“Tonight, we’re making traditional beef tartare,” Chef Jeff McInnis explained as he wheeled a handcrafted dim sum cart into his restaurant’s East Village dining room.
“Beef tartare,” fellow Executive Chef, Janine Booth interjected. “Made with all of the traditional ingredients – except the beef.”
Instead, they manipulated a medley of root vegetables – locally grown carrots, rutabagas, and beets – through a meat grinder. Rhythmically, their hands folded spices and sauces and zesty garnishes into the resulting mixture – the delicious dance of American dim sum. McInnis’ buried Southern drawl enveloped Booth’s Australian accent as they described their process, their inspiration, and their new restaurant endeavor in Miami, The Sarsaparilla Club.
Projected to open early next year in the newly renovated Shelborne Wyndham Grand Hotel in South Beach, The Sarsaparilla Club will feature “a restaurant of freedom and flexibility, a kitchen with no boundaries, and a culinary team that will always respect tradition and showcase fresh takes on American classics.” According to the duo, the destination’s small plate-style fare is “based on current, modern American cooking” and includes “fun and engaging tableside service.”
New York City transplants with coastal roots, Chefs McInnis and Booth have spent a majority of their professional lives honing an appreciation for Southern cooking. The Top Chef alums worked side-by-side at successful Miami establishments Gigi and Yardbird, where contemporary comfort food captivated the attention of Florida foodies and the James Beard Foundation.
Today, McInnis and Booth satisfy the southern cravings of New Yorkers with sweet tea-brined fried chicken and drunken deviled eggs. Their intimate garden-to-table restaurant, Root & Bone, beckons hungry Manhattanites to the city’s epicurean epicenter. The interior of the critically acclaimed dining destination is flanked with communal tables, illuminated by antique decanters-turned-light fixtures, and punctuated with down-home hospitality; chefs wear subtle seersucker jackets, beer taps are capped with deer antlers, and a lone bookshelf displays 3 decades of Southern Living cookbooks, dog-eared and annotated by McInnis’s grandmother. This venue, where cosmopolitan energy meets country charm, served as venue to The Sarsaparilla Club’s menu tasting event.
Those fortunate enough to sample The Sarsaparilla Club’s namesake specialties – including cocktails spiked with sarsaparilla sugar, waffles and BBQ duck glazed with sarsaparilla and plum, and buttermilk panna cotta topped with sarsaparilla vinegar – are already planning a South Beach escape from New York upon the restaurant’s official opening this winter.