Showing posts from May, 2010

Return to Nobu - South Beach

It had been years since I'd last been to Nobu, though, unlike Boris Becker, the reason for my extended absence was not the conception of a love child on the stairs between the bathrooms. For some time, Nobu had been a regular special-occasion venue for us; it was a big day when I graduated from celebrating birthdays at Benihana to celebrating at Nobu. But our last visit before returning a couple weeks ago - while it did not result in an unexpected pregnancy or a multi-million dollar divorce - was a frustrating and disappointing combination of lackluster and expensive.

It's entirely possible that our best meal at Nobu was the first one. I can no longer tell you when that was (the Miami restaurant, in the Shore Club hotel on South Beach, opened in 2001), but it was my first experience at the then-nascent Nobu empire, which now includes more than 25 restaurants in such far-flung destinations as Cape Town, South Africa and Dubai. The omakase menu then offered to first-time visitor…

Starving Artists Take Note

Here's a deal: Joey's in Wynwood is offering a $14 fixed menu "Artistic Duos" dinner Monday - Thursday (6pm-8pm), which includes a glass of wine, with a different option for each day of the week. The lineup, which they say is geared toward the artists, gallery owners and related riffraff that populate Wynwood features:

Monday Chicken and Asparagus Risotto with a glass of Falanghina wine
Tuesday Salmon and Ricotta Salata Salad with a glass of Pinot Grigio
Wednesday Penne Bolognese, Radicchio and a glass classic Chianti
Thursday Spezzatino/Beef Stew over Polenta with a glass of Malbec
While you're there, you may want to try the pizza too, it had a good showing in our pizza crawl, particularly the "Joey" with the unlikely combination of tuna, spicy salame, gorgonzola, capers and spinach.

Joey's Wynwood
2506 NW 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33137

Cobaya Experiment #6 - CobayaSteak at Bourbon Steak

Over the past few years, Miami has been the site of much culinary colonization. Several chefs with national reputations have set up outposts here; and as often as not, those outposts take the form of a steakhouse. Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak, Alfred Portale's Gotham Steak, Laurent Tourondel's BLT Steak ... It's a formula designed to capitalize on the name while minimizing the execution risk as they put others in charge of carrying the brand's flag in the far-flung colonies: given the inherently limited nature of a steakhouse menu, diners will expect quality, but not necessarily the same creativity or flourishes by which these big-name chefs garnered their reputation in the first place.

That's not to sell the steakhouses short. I've had some great meals at these places, and they have the capacity to serve as a springboard for younger kitchen talent (witness the nomination of Chef Sam Gorenstein of BLT Steak as a semifinalist for a James Beard Rising Star aw…

South Florida - Celebrity Chef Breeding Ground?

Earlier today, I learned that Chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo of Talula will be a contestant on the next season of Top Chef, which starts airing June 16. But she's not the only South Floridian with TV celebrity chef aspirations.

Also in the mix? Aria Kagan, who has been selected as a finalist in Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star." Who is Aria Kagan? When I got a blurb from a Food Network publicist, it didn't ring any bells (sadly, I'm terrible with names). But when I went to the website to check the biography, I had one of those "Hey! I know her!" moments; because Aria (who used to teach at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami and now runs a catering business) also used to work at Timo in Sunny Isles.

So now there's two local talents to root for on your TV this summer. Next Food Network Star begins airing on June 6 at 9pm.

Top Chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo!

For years, Andrea Curto-Randazzo has been one of my favorite local chefs. We've long been fixtures at the kitchen bar seats at Talula, the restaurant that she and husband Frank Randazzo opened in 2003, and I've often told anyone who will listen that I think they put out the best food to be found on South Beach. Chef Curto-Randazzo also helped kick off our Cobaya underground dinners with our first event, one that many of us still think was the best dinner we've done.

And, yes, I also happen to be a Top Chef fan as well.

So I am thrilled - just thrilled - to see that she is going to be a contestant on next season's Top Chef, and that the rest of the country will get a chance to see what she's capable of doing.

I will be watching and rooting for Andrea like a gibbering maniac. GO ANDREA!

Hot Kitchens, Hot Tempers

I was amused to read this story in the New York Times Diner's Journal, of a customer who was thrown out of the eponymous Marc Forgione restaurant by the chef for going into the kitchen and complaining about the chef's verbal abuse of his staff. The short version: dining party is seated; chef loudly and repeatedly berates waiter in kitchen; discomfited diner goes into kitchen to complain; chef takes umbrage at diner's uninvited entrance into kitchen; chef asks customer to leave restaurant. It's not so much that the story was in itself so amusing, but rather that something very similar happened to me several years ago.

