Showing posts from April, 2009

NAOE - Sunny Isles

What would you say if I told you there was a tiny place, in a little strip mall somewhere in Miami, that was turning out incredible, creative, beautiful Japanese dishes like nothing else you will find in this city? That they were flying in fish overnight from Japan or buying it that day from fishermen at Haulover Marina? That they did only an omakase menu, followed, if you're still hungry, by the chef's choice of beautifully pristine sushi until you say "uncle"?

No way?


A couple weeks ago while surfing OpenTable, I saw a new name on the list of restaurants. The description was intriguing:

Brand new to Sunny Isles Beach, Chef Kevin Cory specializes in natural Japanese Cuisine at NAOE. Every Wednesday through Sunday from 7pm - 1am, Chef Kevin Cory serves a unique Chef's Choice menu. Looking over the website for NAOE, I learned that Chef Cory had trained in Japan at a traditional kaiseki restaurant, and returned to the States in 2001 where he took over the sush…

Sra. Martinez - Miami Design District

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

I don't believe I've ever seen a restaurant come together quite as quickly as Sra. Martinez did. On October 6, 2008, Domo Japones, which had occupied the old Post Office Building in the Miami Design District for less than a year, shut down. The same day, it was announced that Michelle Bernstein (most recently famed for her eponymous restaurant Michy's on Biscayne Boulevard) would be opening a tapas bar in the space. I've always enjoyed Michelle Bernstein's cooking, back to the days when she was the chef at The Strand, one of the pioneers of the South Beach dining scene. The combination of her talents with a tapas bar format hit a real sweet spot for me (I am sort of a tapas fan), and this was an opening I was eagerly looking forward to.

Less than two months later - and just in time for Art Basel crowds - Sra. Martinez (the name a reference to Chef Bernstein's husband and partner David Martinez) was open for business. The ref…

La Cofradia Ceviche Bar Menu Preview

La Cofradia opened in Coral Gables in late 2005. Its Nuevo-Peruvian food was often pretty good, but the clubby-looking restaurant with an odd long narrow layout - and the high prices - seemed to keep it from ever getting much traction. About a month ago, La Cofradia closed its doors and filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Almost immediately after doing so, though, it asked to dismiss the bankruptcy case, and signs appeared in the window announcing the impending opening of "La Cofradia Ceviche Bar" in early May. A new menu has now been posted outside, of which I have a couple terrible photos. (Silly me - I now see that they've updated the website with the new menu as well).

The quick recap: the food has gotten much simpler, with a fairly straight-ahead listing of about a half-dozen ceviches, tiraditos, and various combinations thereof (all priced around $13-15); several salads and cooked apps, including some traditional Peruvian causas, and a great pork and grapes dish which is…

Cinco de MiMo on BiBo

On May 2, the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District is playing host for the "Cinco de MiMo" festival. Several local restaurants and shops will be participating, with street performers, live music in the afternoon from the Almost Blues Band and Somebody's Mama, and restaurants offering "tastes" for $2 - $5. A "Pink Pooch Parade & Contest" is also in the works.

Participating restaurants (working north to south) include:

Anise Waterfront Taverna - 620 NE 78th St.
Red Light - 7700 Biscayne Boulevard
Ver Daddy's Taco Shop - 7501 Biscyane Boulevard
Le Cafe Bistro - 7295 Biscayne Boulevard
Che Sopranos - 7251 Biscayne Boulevard
Moshi Moshi - 7232 Biscayne Boulevard
Moonchine Asian Bistro - 7100 Biscayne Boulevard
Casa Toscana - 7001 Biscayne Boulevard
Michy's - 6927 Biscayne Boulevard
Wine 69 - 6909 Biscayne Boulevard
UVA 69 - 6900 Biscayne Boulevard
Kingdom - 6708 Biscayne Boulevard

What's That Growing in the Fridge Pt. II

It was never my intent for this to be a "home cooking" blog - and it won't be, but bear with me, this ties in to an earlier post. Mrs. F was off on her own at Sra. Martinez [as to which more detailed thoughts will be forthcoming] tonight, while I was left to rifle through the fridge and construct a meal from what I could find. OK, let's see - an Italian dry sausage ... some Cypress Grove Midnight Moon cheese ... some local grown baby bok choy and spring onion from Norman Brothers ... the rest of the Carlisle RRV Syrah we opened last night ... I can work with this. While I enjoy cooking, I don't relish spending a ton of time making a meal when I'm only getting started at 9pm, so this will be quick. Onion chopped and into a hot pan with some oil, when it starts going golden the bok choy goes in. A splash of soy, a splash of black vinegar ... this lapsang souchong vinegar still looks OK, some of that too ... and a spoonful of toban jan sauce. Toss, lid down for …

Whisky Tango Foxtrot?

