First impression: Doing business as a full-service restaurant on Lincoln Road in South Beach is no easy feat. After all, the Road is like a shopping mall with pizza joints and chain clothing stores vying for tourist dollars. Among the clatter, Meat Market thrives with a chef-driven menu, a chic but comfortable dining room, and some of the best service you'll find in South Beach.
Ambience: The striking brown-and-white dining room that glows amber offers all manner of seating: banquettes, tables, booths, bar. Pieces of clear acrylic that look like microscope slides make up a groovy lighting fixture that runs down the center of the room. Glass candleholders are scattered on a low shelf that runs around the room. It's modern, but not cold.
Background: Chef Sean Brasel and David Tornek are on-premise owners. Meat Market has been open since 2009.
Starters: Asian barbecue lamb ribs ($18) with hoisin sauce are meaty and just spicy enough, served with a papaya slaw. White truffle American Kobe tartare ($21) has the earthy flavor of raw beef and truffles, mixed with capers and red onion, served with cheesy flat bread. Chargrilled chimichurri oysters ($22) start with a rather timid chimichurri but finish nicely with lemony Hollandaise. Tuna tartare ($16) is Asian flavored with ginger and soy.
Entree excellence: Beef offerings are divided into three categories: Signature Steaks, Reserve Cuts and House Creations from the wood-burning grill. In that last category, you can find the mixed grill special, an evolving trio of meats. The night we dined, the $48 trio featured a tender three-ounce filet, a buffalo filet with Boursin butter, and a lightly battered tempura lobster tail. Very nice. Reserve Cuts include a prime 14-ounce, bone-in New York Strip ($59) that's dry-aged 28 days. It was a little chewy, as strip steaks often are. If you like the fattier flavor of a rib eye, order the 20-ounce American Kobe rib eye ($68). Wow! Among the Signature Steaks is an exquisite King Canyon Ranch buffalo tenderloin ($45), seasoned with chile and espresso and served in chocolate mole butter. Lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, buffalo also has a sweeter flavor that lends itself to sauces.
Side issues: Each shareable side dish ($9) tasted better than the next. Brussels sprouts were caramelized and served with bacon and almonds. While I'm not usually a fan of spaetzle, the mixture with corn, wild mushrooms and tomato toned down the starch by introducing other flavors. Lobster mashed potatoes included large chunks of lobster along with buttery spuds.
Sauces: Rich steak butters ($3) include lobster butter and blue and Boursin butter. Creative sauces ($2) include atomic horseradish truffle sauce and Jack Daniels pasilla garlic sauce. They're all made in-house.
On the lighter side: There's inventively prepared salmon ($33), sea bass ($35) and wood grilled blackened local snapper ($32) for pescetarians or anyone looking for a lighter meal.
Sweet!: The low point of an otherwise exceptional meal. Pecan pie ($10) had a day-old quality, and it was difficult to discern any pistachio flavor in the pistachio creme brulee ($8).
Service: Friendly and professional. Our server knew the menu as well as the wine list. It was surprising, considering the sometimes low standards in South Beach. It's also clear that managers are actively watching the room.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times