After enduring too many meat miscues and burnt offerings lately, I have come to appreciate the simple act of properly cooking steaks and chops. Thankfully, the broiler crew at III Forks in Hallandale Beach got it right during a recent visit. A thick puck of filet mignon was ruby red in the center, pretty pink near the charred edges. A persillade-crusted rack of lamb oozed a trickle of bloody juice when I sliced the medium-rare chops apart. A prime New York strip steak, coated in “King’s butter” of black truffle, honey and foie gras, was flavorful and moist. Everything tasted good. Nobody had to be summoned. I call that steakhouse success.
Like a thoroughbred that regularly manages to finish in the money, III Forks has become a steady and reliable presence in the Village at Gulfstream Park, the shopping and dining promenade surrounding the racetrack and casino. With the heart of the winter racing season ramping up, this is the best restaurant within the Gulfstream complex to celebrate a big score. The surroundings are smart, the sirloins and rib-eyes are USDA prime, and the filets are certified Angus. The prices are merely high, not astronomical, so if you hit a nice trifecta you might actually have some cash to take home. Order a martini, a steak and a nice bottle of wine (fairly priced), and you will be a happy hedonist.
III Forks is also a good place to celebrate the holiday season, located near Gulfstream Village’s popular “symphony of lights” Christmas display that runs through Dec. 31. After polishing off the last of the bread pudding, diners can work off a few calories by walking to the gaudy tree for the hourly lights show. That is, if you can stand the seizure-inducing strains of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
The Hallandale Beach outpost of III Forks, a Dallas-based chain with eight restaurants nationally, opened in 2010. Like certain beef, the restaurant has gotten better with age. It does seafood well, particularly an appetizer of seared scallops ($19) with an insanely rich and deep bacon jam, which takes hours to reduce. Service is professional, attentive and not stuffy.
The 238-seat restaurant has nine outdoor tables for those who like to smoke, a private dining room with plush velvet walls and a 180-inch television, and two dining rooms. The front Palm room is done in testosterone-heavy steakhouse style, with mahogany and dark leather banquettes. The back Legends room is brighter and more attuned to South Florida style, with lighter wood tables and white walls adorned with pictures of Frank Sinatra and other Rat Packers.
The steakhouse formula is an American classic and does not lend itself much to creativity or innovation, but III Forks has managed to introduce a few fun wrinkles to keep things fresh. For example, a roasted bone marrow and beef cheek appetizer ($20) is a crowd-pleasing platter that comes with an Instagrammable pile of flaming salt.
Maldon sea salt is infused with high-proof bourbon and lit, and the flames dance and burn for a good two minutes before petering out. The charred crunchy remnants can be sprinkled to enliven the American Wagyu beef cheek and unctuous roasted marrow. Spread the beefy goodness on triangular pieces of toasted brioche and spoon on a bit of sweet and grainy fruit mostarda (made with apples or apricots, depending on the season), and diners have a starter that looks good and tastes good.
“It’s been a big hit,” says Tommy Nevill, the corporate-installed proprietor-manager of III Forks in Hallandale Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.
Nevill helped opened the Gulfstream location nearly eight years ago and returned last year after spending time bringing the III Forks brand to Chicago. The restaurant is not named for the number of utensils needed to negotiate a meal but rather for the three forks of the Trinity River in North Texas, near the original North Dallas location. That mammoth 1,000-seat restaurant was opened in 1998 by Dale Wamstad after he sold Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, which he founded. Wamstad sold III Forks in 2000 to Consolidated Restaurant Operations, a group owned by Dallas restaurateur Gene Street. Since then, the restaurant has expanded to Houston, Austin, South Florida, Jacksonville, Chicago and Los Angeles. The chain is similar to Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and the Capital Grille.
I suppose picking between them is akin to choosing between Coke and Pepsi. III Forks is known for including sides on certain plates, such as the heaping mound of smashed potatoes that came with the domestic rack of lamb ($47) and beef short ribs ($24). Another III Forks distinction is the III Forks salad ($11), a perennial seller that features mixed greens with toasted pecans, blue cheese, slices of Granny Smith apple and a healthy coating of sweet and tart pecan maple vinaigrette. It was very good.
Also good were the tender short ribs, the fat rendered after being braised for 4 1/2 hours in Dr. Pepper and Jack Daniel’s. Steaks came unaccompanied, including the 12-ounce filet ($44) and the 16-ounce strip ($48). Optional sauces and crowns come at a price, including Oscar-style ($14, with lump crab, asparagus and hollandaise) and blue cheese ($6, with roasted garlic and bordelaise). The King’s butter ($9) was decadent and a bit sweet with honey. In hindsight, I wish it had come in a side dish and not heaped atop the steak itself.
The ahi tuna appetizer ($18), served on a cutting board with a healthy smear of avocado cream and crisp chips, was fine, but it was marinated with a little too much citrus ponzu for my liking. Call it a poke and throw it in a bowl, and I would have been better prepared. My other quibbles were with side dishes. Fried Brussels sprouts ($11) were soggy, not crispy. The lobster mac and cheese ($20) was bland, with wide orecchiette pasta ears bathed in a creamy béchamel and chunks of Maine lobster claws. It could have used some crunch and a little sharpness.
There were no qualms with desserts ($9), including the signature bread pudding (served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream) and fine crème brulee topped with fresh berries. III Forks provides steakhouse standards done well. Thankfully, that includes the ability to cook meat medium rare.
501 Silks Run (in Gulfstream Village), Hallandale Beach
954-457-3920 or 3Forks.com
Cuisine: American steakhouse
Cost: Expensive to very expensive. Starters, soups and salads cost $9 to $24, mains $17-$90, sides $9-$20, desserts $9.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. daily (until 11 p.m. or later Friday-Saturday)
Reservations: Yes, by phone or online
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full bar with 5-7 p.m. happy hour nightly, specialty cocktails and good wine list
Sound level: Conversational
Wheelchair access: Ground level
Parking: Free lot or paid valet ($10, higher on certain racing days)