That's not to sell the steakhouses short. I've had some great meals at these places, and they have the capacity to serve as a springboard for younger kitchen talent (witness the nomination of Chef Sam Gorenstein of BLT Steak as a semifinalist for a James Beard Rising Star award this year). But the self-limiting format only gives so much wiggle room for the local chefs to show that they can do something other than grill a steak and cook potatoes.
That's in part what Cobaya is for: to give chefs a chance to showcase, or experiment with, things they may not be able to do in their "native habitat." When we met with Bourbon Steak's chef Gabriel Fenton and general manager John Riccardo, we told them that this was a no-holds-barred opportunity to cook whatever they wanted to make, and if there wasn't a single piece of steak on the menu, that was perfectly fine. And Chef Fenton - who spent several years as executive sous chef at Michael Mina's flagship restaurant in San Francisco - put together a beautiful meal in which a cow made only the briefest cameo appearance. We hardly noticed its absence.
The menu (you can see all my pictures from the dinner in this flickr set):
Our group of 28 gathered at the Bourbon Steak bar (and a really fine bar it is, mixing up some of the best traditional cocktails I've found anywhere in Miami) where they passed around buckets of warm, light-as-air gougères, before being shepherded into a gorgeous private room to begin the dinner, where diners were handed flutes of bubbly (an Iron Horse Blanc de Blanc bottled for Michael Mina).
It was undoubtedly the poshest location for any of our dinners. But we're not about posh, we're about food. So on to it.
|Duck Fat Fries|
|Michael's Classic American Caviar Parfait|
|Hawaiian Big Eye Sashimi|
|Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine|
|Wild Alaskan Halibut|
|Columbia River Sturgeon with Short Rib Ravioli|
|Local Peach Sorbet|
|Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta|
Overall thoughts? Chef Gabriel Fenton has clearly learned his craft well from his work with Chef Mina. The ingredients were top-notch, the cooking technique was precise and meticulous, the composition of each dish was thoughtful and effective. It may not have been the most adventurous Cobaya dinner we've been served, but it may also have been some of the finest cooking we've experienced. It was interesting to me that Bourbon Steak is a place that wasn't on the radar of several of our Cobaya diners. Yes, it's a steakhouse, but it shouldn't at all be dismissed as "just a steakhouse." There's some seriously good food to be had here.
19999 W. Country Club Drive
Aventura, FL 33180
I did not opt for the wine pairings and so cannot comment on them, other than to say that Sommelier Matthew Turner put together a really impressive lineup for $25, which included some of my favorites. I did, however, take advantage of the restaurant's generous offer to take 50% off their regular wine list prices for the evening (an offer that is currently available every Monday at the restaurant), as well as the generosity of a couple of our other diners who brought bottles with them. I sampled an elegant Alsatian Ostertag Grand Cru Riesling, a silky, smoky 1998 Chateau Pape Clement, a lovely, earthy Papapietro Perry Pommard Clones Pinot Noir that had all been brought out for the occasion, as well as, from Bourbon Steak's cellar, an intriguing 2006 Clos Uroulat Jurançon Sec Cuvee Marie and a smashing 2005 Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah.
These sustainable seafood issues are so baffling. I have, mournfully, cut maguro and toro out of my sushi repertoire out of concerns that the bluefin tuna population is being depleted. And yet, while bluefin is at serious risk, bigeye tuna makes the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch "Good Alternative" list, provided it's caught with troll or pole-and-line, and not longline, gear (or comes from the Atlantic). And while I'd always assumed that all toro was from bluefin, it seems some comes from bigeye as well. It all makes my head hurt.
Chef Fenton said it was his first time cooking sturgeon other than one he and friends caught fishing several years ago.
Let's not quibble over whether Northern Florida genuinely qualifies as "local" given the size of the state. It's still pretty cool.
Aside from the regular menu, there's also a "Burger Bar" menu available in the lounge area and at the bar (and, perhaps, even in the main restaurant too if you ask nicely) and they serve some of the best burgers in town. Think about the kind of trimmings you can put into the grind when you're serving all those nice prime, dry-aged and wagyu steaks all the time. For further temptation, consider that they're currently offering the 50% discount off the wine list prices every Monday evening, and that Wednesday is "Bourbon & Blues" night with live music and 25% off any selection from their bourbons and whiskys.