The Venerable Steakhouse Lives Again, With A New Sheen
Predictions are that when life returns to post-pandemic normal, the pent-up demand will be epic. If the recent return of Christy’s restaurant is any indicator of that, the predictions are right on target. After closing down in March of last year, it finally reopened last month, and patrons flocked. Weekends were sold out, and even on the Wednesday night we went, almost all the tables were full.
Call it nostalgia. Christy’s has been a staple of the Gables since it opened in 1978. In its heyday, only Caffe Abbracci could challenge its claim to the title of “king of the power lunch scene,” where the city’s business and political elite came to meet and eat. In the evenings it was a place of both power and romance. And deservedly so, with expensive cuts of meat, fantastic cocktails and a décor of dark, red walls and small, shaded lamps on the tables and walls.
That Christy’s is back, but with a sense of youthfulness that comes from updates that owner/manager Chris Klaic says “combine the old Christy’s with something new, something refreshing.” Some of the changes are more obvious than others. The two main dining rooms and the bar room are now more open (appropriate for these Covid days), their entrance enclosures having been removed. The wall art has also been updated to a colorful array of modern American paintings; previously they were classic paintings by Cuban artists, supplied by the adjacent Cernuda Arte gallery.
More subtle is the shift in the color of the trademark red walls, which were given what designer Monica Suleski calls “a sexy silver sheen” that makes them just a little lighter. Suleski’s Eclectic Elements Design Firm, which has a gallery in Wynwood, also supplied the paintings. All are by contemporary artists, many of them local, and will be rotated on a regular basis.
What hasn’t changed is the mood or the food. The red-shaded wall lamps still exude a glowing ambience, not too dim and certainly not too bright.The dining areas still feel cozy and intimate, though much less cloistered than before. As for the cuisine, it remains the reliable steakhouse comfort food of yore.
In a world of over choice, the menu is refreshingly simple and straightforward. Christy’s has always done a few things really right, and it’s sticking to them. Among the starters for which the restaurant was renown, there is still the shrimp cocktail with its huge, juicy prawns, and the scrumptious crab cake with those large fresh lumps of meat. Their legendary dry Caesar salad of course is back, served with anchovies (unless you say no), and is as good as it gets. Also excellent are the escargots, wonderfully tender, with a garlic butter pesto sauce that begs to be sopped up with the accompanying crostini.
For entrees you can pick one of four kinds of steak – filet mignon, rib eye, New York strip or tomahawk – or a generous slab of rare prime rib, a crowd favorite until the evening’s supply runs out. There is also a lovely rack of lamb, and a robust dish of roast chicken.
We sampled the prime rib, the New York steak and the lobster tail, and all were predictably good. What surprised us was how superb the sea bass tasted, cooked almost like a steak, with a nice crust outside and deliciously tender and moist inside.
As with any good steakhouse, Christy’s also has a clutch of solid side dishes. We tried the asparagus, perfectly firm in the French style of blanching, and the potatoes au gratin, done in a sophisticated dry style, like the Caesar. Astoundingly good were the mushrooms, fresh and so rich in flavor – and not overdone, the common downfall of most cooked fungi.
The wine list is refreshingly short and not overpriced; we had a nice cabernet from Chile. Dessert is also limited to a few choices, but again, what choices. These include a classic key lime pie, a gooey white chocolate bread pudding and their baked Alaska. The latter is always a showstopper when the waiter ignites the blue flame that toasts the meringue covering its ice cream and pound cake interior.
The only thing we ask is that Christy’s reopen for lunch. Right now, you can return to this classic steakhouse only in the evenings (which, fortunately, include a happy hour in their elegant bar).
3101 Ponce de Leon Blvd.