Breaking The Rules
At City Cellar
By Brian Rafferty/ email@example.com
Unlike many fine wine
restaurants where the bottles are neatly tucked away in a
cool, dry spot downstairs, City Cellars wine cellar
breaks the rules it is enclosed in glass and behind
the bar for all to see.
Set in a gigantic space that encompasses numerous tables,
a gloriously large wine bar and even a wood fired brick oven
counter, City Cellar is ripped right from the heart of South
Beach, where its ownership family Big Time Restaurants runs
a slew of high-end locales. It is entirely out of place on
the strip behind the Source Mall, in a spot surrounded by
corporate dining experiences that churn out one homogenized
dish after another.
City Cellar has an inspired fusion menu with creative choices,
blending Continental, Italian, Asian and American influences
in dishes that are not only rich in flavor, but creative and
imaginative. The wine pairings are superb, and with more than
40 varieties offered by the glass, there is sure to be something
for everyone from the novice to the connoisseur.
We started out with the Onion and Mushroom Soup with Pinot
Grigio ($7) and a special of the day, Cream of Crab soup served
with a fresh hushpuppy ($7). The first is a delightful blend
of two classic soups, giving a creamy flavor and heartiness
to the broth while not taking away from the punch of the caramelized
onions that fill the bowl. Topped with a handful of shredded
cheese, it is a great retelling of an old story.
The crab soup is smooth, with strings of crab meat throughout
and what taste like a sharp Pecorino shredded into the base
the cheese is hard, and the soup warm, so you can see
the pieces of cheese in the soup, but by the time they hit
your tongue they will melt away.
Our next course took two traditional dishes and turned them
into wonderful updates. The Mediterranean Hummus, Hearth Baked
Feta, Eggplant Caponata, Moroccan Olives and Flatbread ($11)
is served with the bread as a sharp tower rising up from the
varied accompaniments on the plate below. We also enjoyed
a small iron skillet of Macaroni and Cheese ($9) with at least
six kinds of cheeses and pieces of crumbled ham.
Moving on to our entrees, we again chose one from the menu
and one special. The menu item was the 10-ounce Filet of Beef
Tenderloin ($32) served with a Bordeaux reduction and accompanied
by pan-fried potatoes and a Gorgonzola empanada. The filet
is cooked to a perfect medium rare, seared sharply on the
outside but still with that ribbon of red running through.
The empanada is crisp and filled with that delightful bleu
snap that goes so well with a perfect piece of beef.
My entrée was barbecued pork ribs in a Hoisin-based
sauce served over garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a
bed of crispy fried onions. The meat was fork-tender, the
potatoes were wickedly smooth and the sauce was a great balance
between Southern and Asian that helps highlight the fusion
menu the City Cellar offers.
Resting for a moment as we sipped coffee, we perused the dessert
menu and peeked at the plates being delivered to our fellow
diners. Fresh-made pizzas, colorful salads, generous pasta
bowls and succulent chops passed by, but our minds were set
on something sweet.
Dessert was Banana Cream Doughnuts ($7.50), which are delightful
miniature doughnuts filled with a warm banana cream and plated
alongside vanilla bean gelato and a chocolate sauce. My guests
dessert was considerably more elaborate and a special of the
night. It was a Grand Marnier soufflé served with a
Creamsicle sauce that does not get poured in until the dish
arrives tableside. The texture was spot-on, light and fluffy
while the sauce evoked childhood days of running through sprinklers
with a fresh treat from the ice cream truck.
City Cellar may be located in a sea of family restaurants
and shopping malls, but dont let its neighbors fool
you it truly is a place that is worth the trip. Enjoy!
Cellar Wine Bar & Grill
1080 Corporate Drive
Atmosphere: Sleek & Sophisticated
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to
weekdays, til 12 weekends
Lunch, dinner and mid-day menu