72nd Bar & Grill in South Miami
Juan and Vani Maza are an ambitious and determined couple. They
met at Johnson & Wales, worked awhile in Michy's kitchen, and in 2007 decided to open their own restaurant in South Miami — Alta Cocina, a neighborhood joint that dished modern global cuisine. Perhaps the
pair jumped from the frying pans of cookery into the fires of ownership too soon, or maybe Cocina folded last year due to
other concerns. Point is, the Mazas dusted themselves off and, this past February, tried again in the same area. This time,
instead of taking chances, they carefully scrutinized menus of successful nearby competitors — most obviously Town Kitchen
& Bar. Ownership of the latter was none too pleased, but the two sides have since made nice.
So while 72nd Bar & Grill doesn't reinvent the idea of a bar
and grill — or the notion of a contemporary South Miami bar and grill serving steaks; burgers; brick-oven pizzas; steamed
mussels; scallops topped with short ribs; calamari with sweet chili sauce; half roast chicken; à la carte cheeses with
olives; cobb, caesar, and iceberg wedge salads; Asian chicken salad with pecans; and fancy cocktails (all from Town's menu)
— folks seem to like it and regularly crowd the 70-seater.
of the appeal is the warm, stylishly industrial décor, which is definitely not modeled after the traditional "barangrill"
Joni Mitchell sings of (where "waitresses all wearing black diamond earrings"
talk about "Singapore slings"). A dozen clear plastic seats are arranged along the
bar up front, and the rest of the minimally decorated room is awash in earth tones and lighting that ranges, during the same
meal, from slightly dim to so dark that diners' faces flash with colors reflected from flat-screen TV sets over the bar. Outdoor
tables provide real-life hues in views of bustling Sunset Drive.
already suggested, this menu trots out more crowd pleasers than the Moulin Rouge. This is a good thing, but would be better still if the kitchen trotted
out superior versions. Let's begin with what 72nd does best: fat, beefy burgers piled high with signature accompaniments and
plunked onto fresh, shiny brioche buns. We had "the juancho," with long, crisp slices of bacon; melted cheddar;
a fried egg; and cilantro mayo. Delicious. Also offered are burgers made from turkey, lamb, or Kobe beef — the last
topped with bacon, caramelized onions, and Gorgonzola dolce. Gorgonzola on Kobe makes as much sense as Marshmallow Fluff on
A thick wedge of grilled yellowfin tuna likewise
comes on a brioche bun and tasted fantastic with kim chee coleslaw and sweet Asian glaze. Surprisingly for a bar and grill,
this is the only grilled fish on the menu. The other seafood selections are seared versions of tuna, salmon, and sea bass.
Burgers and sandwiches are accompanied by choice of fries, sweet potato fries,
or slaw. Go with either spud, each served crisply fried and bundled high upon the plate; our smidgen of slaw was drowned in
too much mayonnaise.
From the grill, there's
a "cast iron seared" half-chicken that came roasted. Setting aside conflicting terminology, the
bird was listless and dry, as if roasted — or whatever — earlier in the day. The remaining quartet of grillables
are filet mignon, rack of Australian lamb (half or full), New York strip, and a long, narrow strip of eight-ounce skirt steak
that was cooked to proper medium-rare but possessed a taste too heavily saturated in a red wine marinade. Sweet barbecue sauce
wasn't bad, but it didn't help.
72nd proffers unique menu
categories including pastas, vegetarian entrées, and raw bar items such as tuna crudo, salmon tartare, and a Peruvian
ceviche — shrimp, scallops, octopus, sea bass, a thick slice of sweet potato, red onion, and plump white choclo corn
kernels in cilantro-heightened orange/citrus juice. Octopus with kalamata sauce, also part of the raw bar list, arrived in
the form of small, tender disks under a salty, one-dimensional purple emulsion of puréed olives and olive oil.
Main courses are served sans accompaniments. Side dishes include broccoli
rabe with preserved lemon; sautéed spinach; a captivating corn/fregola combo; a far less captivating (bland) mac and
cheese; grilled asparagus; and sweet potato purée. That's enough for a noncarnivore, but there are also five separate
veggie dishes: tofu salad, portobello burger, tofu cheesesteak, goat cheese quesadilla, and tofu with vegetables simmered
in creamy curry-coconut broth.
Cobb salad is tossed rather
than cobbled together in the customary fashion of lining garnishes in neat rows atop the greens. It saves diners the work
of mixing things up, but parsimonious portions of bacon and avocado were diced into tiny pieces and got lost among the lettuce,
cherry tomatoes, egg-white crescents, ranch dressing, and hefty clumps of Gorgonzola. That said, it was still a flavorful
Not so a "NY cheese" pizza, which arrived
looking very much like that city's trademark pie — tomato sauce topped by orange-tinted cheese. The crust was soft and
handsomely charred, but the sauce or cheese had a metallic aftertaste. We sampled the same pizza on a return visit, when the
funny flavor was present in a milder manner.