Photo by Anthony MairStrange but true appetizer: Caked Lamb Eggplant Tacos.
“This is sooo Philippe Starck,” remarked one of my more pretentious friends, eyeballing the white shutters, beige linen walls, dark cherry parquet floor and nautically themed paintings at Biscayne Steak, Sea & Wine at the Tropicana.
Until recently, the restaurant, a short escalator ride from the casino to a mezzanine floor, was known as Legends, which sounded like an ’80s sports bar. But this has become a serious restaurant, thanks to serious talent such as executive chef George Barginsen, formerly of the Rio, and pastry chef Meegan Lancaster, from the shuttered Daniel Boulud Brasserie at Wynn.
The entire property is actually in the midst of a renovation, giving it a distinct South Beach feel. The logo has been streamlined, and many rooms have been completely redone. Havana, a little place on the casino level, features Cuban sandwiches, as part of the new theme.
Biscayne’s signature cocktails are Latin-themed, such as caipirinhas made with Leblon cachaça and Key lime margaritas made with Ambhar, one of the trendier tequilas on the market.And even appetizers get into the south Florida act, such as conch fritters with avocado aioli spiked with Ambhar tequila, crab claws in mustard sauce, and Key lime smoked chicken chowder, a thick soup that turns out to be more like a Texas chili.
Those aren’t the dishes that impressed me most, though. First off, the bread basket features a delicious multigrain pretzel bread and ciabatta, and if you order the Bread Enhancer to go with it, you get a tray of dipping jars containing cheese fondue and hummus spiked with chimichurri.
Another starter is the duck and chorizo hash, topped with fried egg and crisp fingerling potatoes. It is way too good to stop eating, but hardly appetizer material. There is also an oddball dish called Caked Lamb Eggplant Tacos, which use folded slices of fried eggplant in place of tortillas to shield a filling of mashed lamb with roasted poblano chiles and tomato jam. I’d wager my house that a normal person can’t finish a steak after this baby.
As to steaks, they are USDA Angus, served with a nice vegetable medley and a trio of sauces. The Big ($26) is a 16-ounce hunk of prime rib that was served perfectly pink in the center and properly tender alongside little pots of au jus and two different types of horseradish.
Our 16-ounce rib-eye ($32) was a touch fatty, but a 12-ounce New York ($34) had just the right tone, deliciously beefy and tender, although both of them could have used a little more char.
Barginsen is a seafood specialist; he oversaw the Seafood Buffet at the Rio, and his fish are superb. Wild Atlantic salmon ($26) with a chipotle pineapple yogurt sauce is wonderful. So are scampi, grouper, halibut and pan-flashed lump crab béarnaise.
There are good sides, too, such as lobster mac and cheese and something the chef calls Mashed Potatoes of the Moment. Our Moment came laced with a sun-dried tomato lobster concoction—buttery and irresistible.
There is a fairly priced, 200-bottle wine list and astounding desserts such as Lancaster’s coconut candy bar, which is like the world’s greatest Mounds Bar, and Black Forest brandied cherry bread pudding, served for two.
Who the hell is Philippe Starck, anyway?