Miami Beach Reflections

Haute Living Magazine Top 100 People in Miami

Al & Shareef Malnik

Category, Entrepreneurs

Company, The Forge

Industry, Restaurant

What Makes Them Haute, Where would Miami Beach be without the Malniks? Al Malnik is the visionary entrepreneur-turned-lawyer-turned-restaurateur who opened The Forge in the 1960′s and the Beach has never been the same. The restaurant has served as the stomping ground for every A-list group that came through the town. The Forge is more than a one of miami best restaurant; it’s a landmark that played a significant role in the revival of Miami Beach. Shareef, who grew up in the restaurant’s kitchen, took over the operations in the 1990′s after he returned to this hometown from extensive world travels. Shareef closed the restaurant last year for extensive renovations, finally reopening its doors in late March under the updated moniker The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar by Shareef Malnik. Watever it’s called, it is still where you will find us on Wednesdays.

Make-A-Wish 2010 Garden Party at the Malnik’s Home

More than 200 guests braved the rains Sunday to attend The InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Garden Party, hosted by Al and Nancy Malnik at their oceanfront estate in Ocean Ridge, near West Palm Beach.

The winds and scattered showers drove the soggy heeled under a tent, where they sidestepped puddles and gulped down the ironically named Rising Suns, lychee- and grapefruit-infused cocktails designed by the newly reopened Forge’s mixologist; and enjoyed beats by DJ Joe Dert and a performance by Japanese Taiko drummers Fushu Daiko.

Among the guests — boxing promoter Don King — and Burn Notice star Gabrielle Anwar, who appears to be Shareef Malnik’s new girlfriend. Anwar, in a green, flowery dress, was in a great mood. And why not? The Forge’s owner was showering the 40-year-old British mother of three with attention and her USA show just got picked up for two more seasons.



He may not be a big-time promoter anymore, but that doesn’t mean local philanthropist Michael Capponi doesn’t know how to throw a party.

This year, for his birthday, the 38-year-old chose a fun and eclectic theme: Alice in Wonderland. On Friday at the lavish Star Island home of developer Thomas Kramer, Capponi’s closest VIP friends donned costumes similar to what you would see in the Disney flick: Alices, Queens of Hearts, Mad Hatters, Tweedledees, Tweedledums and white rabbits.

Kramer — the king of the castle (with a crown on his head and a long velvet coat) — helped the birthday boy (dressed as the Mad Hatter) blow out the candles.

While most guests arrived on wheels, a few lucky ones pulled up their yachts to the soiree. Inside, guests who hadn’t been to Kramer’s mansion before, snuck a peek at his grandiose art collection and decorated outside pool area.

Spotted: Transformers director Michael Bay, boxer Andre Berto and Project Runway runner-up Uli Herzner.

The party (at which guests shelled out $50 to get past the velvet ropes), raised $30,000 for the United Way of Miami-Dade County. Those who didn’t want the night to end early partied across town at SET, where clubgoers were welcomed to Wonderland in style.

The club, decked out with four-foot-tall playing cards hanging from the ceiling, had a huge clock made for the occasion, and Tweedledee spun a mix of hip-hop and pop from the DJ booth.


Al Malnik Reflects On Getting Started

The Make-A-Wish organization has this sentence floating across the screen on their Web page promoting World Wish Day, April 29, 2010: “Today is when tomorrow’s wishes start coming true.”

Growing up, Al Malnik may not have been dreaming about becoming a lawyer, restaurateur or successful businessman. But what he did know was that he would, without a doubt, make something of himself. “Growing up in a very poor neighborhood in St. Louis – experiencing poverty – gave me an uncanny, almost compulsive desire to make something out of myself,” he said. “Whether it was consciously or unconsciously, that desire included being important in whatever I did.”

An extremely private person, Al barely agrees to interview requests but his business success, including a large consumer loan business and at one time Miami Beach’s world-renowned and recently renovated restaurant, The Forge, is owned by Shareef Malnik. “I haven’t really paid much attention to what’s been written,” he said. “People pretty much write what they want and that gets repeated.”

Documented or not, he definitely succeeded and that success has been in more areas than just business. Right from the start, Al began making financial contributions to charitable organizations. That generosity certainly deserves respect. But going the extra mile – donating your time and opening your heart and home to those in need – is worthy of even more.

It’s no surprise that both Al and his wife Nancy are active supporters of organizations committed to making a difference in the lives of individuals in need. The scope of their philanthropic activities is broad: children’s causes, religious-based charities, education and a large donation to Jackson Memorial Hospital, in honor of the late chairman and his friend Jay Weiss, are just a few.

A life-altering experience began in 2004 when one of the Malnik’s triplets, six-year-old Jarod, was diagnosed with AML leukemia. While Al and Nancy had always held a special passion for groups focused on helping children and made a point to focus much of their charity work on those groups, they came face to face with the reality of just how fragile human life is and the amount of faith and endurance they would need to fight this battle.

