winner of Wine Spectator's Grand Award, get ready to spend your entire evening trying to make up your mind. Suffice it to say that the Bordeaux section, which runs 41 pages, includes every major first growth from every major vintage back to the turn of the century--and then some. For instance, if you want a bottle of the 1822 Lafite Rothschild, a mere $75,000 will have it on your table. Of course, there are many more affordable wines from Burgundy, Alsace, the Rhône, Germany, Italy and a section on California wines running more than 50 pages.
If you're looking for one of the most extraordinary "scenes" anywhere in the world, check out The Forge on Wednesday nights. The restaurant becomes a stop on the South Beach party whirlwind, even though it normally stays 40 blocks to the south. Masterminded by Shareef Malnik, The Forge's owner and son of the founder, Alvin Malnik, the evening goes by the name Models' Night, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that almost every pretty face in Miami puts in an appearance at one point during the evening. And you can still get a great meal.
There's also the Cuba Club. The cozy annex, located behind an anodized metal door down the block from the restaurant's main entrance, houses a beautiful temperature- and humidity-controlled humidor room, which is reserved for members. There's also a full-service restaurant, with a different menu than The Forge, featuring traditional French cuisine. Non-members are welcome in the bar and the restaurant, with reservations. The club has one of the most outrageously gaudy, yet appropriate, bars on the East Coast. The gold leaf and dark wood combine to create a turn-of-the-century elegance with a hip 1990s atmosphere, with the energetic P.J. behind the bar and a pool table off to one side. Maître d' Roger Bouillon keeps a humidor with a full line of Davidoff cigars available for customers.
In short, The Forge offers more than just a steakhouse experience. It has become the quintessential restaurant for the millennium, offering great food, wonderful people-watching and the ideal location to sit back, light up and enjoy a great smoke.
432 Arthur Godfrey Road
Dinner: $60 per person, without wine