Forget the simple quiche, fruit salad and cheese Danish that once fueled home-cooked Sunday brunches. Nobody cooks anymore. Too few of us entertain.
That's too bad, because I like nothing more than starting off the week with a Bloody Mary, good friends and a well-prepared midday meal.
No wonder I held on to news that Smith & Wollensky in Miami Beach had added weekend brunch. The fine-dining steakhouse first opened in New York in 1977. It made its way to Miami Beach in 1997 and currently has 10 locations in Las Vegas, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
The South Florida location one housed South Pointe Seafood House. It's a rambling, 28,000-square-foot building with all kinds of nooks and crannies. It seats 688, but with so many separate rooms, you never feel as if you're in a dining hall. There's room for another 190 people outside. The building sits on the southern tip of Miami Beach, and we had a view facing Government Cut, the channel that leads from Biscayne Bay to the ocean. Across the channel is Fisher Island, home to the highest-income earners per capita in the country. I don't know of another South Florida restaurant with a better view.
Despite the lovely, lived-in quality of Smith & Wollensky's decor, it's a corporate steakhouse that doesn't introduce a new menu until each location can execute it seamlessly. It has an inimitable craftsman in executive chef Dana Brizee, who began working in this building when it was a seafood restaurant.
The Bloody Marys ($12) are well poured and just spicy enough. The brunch cocktail menu ($13) included a frozen bellini with peach vodka, peach puree and prosecco, and a mimosa made with blood-orange liqueur and prosecco.
We came for the meat-centric brunch menu items, however, and nothing disappointed.
Braised-rib hash with poached eggs and pepper sauce ($24) had the crunchy quality of vaca frita mixed with potatoes. The eggs were warm and cooked just runny enough. Excellent pastrami salmon Benedict ($21) featured slices of sliced house-cured salmon with poached eggs and Dijon hollandaise on marble-rye toast. The salmon was just salty enough to cut the richness of the hollandaise and eggs.
Every cut of Smith & Wollensky's famous dry-aged prime beef — 14-ounce sirloin ($46), 24-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($45) — is available at brunch.
But order steak and eggs ($32) from the brunch menu, and you may never be able to order it elsewhere. Two 4-ounce filet medallions are served with roasted wild mushrooms, hash browns and two poached eggs. Beef tenderloin duo ($37) comes with two sauces: foie-gras-mushroom ragout and roasted cipollini onion and garlic.
Four of us couldn't resist something sweet, so we shared cinnamon French toast ($19), four triangular slices of brioche soaked in sweet cinnamon custard and topped with dark-rum-flamed bananas and caramel.
The real dessert menu is equally good. Chocolate-hazelnut creme brulee ($10) with milk-chocolate custard comes topped with a crisp layer of Nutella dark-chocolate-hazelnut bark. Apple-strudel crisp ($10) is thankfully not as sweet. Apple-and-raisin compote sits on the plate with a buttery phyllo crust along with candied pecans and vanilla ice cream.
Service is exemplary. You don't get to be a server at Smith & Wollensky without some experience under your belt. Our waitress was a true pro.
Brunch doesn't come cheap here. But with some hotels charging more than $100 for their brunch buffets, an order of $25 somehow doesn't seem out of line.
At least not in this setting.
jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.
Smith & Wollensky
1 Washington Ave., South Pointe Park, Miami Beach