The final evening of a sorely-needed spring break called for a splurge at an obscenely expensive restaurant. Seeking fancy steak and a sophisticated crowd, we whetted our appetites in the hotel room with Campari and soda and made our way to Kobe Club Miami, entering the dimly-lit black-and-gold dining room for a taste of the rich life. The somber atmosphere was enlivened somewhat by the image of dancing flames on a widescreen display and the glint of light from 2,000 shiny Japanese katanas hanging threateningly from the ceiling — a less-than-subtle metaphor for the seared flesh that awaited us.
Our raised wooden booth was separated from the other diners — a few well-coiffed couples in their thirties and a wealthy-looking older quartet — by a parted curtain of thin leather straps, offering a private nook from which to savor the world’s finest cuts of beef. A downtempo soundtrack of ambient jazz and trip-hop maintained a vaguely tribal beat in the background, underscoring the primitive roots of this high-end endeavor. No shortage of symbolism here.
Taking our time, we sipped a respectable California petite sirah — at $45, the second-cheapest bottle on the wine list — and commenced our feast with an icy tray of Blue Point oysters. The gauze-wrapped lemon half was a classy touch, making me realize that I have suffered the indignity of errant seeds and lemon pulp in my seafood for far too long. A basket of truffled popovers materialized soon after, giving even the bread course a level of indulgence to rival the mains.
Steak is available in American, Australian, and Japanese versions, the latter being both the most expensive and most marbled. A hardcore Kobe enthusiast would probably gravitate to the $395 Emperor’s Flight for two, but I went for the $95 six-course tasting menu with American Wagyu, while Jenn ordered a four-ounce filet of Australian Wagyu ($65) and a couple of sides.
The Kobe beef pig-in-a-blanket amuse-bouches were indeed an amusing twist on American comfort food. And while the three-nation steak tartare didn’t leave us swooning (to me, tartare looks too much like cat food), a single beef cheek ravioli exploded with complex flavors that were accentuated by a rich truffle broth. Strips of sake-cured salmon, which I expected to be boring, had a mild tartness and buttery texture that resembled a fine cut of sashimi, and we did love the white truffle deviled quail eggs that came with it.
Our steaks arrived with tiny flags denoting their country of origin. My American Wagyu was a perfect medium rare, juicy and delicious, but Jenn’s Australian version more resembled the sublime beef I’ve read about. Slightly charred on the outside and striated with succulent veins of fat within, every bite was a direct hit on the pleasure centers, becoming positively transcendent when washed down with a gulp of red wine. Primitive cravings and sophisticated desires satisfied with one high-end hunk of beef.
After a two-hour parade of majestic morsels, we slowly made our way back to the Strand Ocean Drive. I don’t know if any dinner for two is truly worth $282.31 before tip, but our meal at Kobe Club Miami was like a vacation within a vacation, making it that much harder to adjust to the more pedestrian cuisine of the New York salaryman.