Friday evening, I entered The “new” Forge, a Miami Beach institution that has recently reopened after a massive face and body lift. Under the helm of owner Shareef Malnik, this landmark has been modernized to fit the times for 2010 and beyond.
I was extraordinarily impressed! Shareef’s vision has translated The Forge into contemporary classic where ‘Bali meets Philippe Stark-style meets Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter at the head of the table,’ executed by designer Francois Frossard. The old-school style is gone and a whimsical attitude is now present with an organic flair. Yes, there are still grand chandeliers, but the new ones are hanging with hipness! I especially love the private dining room/boardroom where, behind the floor-to-ceiling glass wall is an extraordinary highly varnished Balinese wood table surrounded by oversized white leather high-back chairs. I also liked the back bubble wall installation of hand blown glass that acts as a backdrop for the Sommelier Station served by 35-year veteran Executive Sommelier Gino Santangelo.
The bar has moved to the right side. It is rectangular in shape, allowing for sitting and people watching on all four sides. It’s also good for checking out the cute bartenders in the middle! Actually, they are called “mixologists” and they create unique infused cocktails. My mixologist was adorably decked with a dimple and a pleasant personality. He convincingly talked me through a selection of cocktails to taste, starting with a light bubbly cocktail called Lychee Spumante, complete with fruity foam on top. Next I tried the Carioca Passion, which combines citrus and sweets along with peppercorns, and finally a dessert drink, my favorite for the night – a Ginger Cupcake! Since I was nursing a cold, the ginger did me good. The new wine wall, with the Enomatic Wine Systems, allow customers to self-serve wine in 1, 3 or 5 ounce pours. The Forge’s wine cellar is the one spot that remained untouched since it would be sacrilegious to change perfection.
The new food menu is an unexpected and unique surprise thanks to the direction of new Executive Chef Dewey LoSasso. It offers quite a fusion of textures and flavors uniquely paired for winning combinations. And even more satisfying are the prices, which are so reasonable, I had to make sure I was reading the menu properly. You can come and taste a variety of light bites and a mixture of cocktails like I did on Friday eve and walk away with an affordable tab. I tasted several savory snack and starters including the Lobster Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich, Chilled Roasted Beets, and Quinoa Pancake Stack. But no worries for Forge old-timers, since The Forge classics such as the signature Chopped Salad and Shrimp Cocktail remain on the menu along with their award-winning Super Steak.
Renowned DJ Irie keeps the musical vibe perfect with custom compilations streamed through a wireless sound system setting the mood for each room, replacing the traditional DJ booth.
What also really stood out to me was the incredibly knowledgeable, well-trained, service-with-a-smile oriented, congenial staff. From the striking, tall hostesses at the door who meet and greet guests to the managers on duty including the new General Manager Sol Alvarez, Floor Manager Marco Chapnick, and, of course, the “Master of Ceremonies” Shareef Malnik himself who is there to welcome back his fans to The Forge, it is a delightful people experience. And the guests themselves were a diverse group of young and old-world elegance all dining delightfully in this newly rechristened hotspot.
The Forge Restaurant|Wine Bar is located at 432 41st St., Miami Beach, FL 33140, and the reservation number is 305.538.8533.
Photo credit: Simon Hare