By: DIRK DESOUZA
The Design District’s culinary quest tastes like a Michelin star.
Because luxury shopping marathons require refuels between boutiques, it’s fitting that Miami’s Design District has nurtured a curated culinary brood. COTE Korean Steakhouse, Itamae, ZZ’s Club, and Okami now join Pharrell Williams’ romantic Swan, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, and Mandolin Aegean Bistro for the enclave’s burgeoning slate of jetset chow and cocktails.
So perhaps it’s no coincidence of design that entering COTE through a lustrous and welcoming pink tunnel leads one to the metaphorical birth of the restaurant’s Korean steakhouse vibe, where Korean-style BBQ and American steakhouse heritage come together to make an innovative culinary baby. This restaurateur Simon Kim is clever. “Miami’s sunshine, diversity, and booming restaurant scene,” Kim says, were irresistable. “We’re honored to call the Design District our second home.”
COTE, the Miami outpost of its single Michelin-starred Manhattanite sister, celebrates Goguryeo-era rustic fire cooking, when Koreans invented bulgogi, literally “fire meat.” But unlike Benihana, the COTE experience is dark, sexy, and confident. Black as a nightclub, the stunning room piques the senses with downbeat house music and shocks of colorful lighting. The dry aging meat locker, where 45- to 100-day controlled decomposition occurs, is non-subtly bathed in blood red hues. Walls of floor-to-ceiling dowels, juxtaposed just so, envelope the perimeters with rays of gold bullion. The commanding horseshoe-shaped bar shines a Ferrari yellow.
At said standing bar, order the Chicken Nuggets and you will be thrilled. These should be paired with premier cru Champagne slowly decanted from a magnum. At the minimalist table, the grandeur of the COTE experience is where rubber meets the road. Two tiers of tasting menus, each containing USDA Prime and American Wagyu cuts of beef, make ordering a snap, or go rogue and order a la carte. Order the Butcher’s Feast, a plethora of cubed ribeye, flatiron, and hanger steak, plus marinated short rib called galbi. What happens next is a miraculous COTE-centric orchestration — meats, garnishes, stews, and side dishes are served on butcher blocks and heavy gold metal bowls. Spicy kimchi, savory dwen-jang, savory egg soufflé; it is, quite simply, all delicious. No less than four servers, managers, and sommeliers take turns prepping your protein. It’s a mesmerizing ballet. The meal ends with soft-serve vanilla ice cream drizzled with soy sauce caramel. Like COTE, it is deceptively complex, cloaked in minimalism, and commands an audience.
Heading for the exit, it’s time again to bathe in the wondrous luminosity of the tunnel and resume shopping, Design District style.