Christopher LeeThe Forge
The Forge is not your grandfather’s steakhouse—although it once was. With its modern décor, ambiance and philosophy, The Forge has disrupted the steakhouse milieu. The restaurant‟s light and whimsical design elements—think lilac chandeliers and a wall of bubbles—are perfectly interspersed with the historical pieces that adorn the space. The Forge’s design history hearkens back to the 1920s in Miami with blacksmith Dino Phillips, who created decorative iron gates and sculptures for wealthy Miami residents out of this space on 41st Street with clients including the Firestones and Vanderbilts. In the 30s, Phillips converted his foundry into a high-end restaurant with regulars spanning Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Jackie Gleason and Walter Winchell.
In 1968, international financier, Al Malnik bought The Forge and after a yearlong renovation, reopened the restaurant with his collection of fine art and antiques. Some of these significant pieces remain, including a chandelier from the White House (circa James Madison’s presidency) and Napoleon’s writing desk. Celebrity diners from this era included Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Desi Arnaz.
Over the years, The Forge has been updated with more incredible art and an eight-room wine cellar with some of the rarest vintages in the world. In 1991 a fire at the restaurant and damage from Hurricane Andrew served as time where the passing of the torch from Al Malnik to his son, Shareef Malnik. Under Shareef’s tenure, since 1991, The Forge has flourished as a celebrity hotspot once again with iconic guests like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Michael Jordan, Justin Timberlake, Michael Douglas and Billy Joel. However, in 2009 The Forge received its most dramatic makeover yet. Malnik closed the restaurant for one year, as designer Francois Frossard created a completely new look with hand-carved blond wood walls, octopus-like lilac chandeliers, tiered Murano glass chandeliers, bubble walls, hand-etched glass tabletops, and colorful, upholstered furniture. More than cosmetic, the $10 million overhaul also eliminated more than 100 existing seats, established an open-plan main dining room, completely moved and expanded the bar, added the glass-enclosed Boardroom for private dining and livened up The Library and The Forge. When The Forge reopened in 2010, the décor, while different, still managed to pay homage to its past. This striking mix of old and new quickly won over longtime guests, new patrons and restaurant critics.
“We wanted The Forge to feel like a home; an elegant, opulent, and intricate home, but still a comfortable home where you can relax and be yourself,” Frossard said of the redesign. “It’s also a good bit brighter in there than it used to be—warmer, fresher, livelier.” Guests enter the historic restaurant and are welcomed by a custom lilac host stand, which complements the twisty chandeliers hanging over the bar. To the left are the restrooms, of which the women’s accommodations are probably the most photographed in Miami due to a sexy, oversized Helmut Newton nude, ample mirrors and soft lighting. Straight ahead is the open-plan main dining room, with its blond wood walls accented by Arabic-inspired archways, low-slung couches, hand-etched glass tabletops and the signature, multi-tiered chandelier.
The modern bar seats up to 30 guests, with the aforementioned lilac chandeliers, 64 wines by the glass, and blond wood and mirrored bar stools. The glass-enclosed private dining room, The Boardroom, features a 22-foot long communal table made of polished Indonesian tree trunks and oversized, white tufted chairs. The Library retains most of the old Forge’s charm, with stained glass, a cozy fireplace and, of course, a curated selection of books. Finally, there’s the labyrinth-like Wine Cellar with rooms devoted to older vintages of wine, champagne and even a secret, luxe private dining room, which seats up to 25 guests.