First, the "2 Dudes" from LA make possibly the single most unappetizing reference one could ever pick for a cookbook title ("Two Dudes, One Pan"); now Food Network is taking a South Park joke and making a show out of it (What Would Brian Boitano Make?)? I think my head may explode.

You Must Remember This

Interesting news from the Far East, as Pierre Gagnaire and Hervé This are reported to have created the world's first "entirely synthetic gourmet dish". Described as jelly balls with apple and lemon flavors, creamy on the inside and crispy outside, they are fabricated from ascorbic acid, citric acid, glucose and maltitol (also known, more menacingly, as 4-O-α-glucopyranosyl-D-sorbitol).

Haven't these guys heard of a Twinkie? In any event, my question, as always, is: but how does it taste?

On a related note, Ian Kleinman of Food102 and O's Restaurant in the Westin in Westminster, Colorado, reports that Hervé This has a few words to say on the whole "molecular gastronomy" nomenclature kerfuffle (or, I should say, a few more words). This (for whom "cooking" is cooking, and "gastronomy" is the study of same) foresees the decline of "molecular cooking" as a descriptive term, as more chefs turn away from it, letting "molecular…

Area 31 - Downtown Miami

I've had some less than kind things to say about the recent influx of carpet-bagging chefs and high-end hotel restaurants to Miami. But Area 31, in the new Epic Hotel downtown, seemed to be doing things a little differently. Though the chef hails from Boston, most of the food comes from much closer. The restaurant is named after a designation from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization of the fishing area off the coast of Florida and stretching down to parts of Central and South America, and much of the seafood-centric menu (sorry for the terrible Blackberry photo) is sourced from the namesake region.

The Epic is run by the Kimpton Group, which happens to be one of my favorite hotel chains, as they typically manage to give every hotel a unique, non-chain feel, and also often make a real effort to bring good restaurants into their hotels, places that would be worth a visit even if you're not staying there. The Epic is a lot more grandiose than any other Kimpt…

goes around ... comes around

I've always been intrigued by how food ideas and trends work their way through menus and restaurants. Often the phenomenon is at its most acute in a place like San Francisco, which is a serious foodie town but is also, in many ways, still a fairly small town. I recall one visit several years ago when every place we went had a beet salad with goat cheese (yes, that one seems to have some staying power). On our last visit a couple years ago, it was in-house charcuterie.

It's not all that uncommon to see basically the same dish done at different restaurants. Sometimes - often - that can be the result of spontaneous independent creation, but it's also often the result of conscious or unconscious influence. Because there is little intellectual property protection for a recipe or a plating presentation, there's little a chef could do about it even if they wanted to, though culinary plagiarism has been a topic of robustdiscussion. You can call it, respectfully, "homage&qu…

My Dinner With Toby?

Top Chef is something of a guilty pleasure for me. I normally can't stand the reality show format, the product placements are painful, and the competition structure is somewhat contrived and goofy, but at least there are some real chefs and some real cooking going on. This past season was a bit of a downer, as the caliber of the contestants seemed to have dipped, and the couple of folks who seemed to me to show any flair for creativity (Jeff McInnis, Jamie Lauren in my book, but to each his own, of course) struggled to get any traction, but I continued to watch anyway.

I didn't exactly find the season to be enhanced by the presence of the new judge, Toby Young, an English prat whose greatest claim to fame is his ability to annoy other people and somehow get marginally famous for doing so. (Don't take my word for it; he's published a book called "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: A Memoir"). I have no issue with tough criticism, but he didn't even re…

Indian Palate - Coral Gables

[Sorry, this place has closed]

It's generally been a struggle to find good Indian food in Miami. Renaisa, off Biscayne Boulevard and 78th Street, was my go-to place for a while (for take-out - I couldn't bear to sit in the dingy space, which has now changed hands and been made much nicer as Anise Taverna, a Greek/Med restaurant from the folks who used to run Ouzo's), but then they moved north to Heelsha around 163rd St. and I haven't gotten up that way. I've had a couple better-than-decent meals at Mint Leaf in Coral Gables, but it's rather pricy. So when a new entry in the market made its appearance, I was excited to try Indian Palate, and made my way over this week for lunch.

