We were lucky to meet South American live-fire grill master, Francis Mallmann, at his new restaurant, Los Fuegos, located in South Beach at the new Faena Hotel at 3201 Collins (ph#786-655-5600).
This is his first venture in the United States. He has restaurants in Patagonia, Buenos Aires, and Uruguay. He was one of Argentina’s best-known chefs for preparing Haute-French food, but the prospect later bored him. His new vision led him to cooking with wood fires the way he saw gauchos and Indians cook in Patagonia.
He utilizes every aspect of the wood fire from the flames to the hot ashes. He’s become an expert with fire – cooking over it, under it, in it, and around it.
At Los Fuegos he continues with this theme by creating a contemporary asado (an open fire barbecue) experience, using only fire to cook, and local ingredients. His rustic recipes are transformed into savoury dishes.
The dining room is lovely and just the perfect size for an intimate dinner. The restaurant has red and gold tapestries and curtains patterned with palm trees. There’s an outside terrace where you can also dine, but, unfortunately, every time I have been to the hotel it has been extremely windy outside.
I noticed only one sitting the evening we were there. The table was ours for the duration.
For starters we enjoyed the sweetbreads, tender octopus and the beef empanadas. The bread that was served with it tasted stale. For mains the chicken stood out to us. We also had some ribeye, branzino, a rice dish with shrimp, and a veal Milanese. For sides we tried the polenta and a spinach. All the food was quite tasty. The potatoes that came with the chicken were so glorious, crispy from the grill. I don’t think it’s a restaurant that would be a good choice for vegetarians or vegans – it’s very meat-centric.
They offer a wide range of wines and there was a nice selection of Argentinian reds.
The meal started out with attentive service, and everything was running quite smoothly. But once dessert was served the waitstaff was nowhere to be found. There was no one to wave down and we tiredly waited about 45 minutes to get someone’s attention so we could pay the bill. The food is quite expensive so be forewarned. Also please note you may go home smelling of a wood fire. The price you have to pay for this type of cooking.
Francis Mallmann has one of his restaurants listed as one of Latin America’s 50 best restaurants, and his cookbook, Seven Fires, is a James Beard award winner. He has been dubbed, “the ambassador of fire”.
He really cooks with bold flavours, and the technique may not be for everyone. I say, “Welcome to Miami, Chef Mallmann!”