A New, Brighter Forge
by Victoria Pesce Elliott
The dining room was designed in collaboration with Francois Frossard.
The Forge built its reputation as a steakhouse at a time when there weren’t many others on the Beach. And though the restaurant has always been known as glamorous, food was not necessarily its high point.
That reputation began to change when Malnik began to serve a fantastic 16-ounce New York strip “Super Steak.” It garnered accolades as the number-one steak in America from Wine Spectator in 1996, and is still on the menu for $52 (other entrées are priced between $16 and $39). Also still available are the Giant U2 shrimp cocktail, flashy raw-bar sampler tower, crab cakes, Maine lobster, lobster bisque and chopped salad.
For more than two decades, The Forge retained the same chef, Kal Abdalla, who created many of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Finding the right fit after he left proved difficult.
Ultimately, Malnik grilled 172 toques—feeling “like a Top Chef judge,” he says—before selecting Miami’s own Dewey LoSasso. It was perfect timing for the chef, who had just closed his North One 10 restaurant in North Miami. A Jersey boy who had helmed Micky Wolfson’s Foundlings Club in the 1980s as well as Tuscan Steak, LoSasso says he really gets Malnik’s vision of maintaining classics while lightening things up.
His quirky brand of cooking (he used local sea grapes to make pepper jelly and cooked with mango-tree trunks after Hurricane Wilma) incorporates local ingredients in playful ways. “It’s now the kind of place where you can come in and share a snack while you read through the menu, order a couple of pastas and then have a steak if you want,” says LoSasso. “You don’t have to have a full-blown meal. There really is something for every kind of diner.”
That means—in addition to five kinds of grilled meat—there will be a lobster peanut butter and jelly sandwich, smoked-salmon croquettes with hot guava sauce, oyster po’ boys, a short-rib-topped burger with pomegranate ketchup, sesame seared tuna with chile-lime sauce, prawn waffles with grilled carambolas, and crispy soba-wrapped shrimp. More healthful sides—including quinoa pancakes, farro risotto, braised endive, red lentils, kale polenta, sautéed spinach, and fava beans with wasabi caviar—join the regular baked potato and duck fries.
“They may be old-fashioned, but the soufflés had to stay,” says Malnik. Updated flavors such as hazelnut, s’more, apple-cinnamon and pistachio are thanks to pastry chef Malka Espinel.
Malnik does acknowledge wistfully, “I had to let the French onion soup go. I felt like it was holding us back.”
So will The Forge still attract the bejeweled babes and Dom Pérignon-guzzling celebrities? No more parties, says Malnik: “I’ve done that. I used to say that fun and fine dining were not mutually exclusive, but I’ve done a 180-degree turn. I don’t want to be in the nightclub business anymore.”
His goal, he says, is simple: “We’re just trying to drop a lot of the pomp and circumstance, get rid of the pretentiousness. I just want to create a neighborhood bar and restaurant.”
PHOTOS BY Greg Clark; SETH BROWARNIK (KARDASHIAN, STONE, MCCONAUGHEY)