Throughout Jarod’s seven-month cancer treatment, Al and Nancy’s belief that even a single act of kindness can positively impact a child’s life was reinforced. Even before having their own children, one organization, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, has always been a favorite for the couple. They say seeing a child’s face light up with happiness and joy is something unforgettable.

Years have passed since their family’s battle with cancer and Jarod is strong and healthy. Their commitment to charitable organizations is stronger than ever. Grateful for any opportunity to see their own son smile during his treatments, they wanted to make things easier for other families as well. For several years now, they have been lifetime benefactors of the organization.

Some say success is often helped along by a healthy dose of luck or good timing, but looking back at Al’s business ventures it’s clear he left little to chance. When you have the ability to walk into a restaurant known primarily for its $2 dinners and see more – turn it into The Forge, or represent clients other lawyers wouldn’t consider – more than luck is at play. “I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to do, within reasonable bounds or what I’ve considered reasonable bounds,” Al said.

Make-A-Wish families and children in need of some special wish-granting are glad he did.

For more information about Make-A-Wish, visit or call 954-967-9474.

The Forge from 2005

By Lee KleinPublished on April 14, 2005

The Forge is something of a way-back time machine. The faded colonial-style gray-and-white facade is fronted by tall, black, nineteenth-century-inspired gas lamps. Inside the Miami Beach institution is a group of eclectically rococo dining rooms, though to call the décor eclectic is like saying Michael Jackson is a little odd. Still, what better word befits a dining establishment with pressed-tin ceilings, stained-glass cathedral windows, titanic tapestries, and — among its hundreds of oddities and antiquities — a twelve-foot Victorian fireplace circa 1830, sconces from Napoleon’s Waterloo headquarters, a crystal chandelier from the Paris Opera House, another from the White House (of James Madison), an Art Nouveau statue by John Nast, iron gates by Edward Brandt, wall plates by Salvador Dali, a Tiffany window from 1907, paintings of naked nymphs, and a Beardsley Rousseau parrot mural. Amazingly it all comes together to form a warm, comfortable, even romantic setting. The outside courtyard is cozy too.

The wine collection is a time machine unto itself, housing some 300,000 bottles, including arguably the most ambitious collection of nineteenth-century Burgundy and Bourdeaux in the country (dating back to an 1822 Lafite). Pick a label, choose a year, though you’ll probably want to avoid 1992, which is when Hurricane Andrew dealt the Forge cellar a big blow — to the tune of a seven-million-dollar loss. Nowadays it’s back to where it was.

Andrew was just another memorable date in the Forge’s intriguing and infamous history. Turn the dial to the Twenties, when artisan Dino Phillips forged ornamental gates in what was then his blacksmith shop. In the Thirties the building was transformed into a casino and open-air gallery where socialites would dance beneath the stars. The Forge was the place to go in the sizzling Miami Beach of the Fifties, not the place to go in the not-hot Sixties. The year was 1968 when Alvin Malnik bought the property and turned it around. In 1977 there was a shooting death on-site involving the stepson of mobster Meyer Lansky; in 1991 a fire destroyed the roof. Meanwhile the Beach was busy being reborn, and as Alvin’s debonaire son Shareef entered the scene, the Forge’s fortunes soared along with the city’s, becoming ground zero for the influx of jet-setting, party-minded visitors — the well-off who wanted to be well fed. It still is that place — stretch limos double-lining the curb while moneyed patrons mix it up here and next door at the private dinner club Jimmy’z.

Nobody has told the waiters that the old days are gone. They dress in the formal attire of a bygone era — not white gloves, but that’s the treatment they give. The sommelier, too, wears the old-fashioned silver tasting cup around his neck, though admittedly this could be mistaken for the sort of bling favored nowadays by rappers. Some of the crew are long in the tooth and effect the somber bearing of butlers in Agatha Christie yarns, but there’s something to be said for experience. Proprietors of Miami’s trendier upscale restaurants needn’t stuff their staffs into tuxedoes, although they might consider visiting the Forge and taking note of how waiters properly articulate menu items, replace flatware and plates, handle wines, and generally keep on top of things in a pampering (not pandering) professional fashion.

While service takes an anachronistic route toward pleasing the customer, and the wine list and décor favor the shock-and-awe approach, the Forge’s cuisine has mostly been about satisfying with traditional steak-house staples of juicy sirloins, gargantuan lobsters, and family-style sides of potatoes, creamed spinach, and so on. Permit me to travel back eight years, to a night when my folks and I had dinner here (there are few restaurants more exhilarating to parents than this one). Long-time chef Kal Abdalla was still at the stoves, and I recall that after the waiters performed their synchronized lifting of silver domes from the large, oval entrée plates (always impressive), my father’s filet mignon, alone in the middle of the expansive white dish, looked like an aerial photograph of a brown-capped man in a snowstorm.

