Archive for May, 2010
The Miami Herald
BY LESLEY ABRAVANEL
Seen dining at The Forge Restaurant’s Wine Bar on Friday night, HGTV’s Color Splash host David Bromstad, in a party of four. According to our source, he was there to get inspiration for a future home project.
NCIS star Cote de Pablo was seen Saturday at Acqualina Resort & Spa, where she was indulging in treatments at the ESPA along with her dad, who also got pampered as an early Father’s Day gift.
Danity Kane’s Aubrey O’Day gave the crowd a little more than they bargained for on Friday at Mansion, where she debuted her brand new burlesque performance. Dressed in a revealing mini, O’Day flashed her panties to the crowd a couple of times throughout the performance, drawing whistles, among other things, from the men in the audience. Later, O’Day was seen relaxing in the VIP area, sipping champagne and chatting with her backup dancers.
Eva Longoria and hubby Tony Parker celebrated Parker’s birthday at STK Miami over the weekend with friends including former NBA star Scottie Pippen and his wife, Larsa (who is a cast member of Bravo’s new Miami-based reality show, Miami Social Club). The couples mingled with former MLB star Mike Piazza and wife Alicia. After blowing out the candles, Parker and company
Hello Girls. Please join New Line Cinema and HBO along with The Forge at The Official Sex and the City 2 “Gathering” at The Forge, Thursday May 27 and Friday May 28. Chef Dewey LoSasso has created a special four course dinner for $65 per/person* and our mixologist Andres Aleman will have a complimentary version of his “SEX COSMO” ready for your arrival. Topic of discussion: The Girls of course! Why is Carrie using an HP? Glam Miranda? Good Charlotte? Samantha in Dubai…
Dinner Reservations 305 538 8533 or Meet you at the bar
THE FORGE RESTAURANT /WINE BAR 432 Forty-First Street Miami Beach
*$65 4 Course Menu does not include tax and gratuity
Hotel Online | News for the Hospitality Executive
Owner Shareef Malnik Tries to Blend 40 Year History with a New Vision for the Future
By Elaine Walker, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
When The Forge closed its doors almost a year ago, many speculated that the Miami Beach landmark was yet another restaurant casualty of the recession.
The gossip made owner Shareef Malnik laugh because he knew better.
“I loved that talk,” Malnik said. “Let them be surprised. It’s a much more effective marketing tool. I knew that it was always going to play in my favor when I reopened.”
That day arrives Wednesday, when Malnik will unveil the results of a multi-million renovation that completely transforms the more than 40-year-old restaurant. Everything has changed, from the menu and the chef to the décor and even the building’s exterior.
Also gone are the nightclub and the famous Wednesday night parties that helped herald South Beach’s revival.
You’ll still find a few traces of The Forge’s past, like the crystal chandeliers and stained-glass windows.
Malnik has tried to blend the history with a new vision for the future.
“I built this for the next 40 years,” said Malnik, whose father first purchased The Forge in 1969 (Al Malnik) and ran it until 1991 when the son took over. “I don’t need to get all my money back this year. I built it for the long term.”
While The Forge remains an upscale fine-dining restaurant, Malnik has lowered prices and broadened the menu. He wants The Forge to be a place where diners come for more than just a celebration dinner or a big expense account meal.
The hope is that customers will also choose The Forge to meet a friend for a glass of wine and a snack after work or a casual weeknight dinner.
The Forge is not alone. Locally, Chef Allen’s has reinvented itself, as have countless other fine-dining restaurants across the country. Experts say it’s critical in an economy where consumer spending is down and competition is keen—particularly in prime markets like Miami Beach.
“High-end restaurants are trying to reduce the cost of a visit to encourage more visits, so people don’t trade down,” said Richard Lackey, a Palm Beach Gardens-based restaurant broker and consultant. “People are eating out less, so incentives for return visits are key.”
Malnik decided to take advantage of last year’s slowdown in business and reinvest for the future. He originally planned to be open in time for the busy winter season, but later realized those were “unrealistic expectations.”
The new environment is designed to be more comfortable for guests. The number of seats has been reduced by 40 percent, adding more couches and oversized wing chairs. Every piece of furniture was custom-made or designed, including tables made of trees from Indonesia and Murano glass chandeliers from Italy.
