Each time I've dined at PB Steak, a familiar face entered the restaurant and immediately began clearing dishes like any good busboy. I only knew Andreas Schreiner from photos, but he is one of the three owners of this cutting-edge steakhouse and four other restaurants.
I was impressed.
Schreiner, Sergio Navarro and Jose Mendin entered the South Florida restaurant scene four years ago with a charming gastropub called Pubbelly. They opened in a section of Miami Beach, Sunset Harbour, visited mostly by locals seeking groceries at the nearby Publix and captured an instant audience with such luscious dishes as pork belly and scallion dumplings and short-rib tartare. Everything at Pubbelly is meant to be shared.
Just as appealing is the geniality of the staff — not just knowledgeable, but empowered to do whatever they can to make diners happy.
Pubbelly packs them in, but those same attributes have been cloned at the trio's 15-month-old steakhouse around the corner. Designed by Navarro, it's a cross between a cowboy mess hall and a French bistro, with rough wooden walls, metal café chairs and a chalkboard wall that lists many of the specialties. Four clocks, a Pubbelly trademark, are set to the time of day in Miami, San Juan, Madrid and Hochburg, Germany.
A quote by the always quotable Fran Lebowitz is printed atop the menu: "My favorite animal is steak."
But first come ceviche taquitos ($4), hamachi, ginger, soy, jalapeno and corn miso with a crispy shell that go down in one flavor-packed bite. Overstuffed yellowtail tacos ($5 each) are equally bracing.
Mendin, who just received his second semifinalist nomination for a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award, has the experience and skill to offer dishes that combine seemingly divergent traditions. Bacon confit with sweet and sour cabbage and grain-mustard crema ($16) is French, Latin, German and deliciously rich. Like pork-cheek ravioli ($14) with green peas, ricotta, hazelnuts, beets and brown butter could be Italian. Crispy pig ears ($8) with tomato salt, lime and sri-rancha — ranch dressing meets sriracha — might have started in a Cuban bodega.
Angus beef, much of it dry-aged, is incredible, from the 8-ounce filet ($38) to a 16-ounce Kansas City strip loin ($48), dry-aged for 28 days. A 30-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($90) from Cox Farms in Alabama, dry-aged for 30 days, wasn't worth the price. Stick with the Angus.
Since Mendin once worked at Nobu in London and Miami Beach, he makes a version of Nobu Matsuhisa's signature miso black cod ($25) that will astound you.
Many of the side dishes could have come directly from the original Pubbelly restaurant, including Brussels sprouts with bacon and miso ($9); mushroom fricassee with Marsala soy jus and a hint of truffle ($12); truffled corn ($8); and potato puree with aged Parmesan ($7). Vegetarians can easily find their way with this menu.
When PB Steak is busy, it is a loud and bustling saloon of a room that may not appeal to steak eaters more accustomed to hushed, paneled dining rooms. Even without bowties and jackets, the wait staff knows their stuff. One night, our waiter lead us to a great deal on the concise wine list. At lunch, we were directed to try the taquitos.
Desserts ($8) are homey with a modern twist: warm chocolate cake with Nutella ganache and hazelnut ice cream; French toast sticks with maple-bacon sauce, bananas Foster glaze and raspberry jam; and raspberry sorbet with crispy toasted meringue and lemon cream.
By early May, the Pubbelly Boys, as Schreiner, Navarro and Mendin have come to be known, will open a sixth restaurant, L'echon Brasserie, inside the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach.
I can't wait to see what they do with classic French.
1787 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach
Hours: Dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Noisy when full
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: First
Parking: $15 valet or meters and garages