Once New York–based Major Food Group began investing in Miami, the idea of creating Dirty French Steakhouse in the city was always on the table, according to co-founder Jeff Zalaznick.
The original Dirty French, which holds a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, opened in 2014 in the Ludlow Hotel on New York's Lower East Side. There, chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi brought haute-cuisine flair and international flavors to classic bistro dishes such as tuna tartare, cod Provençale and côte de porc, using seasonings such as bird’s eye chile, ras el hanout and tasso spices. Its opulent, steak-centered spinoff, which still showcases some of the original menu favorites, opened on April 28 in Miami's booming Brickell neighborhood.
"It's the ultimate Major Food Group expression of what a fun, high-energy steakhouse can be, where there's no sacrifice of food quality or product," Zalaznick said. "It's inspired by Miami, classic steakhouses and Dirty French. All those three things come together to create this mecca of celebration and meat-eating in the heart of Brickell." MFG has also partnered with real-estate developer Michael Stern and his JDS Development Group to build an 82-story luxury condo tower down the street from Dirty French.
MFG has won multiple Restaurant Awards for its impressive wine lists, including at New York City hot spots like Grand Award winner The Grill and Best of Award of Excellence winners The Lobster Club and Carbone, as well as at Carbone’s sister locations in Las Vegas and Miami’s South Beach, where it expanded last year.
Corporate beverage director John Slover, who joined MFG in January 2017, said the two Dirty French locations differ somewhat in their approach to the wine lists. "The NYC wine list is 100 percent French, but in Miami we are including American wines because of the prominent steak aspect of the restaurant and, to a lesser extent, Spanish reds," he explained. "The price-point is higher in Miami, so there is a higher percentage of blue-chip Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhône and Champagne in Miami, although those categories exist in NYC as well."
Although Slover directs MFG's drinks lists, Patrick Wert, the regional beverage manager for Miami, will oversee day-to-day wine operations at Dirty French Steakhouse. Bordeaux, Burgundy and Northern Rhône dominate the 700-bottle list. Some of the most notable producers and vintages are the 1989 Château Haut Brion, 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild, 1986 Château Lafite Rothschild and a 2007 Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche. There is also an impressive 15-vintage vertical of Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Rouge from 1990 to 2016, including magnums of the 1998, 2006 and 2014 vintages.
Slover's go-to pairing is the ribeye with any Northern Rhône red on the list. The other cuts on the menu are aged filet mignon and New York strip, a 40-ounce porterhouse and a 38-ounce Wagyu tomahawk to share, and prime rib. Along with a raw bar, shellfish tower and caviar service, starters include grilled oysters bourguignon, lobster ravioli and Dirty French's famous mushroom mille-feuille with green curry and peas. A selection of fish, duck, pork and chicken and crêpes for two round out the menu for diners who don’t want steak.
For the restaurant's lavish design, MFG’s longtime collaborator Ken Fulk created an energetic, 1980s-era atmosphere. "We took inspiration from legendary hot spots across the globe—El Morocco, Indochine, Maxim’s Paris—using elements from these fabled nightclubs like animal prints, jungle patterns, mashrabiya screens and silk lanterns," Fulk said in a statement. "The result is an utterly intoxicating atmosphere."—S.Z.
Chef Daniel Boulud opened a new restaurant, Le Gratin, at The Beekman Hotel in Lower Manhattan on May 6. Taking over the space previously occupied by restaurateur Keith McNally’s Augustine, the casual French spot is inspired by the traditional bouchon restaurants of Boulud’s native Lyon. Part of Boulud’s Dinex Group portfolio, it joins sibling restaurants like Grand Award winner Daniel (which recently revealed a new bar created with crystal producer Lalique), newcomer Le Pavillon and Restaurant Award winning–outposts of Café Boulud in Toronto and Palm Beach, Fla.
