|Written by Sheri Elfman on August 08 2012|
I have a sentimental attachment to Magnum Restaurant/Lounge as it was the first dining establishment I ever reviewed. It was for a now defunct publication and I remember being floored by this super cool spot practically hidden away on 79th Street in Miami.
With its dark red walls, dim lighting, attractive dining areas and piano playing, Magnum has a warm atmosphere that will leave a lasting mark on you. Non-pretentious and friendly, you are guaranteed a good time at this legendary bar and eatery.
But does the food deliver? Oh yes. A very enthusiastic yes!
My friends Anthony, Craig and Stephen joined me for a night at this popular New York-style Piano Bar/Restaurant on a Tuesday night. The place had a lively crowd, including several guys and gals gathered around the piano, singing along. We were soon greeted by the owner, Jeffrey, who was the former owner of Jeffrey’s on South Beach, which was extremely popular in the ’90s.
Handsome and charming, Jeffrey chatted us up to see what our food preferences were. The guys started with some cocktails, and ever the party pooper, I started with an iced tea. We were then served a basket of not just rolls, but rolls and beignets. Ah, the beignets. . .I remembered them fondly from my past visit and was excited to see (and devour) my old sweet friends again. Dusted with powdered sugar, the doughy goodness was heavenly.
As Anthony, Craig, Stephen and I discussed politics and world news (okay, not really, but it sounds better than what we were really discussing—whether we would still want to go see “Sparkle” if Whitney was still alive) we were served a variety of tasty appetizers. We split plates of fried calamari ($12.75), Escargot ($13.95) and Truffle Mousse Pate´ ($13.50).
Jeffrey told us how he doesn’t use the tentacles in his calamari, just the rings, and that pretty much sold us on the plate. I never was into the tentacles and usually pick around them when I eat calamari. The calamari was crispy and was seasoned well and the calamari rings themselves were surprisingly delicate and not at all rubbery. They were served with a red pepper aioli and salsa dip.
They also offered a unique take on escargot as it was served in a gorgeous puff pastry shell with a blue cheese butter sauce. The escargot, which can easily turn out rubbery in texture, was cooked to perfection.
My favorite of the starters, the Truffle Mousse Pate´, was a creamy homemade blend of duck, veal and peppercorn served with rye crackers, cornichon, capers and mustard. The guys weren’t sure how they would feel about pate´ but it turned out to be love at first bite for them. It was the smoothest, tastiest pate´ I have ever had.
On to the main dishes. We each ordered something different and shared. We kicked it off with Mom’s Home-style Fried Chicken ($21.25) which was accompanied by mashed potatoes, homemade Southern gravy and perfectly seasoned veggies. The fried chicken at Magnum has been on many lists as the best fried chicken in Miami and it’s easy to see why. The crispy, flavorful crust, surrounding that juicy chicken. . .well, my mouth is watering just typing about it. It’s a must for fried chicken lovers. The gravy was also quite popular at our table. And don’t get me started on those luscious, homemade mashed potatoes...heaven.
We also split the Crab Cakes ($27.95) which were served with a grainy mustard sauce, mashed potatoes and veggies. Jeffrey is from Maryland, so he knows what a good crab cake should be – full of fresh crab and no filler and cooked to a golden brown. And this certainly had all that and more.
Our next dish was Pistachio Crusted Chicken ($22.50), which was boneless chicken breast crusted with a blend of pistachio and parmesan cheese and served with a tropical mango sauce. The pistachio/parm crusted chicken boasted a flavor combination that was nothing short of a show stopper.
The last dish we split was the Pot Roast ($21.95), which was served with veggies, those amazing mashed potatoes and home-style gravy. I never thought I would have pot roast better than my Grammy Dot’s, but this pot roast was out of this world. Tender and succulent; it made me swoon. The plate was positioned in front of Stephen and if I wasn’t such a lady, I would’ve taken it away from him and ran off and ate it myself. I was this close to batting his fork away.
If that wasn’t enough food, we were then brought three tasty desserts – Homemade Key Lime Pie, Peanut butter/Chocolate Mousse Pie and a slice of Apple Cake. Did I mention that they come around with a dessert cart full of beautiful desserts at the end of your meal? Oh yes. . .
Craig said that this Key Lime Pie was just as good as the ones he’s tried in Key West, if not better. It was creamy, refreshing and had a meringue top. The Apple Cake was full of crisp apple slices and amazing cinnamon flavor and the Peanut butter/Chocolate Mousse was surprisingly light in texture – not the heavy peanut butter chocolate desserts that are served elsewhere – and so good, it verged on a sexual experience.
To eat such delicious dishes in this beautiful, quirky atmosphere, over the soundtrack of show tunes and happy customers. . .well, it was one of the best evenings I have had in a while.
Bonus Tip: For those who are looking for great drinks in a fun atmosphere, you will want to check out their outdoor bar, The Shack.