We were having a breakfast at a restaurant that I'd prefer not to name - it's somewhat embarassing. OK, it was Jerry's Deli, and it was a long time ago, and it hadn't quite sunk to the depths of mediocrity that it now happily occupies. Frod Jr. and Little Miss F were with us, and were much younger - maybe 6 and 3, respectively. The restaura…

What's Your Beef?

Several months ago, Miami New Times ran a feature story by Jackie Sayet, "Bogus Beef," on local restaurants' mislabeling of beef sourced from American or Australian producers as "Kobe beef." The article confirmed that many South Florida restaurants were blithely describing items on their menu as "Kobe beef" that in fact were not.

Genuine Kobe beef, which comes from a particular breed of cattle (Wagyu) raised in a particular prefecture of Japan (Hyogo), is among the most prized (and expensive) in the world. In recent years, producers in other parts of the world have sought to duplicate the product, and there are now farmers in the U.S. and Australia who raise Wagyu and cross-breeds. The product is often quite good, though not of the same quality as the genuine Japanese article, and carries significantly lower prices. Though there seems to be a good bit of confusion, this is really not a complicated issue: if the beef doesn't come from Kobe, Japan, …

Joël Robuchon - Molecular Gastronomist and Revisionist Historian?

Of the chefs who are typically credited with the popularization of "molecular gastronomy," several may jump to mind: Heston Blumenthal, for sure, who was a participant in the first 1992 "International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" (Harold McGee, one of the other original participants, has written a great history of the event); Pierre Gagnaire, the only other chef participant in that original workshop, and a regular collaborator with scientist Hervé This since then; Ferran Adrià, who was doing his own pioneering work in experimental cooking at the same time and whose food is often given the "MG" label;[1] here in the U.S., Grant Achatz, Wylie Dufresne, Homaru Cantu.

And Joël Robuchon? Yes, if he is to be believed. In a recent interview in the New York Post, Robuchon is quoted as saying:
Too many chefs are attracted to molecular gastronomy. ... It's not the kind of cuisine that should be important, with all the additives. I know I was r…

A Dining List for 2010

In case you were wondering where to eat tomorrow ... the James Beard Foundation restaurant and chef awards were announced tonight. First and foremost, a hearty congratulations to local product Michael Schwartz, who won Best Chef South for his work at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. It is a well-deserved honor for one of Miami's real gems.

The rest of the winners:
Marea (New York City) - Best New RestaurantTom Colicchio (Craft, NY) - Outstanding Chef AwardNicole Plue (Redd, Yountville CA) - Outstanding Pastry Chef AwardDaniel (New York) - Outstanding Restaurant AwardKeith McNally (Balthazar, Lucky Strike, Minetta Tavern, Morandi, Pastis, Pravda, Shiller's Liquor Bar, New York City) - Outstanding Restaurateur AwardAlinea (Chicago) - Outstanding Service AwardJohn and Doug Shafer (Shafer Vineyards) - Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional AwardJean Georges (New York) - Outstanding Wine ServiceTimothy Hollingsworth (French Laundry, Yountville CA) - Rising Star Chef of the…

May Days

Much going on this month, here are several food-related events and specials coming up:

May 5 (Cinco de Mayo)

Mercadito in Midtown Miami (3252 NE 1st. Ave. Miami) will be mixing up a new drink in honor of Cinco de Mayo, the "Vato Loco," a tequila-based cocktail "so ridiculously hot and addictively delicious" that a signed waiver is required. They will also have a mariachi band and are unveiling a new outdoor bar for the occasion. Festivities start at 9pm.

Rosa Mexicano (900 S. Miami Ave. Miami) is also getting into the spirit and will be open till midnight, with live music and masks and beads for their guests (wait - is it Cinco de Mayo or Mardi Gras?)

Salsa Fiesta (2929 Biscayne Boulevard Miami) will be having live music, 2-for-1 margaritas and cervezas, free chips and salsa with any drink order, and 2-for-1 burritos all day long from 11am-11pm.

Sushi Maki (locations in Coral Gables, Brickell, South Miami and Palmetto Bay) is dubbing May 5 "Sushi de Mayo" and …