“[Le Gratin] is more traditional in a way,” Boulud told Wine Spectator. “The name is symbolic for me, with things that I grew up with, all my life. At home, we were of course doing the famous gratin dauphinois all the time, but also the gratin of cardoon or the gratin of spinach. There are so many interpretations in cooking that express the technique and the flavor and the soulfulness of a gratin.”
Daniel veteran Guillaume Ginther prepares dishes inspired by Lyonnaise cuisine and Boulud’s childhood favorites, including the restaurant’s namesake potato dish, of course. The gratin dauphinois, using a recipe from Boulud’s mother, is served on its own or with roasted chicken, and the restaurant will be serving lobster thermidor gratin in August. “A gratin is one of those dishes that gathers people around the table,” said Boulud. “[It] always expresses a certain casualness and yumminess.” Beyond gratin, there are dishes such as roasted duck breast, pan-seared Dover sole, steak tartare, chilled asparagus and a range of charcuterie. A particularly notable Lyonnaise classic is featured: quenelle de brochet au gratin, or pike mousse topped with a crust, Gruyère and mushroom sauce. Guests can also enjoy a selection of desserts from pastry chef Kristyn Onasch.
Overseen by Dinex Group corporate wine director Daniel Johnnes, the wine program features more than 100 labels. These largely come from French regions, especially those closest to Lyon, including Beaujolais, the Mâconnais and the Southern Rhône Valley, spotlighting well-known domaines throughout. There are also bottles from other regions, including Alsace, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Sonoma and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, in addition to a selection of French-influenced cocktails and liqueurs. “We want to make sure that the wine is also approachable,” Boulud said. “We want the general experience of what you expect in a great bistro in France, which is often a short list—but a well-curated list—of affordable, regional and fine wine.”
That bistro influence stretches to Le Gratin’s design, embodied by wooden chairs, marble floors, a coffered ceiling and walls lined with mirrors and colorful tiles. The restaurant displays floral paintings from Brooklyn-based artist Marc Dennis. Overall, Boulud hopes Le Gratin will offer a lively atmosphere fit both for casual , but still high-quality, dining and celebrations. “It’ll definitely be a neighborhood restaurant,” the chef said, “a downtown destination. We want to make the gratin famous around the country.”—C.D.
On April 29, grill–wine bar concept Seasons 52 arrived in Paramus, N.J. The Garden State’s sixth location, it joins 43 Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning siblings throughout the country, all part of the Darden Restaurants group, which also includes award-winning concepts The Capital Grille and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.
“We are excited to be part of the Paramus community and continue introducing more New Jersey residents to our seasonal and fresh approach,” managing partner Nikki Tiedgen told Wine Spectator via email.
As with other locations, Seasons 52 Paramus focuses on oak-fire and brick-oven roasted dishes, all using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Executive chef Matt Caiazza (formerly of Seasons 52 Edison) prepares plates like pesto chicken with fresh mozzarella, cedar plank–roasted salmon and grilled sea scallops, along with a range of flatbreads. All dishes come in under 595 calories, and additional menus provide gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan options. “We ensure everything on the menu is balanced so guests feel a freedom to enjoy multiple courses,” Tiedgen explained. The menu will change four times each year and can also be enjoyed in private dining rooms or outside on the restaurant’s patio.
Tiedgen and Seasons 52 beverage strategy director Erika Godsey have arranged a wine selection of about 80 labels, with 52 available by the glass. The main focuses are on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and red blends from California, Italy, France, Argentina, Australia, Oregon and South Africa. There’s also a frequently changing selection of flights, including a spotlight on Huneeus Wines labels such as Oregon’s Benton-Lane and Napa Valley’s Faust. A “Drink Them Before They’re Famous” list is available, in addition to diverse cocktails like a strawberry-basil martini and a peach-Riesling mule.
The new Seasons 52 is located at Paramus’ Westfield Garden State Plaza, where diners will also find New Jersey’s first Eddie V’s location, which opened earlier this spring.—C.D.