May 24, 2017
By Carla Torres | April 12, 2017 | Food & Drink
Grove Bay Hospitality joins forces with golf icon Ernie Els to bring South African cuisine and the Big Easy to Brickell City Centre.
Chef’s selection: Peri-peri chicken with duck-fat-roasted fingerling potatoes at The Big Easy.
South African pro golfer Ernie Els is easy to love—hence his nickname “The Big Easy”—due to his imposing physical stature and fluid swing. So when the former world number one-turned-winemaker-turned-restaurateur launched his first wine bar and grill, The Big Easy was a natural moniker choice, especially given that it, too, is easy to love.
After all, what is there to dislike about pork belly popsicles doused in South African mango braai (barbecue) sauce and jalapeño jam “cowboy candy,” fried green tomatoes crowned with tomato chutney and fried morsels of more pork belly and bacon jam, or a four-hour-braised lamb shank served in a bread bowl? “That dish has rich history dating back to the 1960s, when Bunny Chow [a South African street rice bowl commonly made with beans and chicken] was the standard blue-collar lunch for South Africans,” says Executive Chef Maryna Frederiksen, reflecting on her own heritage. “We have elevated the bowl with a lamb shank and bread. A lot of love and work goes into it.”
Prior to landing in the kitchen at The Big Easy—which boasts two locations in South Africa, one in Dubai, and the newly opened spot in Miami, with another soon to come in Malaysia—Frederiksen honed her culinary skills all across the globe, from Switzerland to San Francisco to South Africa and even Walt Disney World. But the chef feels most at home when she’s cooking the food she grew up eating, giving it her own unique and flavorful spin. Think an amalgamation of Malaysian, Indian, and European cultures with a dash of Nuevo Latino peppered in.
The dining room is at once casual and cosmopolitan, reflecting The Big Easy’s worldly menu.
This being The Big Easy’s debut in the Western Hemisphere, Grove Bay Hospitality (the group behind Glass & Vine and Stiltsville Fish Bar), Ernie Els, and chef Frederiksen wanted to make the menu appropriate for Miami. What better than chili-coffee-rubbed pork flatbread topped with seasonal apples?
“South Africa is the Texas of Africa. They like to shoot things, barbecue, and drink a lot of wine,” Frederiksen laughs. But it’s not all barbecue and wine— though the grill offers plenty of cuts, from prime dry-aged Kansas City strip and bison rib eye to the mother of all steaks, a 40-ounce dry-aged tomahawk chop, while an extensive wine list features multi-award-winning blends from Els’s own vineyard. There’s also a bounty of seafood: African spice-crusted corvina served over risotto verde; grilled Nigerian prawns doused in garlic butter and peri-peri chili sauce; and a Cape Malay seafood pot chockful of PEI mussels, prawns, and the day’s fresh catch swimming in a piquant coconut curry broth. Sides, too, abound and are not to be forgotten, like Brussels sprouts with bacon marmalade and roasted cauliflower with tahini and sumac.
But go easy on the savory fare, as you’ll want to go hard on dessert. And by dessert, we mean all the desserts: Who can resist Nutella and salted caramel bread pudding, a Cape-Dutch version of a tres leches cake, malva pudding with Amarula crème anglaise, or a Kahlua, whiskey, and vanilla ice cream milkshake? Living is easy with boozy ice cream milkshakes. Brickell City Centre, 701 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 786-814-5955
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GARY JAMES