Seasoned restaurant veteran Steve Haas, chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), former co-owner and operating partner of Soyka Restaurant, and long-time general manager for restaurant’s under the China Grill Management umbrella – and acclaimed chef Tom Azar (43), previously of iconic celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants in New Orleans, Orlando, and Miami, are teaming up at City Hall restaurant. Haas’ new down-home, brasserie-style dining destination is slated to open for lunch and dinner, January/February 2011 at 2004 Biscayne Boulevard.
“Our goal is to create a restaurant for Miami’s diverse communities to gather,” says owner Steve Haas, a highly respected restaurateur and Miami community leader. “We wanted to offer people a comfortable, cosmopolitan place to meet with friends for dinner or even step out for lunch during the workday and enjoy a great meal in a convivial atmosphere.”
The two-story, 6,000 square foot eatery, located five blocks north of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and a five minute drive from downtown Miami, will cater to the area’s business and political folks, residents and theater aficionados. Featuring a chic ambiance, City Hall restaurant has lacquered concrete floors, floor to ceiling windows with an 80 ft. long light box mural stretching across one wall created by artist Andrew Reid, as well as a mural by Miami-based artist Michelle Rojas. Dark walnut and black varnished wood tables and chairs, comfortable leather banquets, original art and Art Deco accents complement the decor.
Opening for lunch and dinner daily, the moderately priced menu will average below $20 per person for lunch and $25 per person for dinner. The menu, designed to appeal to diners who love down home dishes as well as those with a more sophisticated palate, features Chef Azar’s comfort food specialties as well as a selection of classics with a twist.
City Hall will feature an assortment of decadent creative specialties under the heading “Breaking the Law,” ranging from thick-cut bacon with truffle sauce and cheese-studded onion soup dumplings; to an authentic Neapolitan meatball-filled “pasta dome” known as timpano di maccheroni. Rarely seen on any restaurant menu, this unique offering is best shared. For guests who prefer lighter fare there will be a soup du jour on offer daily, as well as a choice of five farm fresh salads, including an iceberg lettuce wedge, made with caramelized Applewood bacon, vine ripe tomatoes and a creamy blue cheese dressing and a refreshing salad of burrata mozzarella and baby arugula topped with crispy pancetta, extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic.
Mains will feature several fresh fish dishes, including a delicious sesame seared salmon served with green onion jasmine rice, shiitake mushrooms, and soy braised baby bok choy with a miso glaze; Latin-inspired seared scallops from Maine, with a jalapeño emulsion, pico de gallo, and a black bean and sweet corn salsa; and house-made fettuccini with sautéed jumbo shrimp tossed with cherry tomatoes and napped with a tangy lemon, caper, butter sauce.
Old school entrees will include a to-die-for country-style meatloaf with house-made gravy, perfectly portioned for one, served with chorizo and maple mac ‘n’ cheese, baby French green beans and crispy onions; several juicy cuts of steak, and a perfectly roasted chicken, served with steakhouse traditional sides. House specialties will encompass crispy fried chicken with collard greens, corn and bacon, as well as house cured pastrami, corned beef and brisket.
Fish sandwiches, such as a tempting tilapia burger served with a perky cilantro aioli and Chef Azar’s signature – a burger with a mixture of Black Angus beef, brisket and pork, and a fried oyster po’ boy sandwich – served with a choice of hand-cut fries, sweet and spicy coleslaw, or a side salad, are sure to please. Pizzas from the wood burning oven, such as a duck, bacon, and asiago cheese, will be on offer daily.
Tempting sides include crispy potato pancakes, tempting mac ‘n’ cheese, and creamed spinach. To round out the offerings, a menu of classic desserts with a spin is currently in-the-works.
A meal at City Hall isn’t complete without a medley of libations, such as delicious smoothies and freshly squeezed juices, made with seasonal fruits. A full bar will dispense classic and creative cocktails, wines by the glass and imported brews.
The restaurant will offer private dining facilities and an accessible complimentary parking lot (located at 20th Street, between Biscayne Blvd. and N.W. 2 Avenue), offering patrons a rare convenience for the area. In addition, late night dining to accommodate theater-goers is expected to be a welcome change in this early-to-bed district.
Haas, one of the creators of the widely successful Miami Spice Restaurant Program, is known for his devotion to the restaurant industry and to service excellence. In his role as a two-term GMCVB Board Chair, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce and named to the Travel and Tourism Hall of Fame. He also helped create the GMCVB’s Miami Begins with Me, a city-wide initiative developed to raise the bar of customer service in Greater Miami.
To execute the menu at City Hall, Haas has brought in executive chef Tom Azar, a protégé of world-famous chef Emeril Lagasse. Chef Azar, who was raised in Chicago, developed a passion for cooking when he was just a teenager and has focused on pursuing his dream. He enrolled in the culinary arts program at Washburn Trade School in Chicago and received a degree in Culinary Arts in 1991. Soon after graduating, he received a personal phone call from Emeril who offered him a job in the kitchen of his second New Orleans restaurant, Nola. He relocated and, over the next 17 years, worked his way up the ladder of Emeril’s restaurant empire, serving as chef de cuisine for Emeril’s at the Loews Hotel Miami Beach, 2003 to 2008. He consulted after that, waiting for the right offer, when City Hall came his way.