The fact that his first day in Miami was also his first day on the job is pretty impressive. The fact that it was Valentine’s Day, the toughest day of the year for any kitchen, makes it doubly so. The man we’re talking about is Michelin-starred chef Christopher Lee, the new Executive Chef at The Forge Restaurant | Bar. When Dewey Losasso left a gaping hole in the Forge’s kitchen line-up, owner Shareef Malnik decided to take things up a notch, or two. After interviewing many chefs, upon meeting Lee, he knew he was the one. “It’s like a marriage, and in fact you will spend more time with this person than your significant other,” says Malnik. Luckily both chef and owner knew right away it was a match.
Lee comes to the forge with lots of accolades which include James Beard’s “Rising Star Chef of the Year” in 2005 and two Michelin Stars at Gilt and one Michelin Star at Aureole. So it goes without saying the guy is good. How good? Let’s just say after a first look at Lee’s new menu last night at a sumptuous dinner , that it is safe to say The Forge isn’t just one of the oldest restaurants in the city with the best wine cellar, but it now may just be the best restaurant period.
Lee’s international cooking background and light touch bodes well for the Forge’s new direction. He’s also a master at scientific cooking techniques which he trotted out in this Yellowfin Tuna Tartare dish with delicate scallion pancakes and a miso-sake dressing that fooled everyone into thinking it was egg. Even when touched with a fork, the “yolk” broke just like an egg, running into the melt-in-your-mouth tartare.
A new spin on Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass was easily the most delicious and delicate rendition we have had, while Lee explained it was less sweet than other versions floating around town due to his unique preparation.
Everyone was wowed by the Pastrami Duck Brest that was prepared and tasted just like a delicious piece of New York City pastrami. It was served over braised cabbage and rye gnocchi serving as a “deconstructed pastrami on rye,” said Lee.
Of course, the Forge is not known for restraint, so after giving us tastes of so many amazing things, they brought out 3 different cuts of their Pat Lafrieda meats. The Dry Aged Tomahawk Steak came with an impressive bone and the Creekstone Filet Mignon came “accessorized” six different ways, although it was perfect without any accouterments as well.
Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned that night was that not only had Lee’s entire kitchen team made the jump to Florida with him, but also his amazing pastry chef, who turned out light, beautifully adorned Lemon Marscapone Cheesecake and Chocolate Dulcey Cremeux that were simultaneously unfussy, but completely impossible to dream of recreating at home. Our parting thoughts from the restaurant that night were: ‘Wow, The Forge might be the best restaurant in the city now.’ There’s only one way to find out and that is lots of return visits.