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MIAMI - SOUTH FLORIDA RESTAURANT NEWS ARCHIVE

Openings

A new and improved version of chef Jonathan Eismann’s pioneering Pacific Time, a Pacific Rim spot which folded a year ago after a 14-year run on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, has opened in Miami’s current hottest destination dining locale, the Design District. While many dishes at the new PT retain a strong East-West Asia/California identity, creations like salt-and-pepper skate with green apple-celery root puree, lemongrass, and basil oil also display Mediterranean fusion influences, and a separate bar menu ranges from hot and sour popcorn shrimp to steak frites. The 150-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant is open for dinner nightly, and lunch---as well as a Happy Hour with drink specials and free bar snacks---Monday-Friday. Pacific Time, 35 NE 40th St., Miami, 305-722-7369.

Better late than never: About six months later than scheduled, Fratelli Lyon, an Italian restaurant, has opened on the ground floor of design showroom Diode, in the Design District. While owner Ken Lyon is best known for his pioneering early 1990s café/gourmet market/wine shop Lyon Freres, in South Beach, as well as a later catering company (which provides the eats at the Wolfsonian Museum’s Dynamo Café), it is his membership in Slow Food Miami that is most noticeable in Fratelli’s menu, which features artisan cheeses, salumi sourced from small purveyors, seasonal organic produce from local farms, and house-baked breads. Chef is Brian Morales (whose resume lists stints at Daniel Boulud’s Daniel plus noted local restaurants like Blue Door at the Delano and Pascal’s on Ponce).

Young James Beard Rising Star chef John Suley has started down the restaurant empire road, opening Joley (a spin-off of his Café Joley, in Boca Raton), in South Beach’s The Astor hotel. The dramatically re-designed indoor/outdoor space was formerly occupied by the much-hyped but short-lived Johnny V South Beach. Much of Suley’s very personal contemporary cuisine demonstrates definitive global influences, from regions ranging from Italy and France (foie gras with fig/port wine chutney; wild mushroom risotto with mascarpone and roast garlic) to the Middle and Far East (lamb four ways—almond-crusted chop, crisp shank, roast leg, and merguez sausage—with chickpea puree and cumin-mint jus; grilled Tasmanean sea trout with soba noodles and edamame, in ginger broth). But those who just want an all-American cowboy rib eye steak can get one, too. Joley, 956 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-3343.

Adding a spark of color to the staid gray Brickell banking/business district are the silver curtains, multi-hewed handblown glass bubbles (by Norwegian artist Terje Lundaas), and rose-petal martinis at newly-opened Andu. The glam eatery has a menu masterminded by consulting chef Jason McClain and executed by executive chef Nate Barton (McClain’s former sous chef at Nikki Beach and 8 1/2). As at 8 1/2, fare is mostly Mediterranean-influenced—inventive, rather than traditional, dishes like Moroccan-flavored fried calamari, subtly spiced strips of squid coated in ultra-crisp, tissue-thin batter, with broccoli rabe and Meyer lemon butter, or a salt cod brandade, with preserved lemon, that fuses Spanish and North African flavors. 141 SW 7th St., Miami; 786-871-7005.

Most chefs work for a decade or more in others’ restaurants before daring to buy and run their own place, but chefs/spouses Juan Mario Maza and Vani Maharaj jumped in with both feet. After studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales, the young marrieds worked at Miami star chef Michelle Bernstein’s Michy’s (Maza as a prep cook, Maharaj making salads), for barely a year before opening new Alta Cocina. Though the eatery’s name means “haute cuisine,” best bets on the global fusion menu are the casual dishes that stay closest to home (or, rather, the chefs’ Caribbean—and Bernsteinean—culinary roots): light bacalao fritters with tangy/sweet tamarind sauce; zesty Trinidad-style curried chicken accompanied by steaming West Indian roti bread; and very tasty salads.  

At the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak opened at the end of December, marking the first time that a dining venue at the exclusive private resort has been open to the general public. And so far, the general public has descended like locusts to scarf Mina signature dishes like an elegant deconstructed lobster pot pie; sides such as European-style frites (deep-fried in duck fat so they’re crisp on the outside and soft within), accompanied by several dipping sauces; and even, sometimes, steak. Though Mina remains San Francisco-based (when he isn’t off surveying other restaurants in his growing mini-empire), the executive chef in the kitchen is Andrew Rothschild, locally renowned for his restorative stint at Miami Beach’s landmark steakhouse The Forge. Bourbon Steak, 19999 West Country Club Dr., Aventura, 786-279-0658.