While walking my way to the restaurant's location at the corner of Salzedo Street and Alcazar Avenue, it gradually dawned on me what used to be there - it's the old Le Festival space! But this will not be one of my interminable reminiscences about restaurants-gone-by, I promise. …

Bulldog BBQ Redux - The Pros Check In

I gave my thoughts on Bulldog BBQ a couple months ago. Now, on the same day, the pros from Miami Herald and New Times check in. You'd think everyone had the same crib sheet.
look - sleek and moderngood - turkey chili, fried oyster app, burnt end beansbland - curiously under-flavored meats, cornbread and slawnot quite right - smoky, sour mac & cheeseportions - largebeers - lousy selection"hot chocolate puddin' cake" - molten chocolate cake in blue-collar dragbbq purists - don't botherverdict - still a decent meal, even if it ain't real 'cue.

What's That Growing in the Fridge?

I think the area of fermentation is an under-explored genre of food manipulation. At our recent visit to Akelaŕe, a dish described as "milk and grape, cheese and wine in parallel evolution" promised to explore the subject, but while the concept was there, I thought the execution was somewhat lacking.

I've always generally understood how the fermentation process works with wine, with yeast acting to convert the sugars in the grape juice into alcohol. I understood it less with regard to fermented vegetables (i.e., kim chee) and meats (i.e., sausages) until doing a little research. My naive understanding now is that it is in most respects essentially the same process, but instead of sugar converting to alcohol, it is the conversion of carbohydrates into lactic acid by means of beneficial bacteria. It is this lactic acid which both acts to preserve the foods and helps eliminate bad bacteria.

In any event, here's an interesting little interview with Sandor Katz, fermentatio…

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

Big name N.Y. restaurateur opens fancy restaurant in great big new Miami hotel. First reported in MenuPages, now with more detail - and a preview menu(sorry - link appears to be screwed up) - from UrbanDaddy, Eos in the Viceroy Hotel, a product of restaurateur Donatella Arpaia with a menu from chef Michael Psilakis, will be doing a soft opening starting next Tuesday.

At least it's not a steakhouse.

485 Brickell Avenue
Miami, FL 33131

Everything Old is New Again

When we were in Spain, I noted on more than one occasion how traditional dishes were the springboard for creative contemporary dishes - a new-age variant of a Gilda pintxo at Akelaŕe, an apertivo of puding de kabrarroka at Arzak. This is hardly a new idea. There's a long line of chefs who play with variations on classics. Here is just one local example from here in Miami - oeufs à la gelée, inspired by Fernand Point's Ma Gastronomie. The use of classic combinations in conjunction with contemporary techniques, or alternatively, classic presentations with untraditional ingredients, is often an effective way to mediate the tension between neophilia and neophobia* (or, to skip the fancy lingo, "I want something new" vs. "I want something familiar") inherent in any dining experience.

Indeed, there seems to be plenty of looking backwards these days, with Zagat sponsoring a series of "Vintage Dinners" - including this magnificent offering from Thomas Kell…

El Carajo International Tapas & Wine - Miami

One of my colleagues, after seeing the Robert Rodriguez movie "From Dusk Till Dawn," described the scene in the Mexican bar, when Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) is dancing and ultimately reveals herself and the other bar denizens to be vicious vampires,* as the most dramatic paradigm shift since the transition from black and white to color in "The Wizard of Oz." That might be a stretch. But there's a comparable, though much more pleasant, paradigm shift when you walk into the gas station on the corner of US1 and S.W. 17th Avenue. Seemingly just an everyday gas station (used to be a Citgo, think it's now BP), once you go past the sodas and beers and sundries, you'll discover in the back a remarkable little wine shop and tapas bar which goes by the (apparently laden with double-entendre in Spanish) name of El Carajo.

The wall of wines lining the back holds a number of choices you'd never expect to find in a gas station. I just happened to be sitt…

I'm all aTwitter ...

... and I don't know why. Surely there's a point to Twitter, and eventually I suppose I will figure out what it is. My present impression is that it is a curious mix of exhibitionism and voyeurism (a fortuitous pairing, no doubt), sprinkled with a healthy dose of banality. If you want to be there when the "eureka!" moment comes, follow me here.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Prime Blue Grill,which opened in mid-2007 in downtown Miami, had signs up today indicating that the restaurant was closed "for renovations" until further notice.