“We didn’t design a restaurant; we designed a space,” Malnik said. “Before it was all about excess. Now it’s all about access. It’s much more familiar. That’s the feeling we’re trying to engender.”
Gone is the tuxedo-clad staff, replaced by a uniform featuring black stand-up collar shirts with a prominent white F on the cuff. The menu no longer focuses on traditional fare such as steak and creamed spinach. While the steaks remain, chef Dewey LoSasso offers choices that are lighter and more eclectic.
There’s a lobster peanut butter and jelly sandwich ($15), tomato and goat cheese brulee salad ($16) or a grilled Angus burger topped with boneless short ribs and lobster marmalade ($20). Entrees range from $15 to $55, including a grilled whole Branzino fish in wild mushroom miso broth ($39).
The average per-person check will be $80, down from $120, Malnik estimates.
Malnik also has integrated new technology throughout the restaurant. He can view the restaurant’s lighting and music on his iPhone and adjust the levels from anywhere. Six different satellites can pipe in music from radio stations around the world.
The restaurant features 10 self-service wine machines and 80 wines, allowing customers to buy 1 ounce, 3 ounces or 5 ounces. They can use an iTouch to access information about each wine, post a toast on Facebook or Twitter and create a virtual wine locker to save their favorites on the own iPhone.
“For us, the bad economy gave me a new breath of life,” Malnik said. “The brand has got so much goodwill, I would be foolish to not come back. But it had to be a business model that makes sense.”
LUNCH WITH LYDIA – Miami Herald
In the 1990s, at the height of the post-renaissance party on Miami Beach, long before the market crashed and the real-estate free-for-all reached judgment day, the crowd at The Forge guzzled $700 bottles of bubbly as if it were tap water. Tap water was an indignity. The Bentleys, Ferraris and Lambos double-parked at the valet line told the story:
Excess was king. And the hedge-fund-slash-real-estate slicksters, so long as they were buying, were rock stars who always got the girls. No one dared cast stones at anyone else’s hustle.
But the storied, blissfully overwrought steak house on Arthur Godfrey Road, which, during its 41 years has enjoyed more than one heyday and survived more than one slump, was grinding down again when owner Shareef Malnik closed it for renovation in April 2009.
“The real estate guys, the venture capitalists . . . most of them were gone,” Malnik says on the night in late March when The Forge, sporting a $10-million renovation designed to update the place while toning things down to meet a more decorous 2010, opened with little fanfare but a full house.
Among the mucketies present: Mel Dick, head of Southern Wine & Spirits; German developer Thomas Kramer; high-powered trial lawyer Jim Ferraro; music executive Charlie Walk.
“We could have done one more red-carpet party to reopen,” says Malnik, a globe-trotting playboy when his dad Al handed him the keys in 1991 after a fire had forced the place to close. “We’re experts at red-carpet parties. But that’s not where my head is anymore. And that’s not the direction of the restaurant anymore. We did a 180-degree turn.”
The Forge, stuffed with antiques, oil paintings, Tiffany glass, murals and all manner of rococo-ish touches, dressed its waiters like penguins and sent out steaks and lobsters under giant silver domes. Iceberg wedges were the way to start, and creamed spinach was the side dish of choice. The cool kids who ran off the blue-hair set in the early 1990s didn’t seem to mind that the place was stuck in a time warp — or get the fun irony they helped create once a DJ started cranking club tunes loud enough to make the notorious walls shake.
THE RAT PACK
Once a hangout for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, not to forget the wiseguy contingent, and in the 1980s something of a clubhouse for cocaine cowboys (upstanding types have always liked to live large there, too), The Forge, with all its dimly lit gaudiness, became a hipster hangout again. Ground Zero for Madonna and Stallone and company; the B list would loiter at the velvet ropes for hours, begging to be let in to blow a mortgage payment on champagne and shrimp cocktail.
This is, after all, the place where, in 2005, local girl Amber Ridinger celebrated a bat mitzvah with performances by Ja Rule and Ashanti that set her parents back $500,000. The eighth-grader wore a $27,000 Dolce & Gabbana gown.
“The world is different today,” says Malnik, who can barely get out a sentence before another Forge regular comes to his table to offer air kisses and congratulations. “By the time we closed last year, just about everything on the Beach was slowing down. We were slowing down. When you’re running an ongoing business, and you’re stuck in something that you want to change, you don’t know how to get out of it. But when you close, and you wipe the slate clean, you get a chance to rethink everything and create a place that will be here another 20 years.”
