Hot Dish: Insider’s Guide to The Continental

BY July 22, 2015


Get an extra helping of restaurateur Richard D’Amico’s latest project, the subject of our June review, with behind-the-scenes pics of The Continental’s innovative offerings and its sweeping overhaul of the former Handsome Harry’s space (the $1 million-plus job was named the best commercial renovation of the year by our sister publication, Gulfshore Business). While everything we sampled was A1 in our book, keep in mind this is a place for serious steak fanatics. If you’re going to do it, do it right—splurge on fancy cuts and classic beef dishes not often seen on menus—and aim to visit on a summer Thursday when all bottles of wine under $100 are half off. 



The mixologists behind the “cocktail lab” that overlooks the outdoor patio experiment with ambitious flavor pairings and carefully craft each creation for guests—like this “Follow the White Rabbit,” which meshes citrus vodka with a hint of rosemary and cranberry with a pickled blackberry. (If you happen to find yourself there on a Monday, check the restaurant’s Facebook page for the speakeasy password for half-off cocktails.)



At a restaurant where the bifold dinner menu is divided into “steak” and everything else, you’d best come with a carnivorous appetite. At the very bottom of the page-long list of filets and porterhouses organized by breed and farm sits an enigmatic option, the Japanese A5 wagyu, sold for a minimum of 6 ounces at market price. A little-known fact is that no beef from Japan was allowed to be imported by the USDA starting in 2009 (so anytime you saw a $30 “Kobe” burger at the beginning of this decade, it was the equivalent of having a Champagne-method sparkler from Chile or Washington State). When the restrictions were lifted in 2012, the farmers from the Miyazaki prefecture came out of the gates running with their top-notch cattle—although their beef is technically not Kobe (like Champagne, it refers to the proper name of a protected region), the cows are the same breed and raised in the exact same method, and the A5, the highest-quality cut, has developed a cult following for the preeminent marbling (read: loaded with fat, but, because of that, it’s oh-so-delicious). The 6-ounce piece we ordered (market price is usually upward of $20 per ounce with a minimum order of 6) was flash-cooked under the broiler and sliced into thin strips as a decadent appetizer.




Luxuriant dishes from the sea, one hot, one cold, are another great way to kick off a meal. The caviar parfait (left) has layers of egg salad, crème fraîche and the tiny pearls to be spread on toasted brioche. A galette (right), a French savory crepe made of buckwheat flour, features more roe, smoked salmon, sprigs of dill and a sunny-side-up egg. (The yellowtail carpaccio, pictured in the magazine’s review, is also a home run—colorful, fresh, zesty—a perfect start to a languid summer evening on the patio.)



Some have sworn off tartare, seen here as delicate morsels of raw steak, in response to spates of food-borne illnesses in recent years. But to apply such a rule for a visit to The Continental is a missed opportunity for a modernized spin on an all-time steakhouse favorite. The beef is sourced responsibly, with information on each of the four farms supplying the cuts printed on the back on the menu. This mound of silky, melt-in-your-mouth meat is enhanced by a petite quail egg and parsley-based sauce verte alongside bone marrow gelée, crisp rounds of baguette, horseradish and pickled vegetables.




Another little-known fact: The Piedmontese breed of cattle is naturally lean and high in protein—one could argue (and the menu does) that it’s healthier to eat than chicken because ounce for ounce it’s lower in cholesterol and calories. The beef served here is raised on grass, making the meat even that much more supple. The Tomahawk rib-eye, although pricey at $120, can easily feed three—or two for dinner and lunch the next day. As expected at any steakhouse, there are several potato dishes, but make sure to try the gratin, where the spuds are matchstick-cut and baked with Parmigiano-Reggiano and flecks of Serrano ham for a creamy, salty and addictive complement.




The desserts, listed daily on a separate card, are delightful in their simplicity, recalling summers spent around the family dinner table or chasing after an ice cream truck. Always listed is the cheesecake (see the magazine’s write-up for details) and several options spicing up vanilla soft serve, like the dark chocolate brownie and salty smoked-almond popcorn dripping in caramel sauce (left). The pies vary depending on the whim of the pastry chef, but we recommend the Key lime blackberry if available (right); a ribbon of the sweet-tart fruit cuts through the custard and is topped with a thick layer of house-churned whipped cream. 




A covered, bougainvillea-lined trellis (left) frames the patio where private cabanas house guests all day and a band takes the stage at night (in summer, expect The Incorrigibles on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays). When the live music is going, patrons settle in along the reflection pool (left) or take a spin in the center of the courtyard. Or, if you reserve one of those cabanas for dinner and dancing under the stars—you won’t regret it. 


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