Whisky a Go Go

Is it a mere coincidence that the Great Depression came after several years of Prohibition? I think not. Indeed, it wasn't until Prohibition was repealed that this country emerged from its economic funk, with FDR declaring in 1933, "I think this would be a good time for beer." Or whisky. Of course, Prohibition actually did little to stifle whisky production, but don't let that distract from the point here - the times call for strong drink. Here to slake that thirst, a couple options for your consideration:

(1) On Tax Day, Bourbon Steak is hoping to "Raise Your Spirits" with half-priced cocktails ($6-$9.50), 25% off American whiskey and scotch selections, specially priced appetizers and entrees including their new bar burgers menu, plus live blues. 7:30 -10:30pm April 15.

Bourbon Steak
19999 West Country Club Drive
Aventura FL 33180

(2) A week later, on April 23, Neomi's Grill is hosting "The Great Whisk(e)y Debate," with master distille…

IM Tapas - Naples

We had a quick hit-and-run visit to the west coast of Florida a few weeks ago and ended up at IM Tapas after being told there was an hour-long wait at USS Nemo (unbelievable how busy some places were - the Naples real estate market sure shows the state of the economy, but you'd never know it from some of the restaurants). The menu was a nice mix of straight-ahead old-school tapas and some newer more contemporary twists, including, in addition to the regular menu, a printed list of about 10-12 daily specials (which, somewhat disconcertingly, had no prices listed). We had Frod Jr. and Little Miss F in tow and collectively got to try several items.

beet salad - the now-classic pairing of roasted beets and goat cheese, enlivened here with a sprinkle of pine nuts and little bits of crispy serrano ham. Nice presentation too, with slices of beet layered with goat cheese and stacked impressively in a tower.

fabada - a classic bean stew, and a nice rendition here, with big fat white beans an…

Le Banyan - North Beach

[Sorry, this place has closed]

The Ocean Terrace area of North Beach is like a little miniature version of South Beach's Ocean Drive. Running between 73rd and 76th Streets just east of Collins Avenue, there are a few charming little Art Deco hotels (along with a couple larger condo buildings) facing right out onto the ocean. Other than beachgoers, however, there are generally not an awful lot of people around here. Despite that, another brave restaurateur* is attempting to have a go of it here - Le Banyan, a Thai restaurant in a lovely location on the corner of Ocean Terrace and 73rd Street.

There's seating inside in the classic Art Deco lobby, as well as nice rattan tables and lounge-y chairs outside where you can dine under umbrellas. We were there early on a Saturday evening and the weather was perfect for sitting outdoors. The menu is a somewhat abbreviated grab-bag of Thai dishes - appetizers include crab and vegetable variations on spring rolls, chicken satay, shrimp dum…

Pacific Time - Miami Design District

[Sorry, this place has closed]

We used to go to Pacific Time when it was on Lincoln Road, but I have to say that it was never really a favorite. I'm not sure if I'm putting this in a way anyone else will understand, but the food was too "squeaky" for me - too health-conscious, not even enough fat to carry flavors or truly satisfy. By way of example - instead of bringing out bread while you were waiting for food to arrive, they would bring zucchini and yellow squash lightly pickled in a kim chee style sauce. I always resented those zucchini.

There were certainly some dishes that were quite good - I recall the duck pancakes, and a whole yellowtail with ginger and julienned vegetables in a light hot and sour sauce - and at the time Chef Jonathan Eismann's focus on the East/West fusion thing was a new spin, even as the "Mango Gang" of Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Douglas Rodriquez, Mark Militello, Dewey LoSasso and others started looking more to the Carib…

Edy's Chicken & Steak - North Bay Village

[Sorry, this place has closed]

A couple years ago a sign went up on a storefront along the 79th Street Causeway for "Edy's Chicken & Steak". Then it seemed like nothing happened for nearly a year. Several months ago I noticed that, lo and behold, the place had opened up, yet the name still was not exactly luring me in. Chicken? and Steak? Umm, Ok...

Finally curiosity got the best of me and I peeked in and grabbed a menu. Well, this isn't just any "chicken & steak," but it's Peruvian style rotisserie charcoal broiled chicken - and even better, it's "famous from Falls Church, Virginia" according to the menu! After a little checking around, I learned that Edy's is reasonably well known in the DC area for its chicken, and even more so for the accompanying green sauce.

We got a whole chicken with a side of Peruvian potato salad (can also get french fries or yuca), which also came with a couple small green salads, for $16. The chicke…