Raising the Steaks

Perry’s is the Latest Entry into the Gables Steakhouse Ring, and it’s Ready to Rumble

November 2019

Coral Gables is not exactly virgin territory when it comes to steakhouses. In the downtown alone there is Fleming’s, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris, with triple-decade icon Christy’s just down the block on Ponce de Leon. All are first-class.

So, what does Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille bring to the fray, besides bragging rights for having started as a butcher shop in Texas?

Well, that’s part of it, memorialized in a blown-up photo of a Texas steer on one wall, and with a set of horns hanging over a display case of meat that greets you in the lobby. Perry’s started in Houston in 1979 as a meat market, so they know their beef, pork and lamb. But it’s where they take those cuts, pushing them just a little past the traditional, that puts them on the meat map.

As you would expect, the basic selections, like filet mignon, prime ribeye and New York strip are all outstanding, cooked at high temperatures to seal in the moisture and flavor. But taking it up a notch is their signature Chateaubriand, which we tried. It is carved tableside into thick round slices and served with two reduction sauces, one a truffle merlot demiglace and the other a bearnaise with peppercorn. Both add sophisticated flavors to a buttery steak that has just the right crusted edge.

Chef Rick Moonen, who designs their signature dishes in Houston

Another signature dish that we tried is Perry’s “famous” seven-finger pork chop, which is cured, smoked and slow roasted so that the fat is caramelized and infused with a rub of herbs and honey. This is also carved tableside into loin, ribs and the “eyebrow” of crusted deliciousness, and comes with homemade applesauce. A perfect dish for pork-crazy South Florida.

Perry’s famous seven-finger pork chop

Standouts among the appetizers are Perry’s fried asparagus and their BBQ octopus. Fried asparagus? Yes, with a thin breaded skin, like some sort of healthy croqueta. And who knew it paired so well with a topping of jumbo lump crabmeat? The octopus, now a trendy must at any new restaurant, was uniquely barbecue charred, served on a bed of homemade coleslaw. If you have never warmed up to octopus, this Texan take is your chance.

The most pleasing surprise on the Perry’s menu is their selection of stunning salads. These are robust salads, with some explosive flavors. Their spinach and warm bacon vinaigrette is succulent comfort food, perfectly dressed; their field green, pear and candied pecan salad is just as scrumptious as it sounds; and the Caesar salad is the real thing, salty, cold and crunchy. They are the best deals on the menu, as well, at $11 to $12 each and alone worth a visit (their steak entree prices are on par with other steak houses at $50 to $60).

As for desserts, they have several signature flaming treats, like the baked Alaska for two. But we were felled by the butterscotch bread pudding in caramel sauce, with chocolate chips and candied walnuts and toasted homemade marshmallow. Words cannot describe how ambrosial this gooey, chewy, crunchy mess tastes.

Baked Alaska, Perry’s signature flaming dessert

Beyond the food is the polish which this growing chain, determined to sear its brand on the national palate, brings to the table. With 13 locations in Texas, plus ones in Chicago, Birmingham and Denver, Perry’s landed here with an experienced team plucked from other locations. Even company chieftain Chris Perry spent most of his September and October nights at the Gables location, making sure all ran smoothly.

Then there is the spectacular setting in the Shops at Merrick Park. There is seating for 640 in the cavernous space, which is broken into three parts: a large courtyard area out front, with a flame pit and turquoise umbrellas; a lounge area with piano bar; and the main seating area, a large interior dining room that feels like the lobby of a big city hotel, in the best sense.

Green leather booths with dark mahogany woodwork give it an old club feeling. One wall is a vast, glassed-in wine cellar; one wall is dark wood with a pattern of golden barnacles; one wall carries a glass partition that encloses the huge kitchen, with its ballet of background activity.

Like the kitchen on display, Perry’s is a vast, bustling production, so well-oiled it feels choreographed. At the very least, it feels like it’s already a local institution.

The main dining room features a glass wall of fine wines