Not that the new Forge has returned modest and low key. The place is still lavish with its new trippy Murano glass chandeliers; ash-wood wall coverings with elaborate millwork; black-lacquer this and stainless-steel that, plus a “glass bubble wall” before which waiters decant fancy wines and the private, class-encased “board room” where big spenders will dine around a massive wooden table so heavy 20 guys had to carry it in. Surrounding it are 11 giant wing-back chairs that could be mistaken for thrones.
But that $700 bottle of Cristal? It sells for $294 now. Perrier Jouet Grand Brut is a merciful $65 a bottle. It used to go for closer to $200.
“By and large, nobody is spending that much money on a bottle anymore. The guys who were showing off at $700 before are still showing off. But they’re doing it at $300 a bottle now. And we have eight beers on tap now. I never realized I like beer so much,” says Malnik, 52, who, like his restaurant, has mellowed a good deal in recent years.
THE PARTY’S OVER
For one thing, he decided not to reopen Glass, the adjacent nightclub that kept him in party mode well past 4 a.m. most days. Also gone: the Wednesday night dinner party. Or any other kind of blowout.
“The Wednesday night party went on for 17 years, and it made a few million dollars in revenue every year. It was always slammed. But in a way, it revolved around me. And I don’t need anything to revolve around me anymore. I had to be here, and I had to be part of the party,” says Malnik, who orders a bunch of items from the new menu for you to taste but touches nothing but Evian.
“I’m not saying I didn’t have fun. But there comes a point when you say, `I can’t do this every night. I can’t drink every night.’ ”
You’d never guess unless you interacted with him, but Malnik is a relatively understated, easy-going guy. He’s into martial arts. And spirituality. He had a feng shui master give The Forge a once-over after renovations were completed.
“She walked through every single room with these little rods that detect energy and said the energy was great now, just off the hook,” Malnik says. “It’s very open now. There’s better light. Everything is new, and there’s no old smoke clinging to anything. But, beyond that, I do believe energy exists in everything. Can you imagine all the energy that was here? This place was ready to blow. All the stories. The love and the hate that had been absorbed into the walls and the air-conditioning vents. It’s all new now.”
Like his father (“the most important person in my life”), who had alleged ties to mobster Meyer Lansky, the younger Malnik won’t talk about the gangster days. He also won’t dispute that a bunch of colorful characters have come through The Forge over the years.
“If you’re a popular restaurant, everybody is going to hang out. It’s never been a gangster hangout, but we’ve had our share of them coming through the door. We didn’t market for that demographic. All kinds of people come here. I’m not going to microanalyze the integrity of every character who comes here, including the priests, rabbis and politicians. Even O.J. Simpson came in here. I’m not his biggest fan, but I’m not gonna tell somebody they can’t come into the restaurant.”
In fact, The Forge is all about inclusion these days, Malnik says.
“We still have our wine cellar, and you can come here and spend thousands on an amazing bottle of wine. But you can also come here and have a glass of Charles Lafitte champagne for $7 a glass. I don’t want to be just for an upper-crust crowd anymore. I’m not saying there’s going to a lower-class crowd here now. But, yes, we want the more money-conscious to come. And everybody is money conscious now.”
In The Forge’s kitchen today is Dewey Losasso, a founding member of the 1980s-era Mango Gang of South Florida chefs who got inventive with tropicals. More recently he ran North One 10 on Biscayne Boulevard. And while he kept some of The Forge’s signatures, such as chopped salad ($13) and oak-grilled “Super Steak” ($52), he revamped the general concept to focus more on locally grown produce and lighter, more modern fare. Among the new dishes: a lobster, peanut-butter and onion-jelly sandwich ($15); a “Burger and Bordeaux” of Angus sirloin topped with boneless short ribs and lobster marmalade and served with a side of truffled fries and a tasting of Bordeaux wine ($20); kale and spaghetti ($19); steamed snapper in a bag with veggies ($24).
“I’ve always had a higher culinary ambition for The Forge than it being just a steak house,” Malnik says. “So I’m very happy about our new direction. But The Forge will still be more than just a dining experience. People will come and hang out at the new bar. There will be that great Forge energy. Just no more over-the-top partying. That’s just passé.”