Let’s dash ahead to 2003, when chef Andrew Rothschild replaced Kal and proceeded to shake the foundations of the Forge menu by adding contemporary flair to the stodgy fare, and accompaniments to the entrées. Andrew Swersky inherited the chef position seven months ago, but he’s been part of the Forge family a long while — in fact, he helped create chef Kal’s original menu. In spirit, though, Swersky is closer to Rothschild, adding global and Latin accents and forgoing the sparse, à la carte approach; filet mignon now comes with a small dollop of mashed potatoes and a bouquet of baby vegetables. Swersky, also like his predecessor, infuses his cuisine with all manner of modern comestibles: mache, microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, white truffles, golden beets, wakame, basmati, coconut risotto. When pork chops come with soba noodles and lotus root chips, you can be pretty sure, gastronomically speaking, this is not your father’s Forge.

Predinner breads include Parmesan wafers, raisin-walnut toast, and warm onion-and-rosemary-flecked focaccia. There are about 40 ways to begin your meal — soups, salads, pastas, thin-crust pizzas, a fairly extensive raw bar, and a slew of hot and cold appetizers. Steak tartare, an old standard that Swersky reinserted, is a melodious mound of red, raw, buttery beef enlightened by truffle oil, lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire, fresh herbs, and slightly piquant paprika aioli. Accompaniments missed: a poached egg on top too overcooked to drip luxurious yolk into the meat, and a prefried trio of plantain chips lacking the clean crispness of classic toast points. Escargots have never crawled off the menu, the half-dozen snails big and tender, a splash of Chardonnay effective in cutting the garlic and grease.

Organic arugula salad offers light passage to the heavy main courses, the peppery greens tossed with paper-thin shavings of fennel and Parmigiano-Reggiano in lemon juice and fruity green olive oil. Signature chopped salad is too fussy, the diced tomatoes, vegetables, and Gorgonzola cheese molded into a ribboned round of cucumber, with lettuce leaves protruding upward like feathers in a headdress. As with the plantain chips, this is another instance where the Forge should stick to the way things used to be: a big bowl of easy-to-eat salad.

Some things never change: Steaks here are still as solid as an anvil. A requested end cut of boneless prime rib eye (Delmonico) was near perfect, the crust darkly caramelized on a torrid grill, the juices thus sealed within the meat like water in a balloon — didn’t need anything but a little salt and pepper, though a rich, veal-based chanterelle sauce on the side did manage to take it higher. Both the waiter and menu reminded us that the signature “super steak,” a sixteen-ounce portion of sirloin dry-aged for 21 days, has been cited by Wine Spectator as “the best steak in America.” It is damn tender, with noticeably deep beef flavor. No more Forge 48-ounce Porterhouse, as big as a dinosaur and now as extinct.

Five types of fish come cooked simply over oak wood or busily garnished with global accompaniments. The plainest presentation in the latter group is a center cut of swordfish, which was grilled to just the right point of doneness and crowned with a sparkling mélange of roasted red and yellow peppers, kalamata olives, capers, olive oil, and a drizzle of rosemary butter. Dover sole, on the other hand, could make Blackwell’s list of worst-dressed fish, the delicate flesh flashily sauced with coconut pineapple rum beurre blanc. A two- or three-pound lobster would be a safer bet for uncomplicated gratification.

A sweet and sticky “mahogany” glaze on oak-grilled chicken, in tandem with a fruity lingonberry sauce underneath, proved too cloying against the subtle, smoky flavor of the moist breast and nearly sabotaged an otherwise sensational sliced, boneless leg wrapped around savory cornbread-and-foie gras stuffing with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (if this makes you think of Simon & Garfunkel, you’re old enough to become a waiter here). A savory mold of Israeli couscous and a scattering of oak-grilled vegetables are served with the bird, though your table might want to share a couple of sides just the same. A worthwhile one to try would be “hash browns Lyonnaise,” a fancy name for a fat, potato pancakelike puck of creamy yuca capped with sautéed onions. Shoestring potatoes are too similar to junk-food potato snacks, so I was disappointed (partly in myself for not asking about the dish beforehand) that “truffle-Parmesan fries” brought a plentiful pile of those cold, crisp, skinny sticks with nary a trace of cheese — and even less truffle oil.

Chocolate soufflé was moister than cake but not quite runny enough — overcooked by a mere minute or two. Just the same, the full, smooth chocolate flavor was right on the money, which is why the full, smooth chocolate sauce seemed redundant — crme anglaise would’ve been a better partner. Other desserts (key lime pie, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and the like) are big and sweet.

Though the Forge’s food is convincingly contemporary, there are probably other dinner spots to which you’ll want to take those hipster visitors from New York (though keep Shareef’s place in mind for party night on Wednesdays). The Forge is more suited for special occasions, or when you crave a great steak and Bordeaux, or for those times you just want to escape this hectic world and enter a genteel realm of glass and distinction.