An adventurous Friday night dinner at the best South African restaurant in Miami —”Big Easy” — inside Brickell City Centre, downtown Miami.
If you think “Big Easy” is a New Orleans type of eatery, think again.
It’s SOUTH AFRICAN…
And named after professional golfer, Ernie Els, who was bequeathed the nickname, “Big Easy,” because of his smooth golf swing, but that’s not all…
Somewhere during his massive rise to fame and fortune, the world-prominent golfer developed an unadulterated love affair with wine and food.
Which is why his creative partnership with “Big Easy” (located on the third floor of Brickell City Centre) is a total no-brainer or as the kids say, a “Hole in One” — sorry, couldn’t resist a good golf pun. 😀
The menu, which is authentic South African cuisine, is chock-full of unique and interesting choices, easily reflecting the heart and soul of the “Rainbow Nation.”
With romantic lighting, rustic decor and a beautiful bar, you’ll feel transported to an earthier place like, say, Johannesburg, where Ernie happens to be from.
Because of the restaurant’s eclectic backdrop, it was hard picking the perfect place to start my Spotlight experience. I settled on their moody lounge, featuring exposed brick walls, comfy low-sitting sofas and bright green throw pillows.
My first drink of the night, a “White Lightning” — was something I’d heard of but never tasted. In England, it’s more of a cider/moonshine thing; in South Africa, it’s called firewater (made with Leblon Cachaca rum, ginger, cucumber and mint.) This drink definitely packs a powerful yet refreshing punch. If you’re adventurous, try it, you’ll like it.
Next, I swigged on a “Smoking Barrel” — which was thick, bawdy and (of course) smokey. I loved its presentation (made with Big Easy Red, Jura whiskey, Clove and Sandeman Ruby Port.) I’m still trying to figure out how they catch smoke in a glass and serve it. It’s definitely keen bartending chemistry. I also tried the mysterious and sultry, “Black Magic” (with vodka and blackberry.) It’s one of those drinks that makes you feel like you’re in on a secret when you’re partaking.
Instead of another cocktail, the staff suggested I try something from their extensive wine list and why not? Mr. Els, who makes his own adult grape juice at his vineyards east of Cape Town in Stellenbosch, has a lot to choose from.
I sipped on a spicy bold red blend, which easily complemented my first appetizer, “Cowboy Candy” A.K.A Pork Belly ‘Lollipops”.
What’s not to love about braai (roasted meat) smothered in barbecue sauce with a rich bacon flavor? Hello, lovah. This was my favorite of the night.
The “Mini Crab Cakes” were tasty, too (served with apple, slaw and curry aioli.) I’m a sucker for “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Big Easy” does em’ just right, topped with goat cheese and a sweet tomato chutney.
If you prefer something healthier, the “Caesar Salad” is excellent (made with baby romaine, blistered tomatoes and white anchovies.) I’m a snob when it comes to this kind of salad because it’s easy to do wrong and hard to do RIGHT. This Caesar was fresh, well-balanced dressing-wise and beautiful.
I love being a food explorer and the “Angry Duck Curry” was something I’d never tried before. It was spicy and welcoming, with tender duck breast, red madras curry and yummy basmati rice.
If you enjoy white fish, the African spice-crusted “Corvina” is a great choice. Light and sweet, it’ll leave you wanting more. It’s served on a bountiful bed of risotto verde, which I loved.
Despite doing the food blog for some time now, I’ve never had the privilege of tasting Tomahawk
steak. At “Big Easy” they serve “Dry-Aged Tomahawk Chop” (the mother of all steaks!) When they wheeled it out (yes, I said wheeled it out,) I squealed like a kid in a candy store. MAN!! It was BIG and smelled ridiculously amazing.
Because of its gi-normous-ness, it’s perfect for sharing, plus it comes with two sides (I recommend the Brussel sprouts and roasted cauliflower.) I really enjoyed how they serve the steak with a personal table presentation, slicing it right in front of you. The meat itself was freaking fantastic: tender, juicy and one of the best thing’s I’ve ever tasted. Definitely, one of my new “Favorite Things”.
If you know anything about South African culture, you know how important a good barbecue, which they call Braai, truly is. The “Big Easy Braai” encompasses all the flavors of the popular custom, served with South African farmer’s sausage, a 12-ounce Top Sirloin, double lamb chops and Nigerian prawns (plus two sides.) Be still my beating heart. This is another shareable plate.
The Nigerian Prawns, btw, were the bomb-dot-com. I like the diversity of the Braai because it has a little bit of everything: there’s something to keep everyone at the table happy and who doesn’t like that?
After what seemed like a feast fit for a KING, I tasted two decadent desserts: “Nutella Bread Pudding” and “Apple Strudel” both excellent and served with vanilla ice cream.
I’d love to give you all the juicy ingredients, but the desserts weren’t on the menu and it’s worth throwing caution to the wind and going with your server’s suggestion.
If you long for a different kind of experience, with creative/high quality food and great drinks,”Big Easy,” isn’t just “par for the course”, it’s ready to serve you the South African way and that’s why it’s one of my Favorite Things.
Brickell City Centre
701 S. Miami Avenue, Suite 339A
Miami, Florida 33131