The Forge re-opened in April 2010 so I was anxious to check out the new menu as well as the Enomatic Wine Dispensers in the bar. As we were waiting for our party to arrive, the W and I sat at the bar. The first thing I noticed were the Enomatic Wine Dispensers that allow you to sample a lineup of 72 different wines. The friendly bartender set us up with a Wine Dispenser card and before I knew, the W was off for her private demo on using the self serve wine dispensers. The self-service Enomatic Dispensers allow you to select 1 oz, 3 oz or 5 oz glasses of wine. There are shelves of wine glasses which make it easy for you easily move to your second or third glass of wine. There is even are a number of Apple iTouches with the Forge Wine Application providing you with a description of the wine.
Meanwhile, I chilled at the bar and sampled one of their 8 draft beers. When our party arrived, our hostess found us at the bar and came to seat us. The waiter explained that they could serve us 5 oz wines form the Dispensers or were were free to get up and get our own from the Dispensers with the Wine Card.
The W and I started that night with the Cesar Salad and it went well with the very large basket of bread. We followed it with Cheese and Bread for Two and the Porcini Seared Driver Sea Scallops (delicious). I sampled a Lobster Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich from a member of my party (one of the most unusual appetizers I have ever had). For a main course, the 3 Mushroom Risotto (best dish that night), the Bone In Fillet (very tender) and Duck Fries (just okay). For dessert, our party shared a Smores Souffle.
After dinner, we migrated to the Library with the stained glass and boxes which is the part of the Old Forge I remember. As we were hanging out the library, we were asked of we wanted a tour of their wine cellar and private dining room. Shortly thereafter, we were walking amidst 300K bottles of wines; an office desk centuries old once owned by Napolean; a gated wine cellar that contains a $160K bottle of wine and a very private dining room that was simply museum like.
A very nice dining experience with some great friends!
There is valet parking and free street parking since the meters in this section of Miami beach ends at 6pm.
Do something different this year and head down to Miami Beach and have dinner with Mom at the newly reopened Forge Restaurant and Wine Bar.
When a significant other tells you they want to “take a break,” that usually means they’re gone for good. About a year a go, The Forge Restaurant on Miami Beach closed its doors forever and no one really knew why. They said it was just to revamp the place, but most suspected the restaurant was another victim of the bad economy.
How nice it is to be wrong.
Miami legend Shareef Malnik reopened the doors of the famed restaurant and wine bar this week to great reviews. The 40-year-old Forge has had a total facelift, transforming everything from the decor to the exterior of the building. One change that we can definitely stand behind: their new chef.
Executive chef Dewey LoSasso has been brought in to go with the flow of change and completely turn up the heat on The Forge’s menu. The award-winning chef sat down with us to tell us exactly what we can expect from the new hot spot, and what it’s like to cook for Donatella Versace.
If you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which ones are you most proud of?
Florida Snapper in a Bag.
We know The Forge just reopened, but what do you think will be the most popular item on the menu?
Lobster peanut butter and jelly.
How would you describe Miami’s dining scene now compared to when you arrived in the ’80s?
In the ’80s , you needed to really search out great restaurants. Now, it has exploded. Also, in the late ’80s I tried my hand at farming with Micky Wolfson – now , the farming industry is amazing.
You spent a few summers in the kitchen on the Jersey shore. We have to know, what are your thoughts on the show?
Never saw it, actually. But, going to high school down there was way fun.
You were once Donatella Versace’s personal chef. What were a few things she loved for you to cook up?
Chicken cutlet sandwiches to go for the beach, local fish.
What can we expect from the NEW Forge?
Local ingredient focus with a farm and ocean to table attitude. I am expanding on their heritage of taking care of the guest and their employees.
At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
13 years old – I was a dishwasher, part of my job was to peel two quarts of garlic a day. I would take the garlic home with me, then I would have more time to help and watch the cooks.
The 5 ingredients every kitchen should have?
Good sound system during prep
Great Tuscan Olive Oil
The 5 utensils every kitchen should have?
Tasting spoons (to taste the food!)
First dish you learned to make?
Favorite dish to make at home?
Roast Chicken with herbs and lemon.
Favorite food-related memory?
Playing with pizza dough, next to my dad, when I was 7. He was making dinner for 30 people in our second kitchen.