If you're looking for a promising way to expand your culinary footprint, check out Tim Andriola's latest move in South Florida. He's still going strong as chef/proprietor of Timo, a well-reviewed Italian-Mediterranean spot in Sunny Isles, north of Miami. But this 2003 Restaurant Hospitality Rising Star now has a concurrent gig down in South Beach. Andriola is executive chef at the new Bancroft Supper Club, a restaurant/nightclub operation located in an ultra-hip Art Deco space formerly known as the Bancroft Hotel.
The Bancroft Supper Club bills itself as a culinary nightclub, suggesting that it offers better food than the rest of its South Beach nightlife competitors, while the people who dine there tend to get crazier and crazier as the night wears on. It opened in June, and both the food and the party scene have more than lived up to their billing.
Andriola could have simply repeated his Italian-Mediterranean Timo menu here. He went in a much-different direction instead.
“I was excited at the opportunity to develop a menu comprised of the finest natural and organic foods,” he says. “I'm sourcing fish and working with local farmers whenever possible. My job is to create a culinary destination; the rest of the team, led by nightlife innovators Dimitri Fragoulias and Sergio Quinonez, will handle the after-11:30 p.m. experience.” From a chef's point of view, you couldn't draw it up any better: take care of the food, let somebody else handle the party crowd, who are welcome to stay until the 5 a.m. closing time.
Meals aren't cheap at the Bancroft — appetizers go for $12-$19, entrees are $25-$49. This raises a question: Isn't it risky to open a big-ticket natural and organic food club/restaurant in the middle of a recession? Especially in Miami, epicenter of the real estate bubble that got the downward trend going?
Consider: Current figures show that Miami's rental vacancies are at 12.7 percent, homeowner vacancy is at 5.6 percent, and website Trulia.com reports that a whopping 40 percent of the homes for sale in Miami are in foreclosure. The rows of near-empty condo towers that line the beach testify that these numbers might understate how bad things actually are.
Throw in the additional burden that the Bancroft opened during the heart of the off-season, and the whole enterprise seems like a dicey proposition. Yet South Beach is never short of revelers, and it turns out the idea of having a fine meal and then sticking around for drinks and dancing caught on big.
How come? The 100-seat dining room itself is a draw, particularly with the 20-foot runway that lends itself to fashion shows or, as the restaurant likes to call it, “elevated dancing.” Elsewhere in the 6,000-sq.-ft. space are an additional 35 outdoor restaurant seats and a bar that can hold up to 40 patrons. An upper level that will offer additional bars is slated to open later this year, significantly increasing capacity. No wonder special event planners have fallen in love with the place already.
It's always been easy to love Andriola's food. After finishing first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America, he spent five years as chef de cuisine at Chef Allen's in Aventura, FL, then was opening executive chef at Mark's South Beach. He opened Timo Restaurant & Bar at 17624 Collins Ave. in Sunny Isles in 2003. The Bancroft is on Collins Ave., too, but down at 1501, the highest of the high-rent districts. Menu prices reflect the difference.
There is one relative bargain, however: the Bancroft's tasting menu, $95 with paired wines. The first course is a warm Maine lobster salad with fresh heart of palm and American caviar, paired with a Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label; next is seared foie gras with duck confit and creamy polenta, served with a 2005 Rutherford Hill merlot. Then comes a pistachio and goat cheese-crusted Summit Valley rack of lamb and a glass of 2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. Dessert is a passion fruit soufflé with Tahitian vanilla and rum plus a glass of Eldorado Noir 2007 Ferrari Carano Black Muscat.
It's just the ticket to prime the clientele for a late-night party session, and they don't even have to leave their seats. Soon the DJs start spinning and the clubgoers hop into the “dancing perches” scattered throughout the club. But Andriola's out of there by the time that action starts, having held up his part of the bargain to create Miami Beach's hottest night on the town. It's nice restaurant work if you can get it, and he's got it now.