We’ve been to a number of steakhouses over the years – Vero Beach steakhouses, New York steakhouses, Midwest steakhouses, Argentine steakhouses, Brazilian churrascarias – but never before to anything quite like the new Ember & Oak in downtown Melbourne.
This restaurant, with both indoor and al fresco dining areas in the heart of trendy East New Haven Avenue, describes itself as a “small plates meets modern steakhouse and wine bar,” and that’s probably as good of a description as you can squeeze into eight words.
Arriving there last Saturday night with (fortunately) a reservation, our party of three was ushered into an attractive high-energy, high-decibel room that looked out on the lovely garden (which should be the better and certainly quieter of the two places to dine when temps drop a bit).
Most of the first page of the menu consists of what are called “share plates,” which are meant to be enjoyed tapas style. But apart from the wood-oven papas bravas ($12), a dish frequently found in tapas bars in Spain, and the scallop ceviche ($16), both of which we ordered, the share plates – which ranged up into the mid-$40s – did not exactly have tapas prices.
The three we tried, however, were all excellent. The papas bravas consisted of potatoes roasted in the wood oven along with chorizo, Peruvian peppers, apricots, manchego cheese and a cracked egg. Yummy. And the ceviche, marinated in French mango vinegar rather than the more common citrus juice, was served with slightly spicy wontons.
Our third shared plate, Florida golden tilefish ($30), was also a fine dish, complemented by sweet corn and claypot chili cream. It could just as well have been enjoyed by a single diner as an entrée.
But after finishing these, we moved to the flip side of the menu to partake of “The Ember & Oak Steakhouse Experience.” Here, you get to choose from four steaks – ranging from a 10-ounce filet mignon ($90) to a 50-ounce dry-aged prime porterhouse ($250). Our party of three decided to go with the 18-ounce center-cut dry-aged prime New York strip ($125).
About a half hour later, out came the “Ultimate Steakhouse Board.” The NY strip was accompanied by braised oxtail and wild mushroom stuffed bone marrow; black truffle butter; bordelaise sauce; a crispy loaded Hasselback potato; creamed spinach topped with crispy shallots; roasted wild mushrooms; cauliflower cream; and a Caesar salad.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The steakhouse groaning board had easily enough food for four. The medium-rare steak, served sliced, was very tender for a New York strip and tasty as well. The accompaniments were all so good that by the end of the meal, there amazingly was steak left to go home.
The tab for all of this – even if you do not dramatically over order as we did – is not low. It can be further inflated if you partake of Ember & Oak’s excellent selection of wines, which start at $36 a bottle and go to $650, with 20 priced at more than $100.
But we enjoyed a bottle of cabernet franc with our steak that we thought was very fairly priced at $75. And adjacent to the main restaurant is a Wine Room, offering 64 bottles of wines chosen by Ember & Oak’s sommelier “on tap” for those seeking to enjoy a glass before or after dinner, or conduct their own tasting.
This is not your father’s steakhouse. But the steak was great. And if you are turned on, as I was, by the idea of a very unusual dining experience, Ember & Oak is a place to visit.
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The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.
Ember & Oak
- Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Beverages: Full Bar
- Address: 712 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne
- Phone: 321-722-6285