A much anticipated outpost of locally-favored hot dog emporium Dogma Grill has opened in North Miami, in a 1950s building that, prior to renovation, housed the authentic Mexican eatery Burrito Grill. Though the new modern/retro venue (seating 15 inside, 25 outside) is considerably fancier-looking than the original Biscayne Boulevard shack in Miami’s Upper East Side, the menu features the same fresh-off-the-grill (never heat-lamped) all-beef, turkey, and tofu franks—with, most vital, the same imaginative array of regionally and internationally-inspired toppings. But in recognition of its artsy neighborhood (home to Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as numerous galleries), the new grill has added several items. These include the Frank Stellar, a melted Swiss-lined bun framing a butterflied hot dog “canvas” decorated, in Frank Stella-like abstract minimalist style, with a bold block of pickle and concise condiment stripes. Dogma Grill, 899 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-893-6462.

For gourmet fast food aficionados who favor burgers over dogs, a branch of Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries–the East Coast’s answer to the West Coast’s legendary In-N-Out Burger–has opened in The Shops at Midtown Miami. The bill of fare, similar in its calorically sinful simplicity to In-N-Out’s, is pretty much summarized in the eatery’s name, except that Five Guys also offers a kosher hot dog and a veggie sandwich. The freshly-made burgers (all cooked well-done, but juicy) come with choice of 15 free toppings/sauces; the freshly-made fries (regular or spicy Cajun-style) are hand-cut from sourced potatoes; and, though cooking-upon-order means the fast food doesn’t come as quickly as at McWendyKing, there are free peanuts to munch while you wait. Five Guys Burger and Fries, 3401 North Miami Ave., Suite 124, Miami, 305-571-8345.

At old-timey Allen’s Drug Store, the longtime soda fountain/diner tenant Picnics (now relocated father west on Coral Way) has just been replaced by a spin-off of midtown Miami’s S & S Diner, a renowned Art Deco-era landmark that’s long been a favored film location. The equally retro-looking southern S & S is the original diner’s first expansion since opening in 1938, and has one advantage over its tiny, single-countered parent eatery: table seating. S & S Diner at Allen’s Drugs, 4000 Red Rd., Coral Gables, 305-668-2526.

In downtown Miami’s Brickell financial district—once boring to any but bankers, now an exploding locale for upscale destination dining spots—Andu, an indoor/outdoor eatery whose look is a mix of Sobe’s casual designer-chic and the Gables’ more formal upscale Latin flash, has opened. Though the food’s stated mainly Mediterranean orientation would not normally inspire much beyond yawns in a town glutted with the genre, the menu was masterminded by chef Jason McClain, of much-praised and much-missed global hotspot 8 1/2 (which folded abruptly last September). Further, hot rising young (26) chef Nate Martin, McClain’s sous chef at 8 1/2, is top toque in Andu’s kitchen. The menu includes light bites like pesto-marinated swordfish panini, and similarly atypical substantial fare that is technically, in the food world, referred to as “not the usual stuff”. Andu, 141 SW 7th St., Miami, 786-871-7005.

So much for the short-lived David Bouley Evolution. David Bouley at South Beach is coming to town. According to Mr. Bouley, a new ownership group has taken over, and the renamed restaurant is expected to open soon. The menu will be similar to that of Upstairs at Bouley Bakery in New York, which features an eclectic menu of smaller plates from sushi offerings to burgers and Japanese-influenced fish dishes. David Bouley at South Beach, 1669 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-604-6090.

All hail The Dubliner, an Irish pub from Palm Beach restaurateurs Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich, who also own Howley's Diner, Respectable Street Cafe in West Palm Beach and Dada in Delray Beach. Chef Bruce Feingold will be cooking up the classics—shepherd's pie, lamb stew, house-brined beef with cabbage, fish and chips. And the not-so: a Guinness-spiked fondue, for example. Look for another Dubliner in Boca later this winter. The Dubliner, 2000 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-630-0590.

Blue Oyster Grill, a seafood restaurant, is the latest eatery for Oggi Caffe and Caffe Da Vinci partners Alex Portela and Eloy Roy. Chef Minor G. Vargas, formerly of Joe Allen, ushers in such specialties as seaweed spaghettini with Maine lobster chunks, fennel, Pernod and creamy lobster sauce. Blue Oyster Grill, 2286 NE 123rd St., North Miami, 305-982-8000.

Table 8 South Beach, with celebrity chef Govind Armstrong from Table 8 in Los Angeles, debuted in late December at The Regent South Beach, the newly built luxury hotel. Can you say room service? Partner/executive chef Armstrong can, only here it’s called 24 hour in-suite dining. With the LA restaurant closing for renovation, we can expect the chef to be exclusively ours for a while. That should make for some chow—or at least some eye candy—that’s actually worth the hype. Table 8 South Beach, 1458 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-672-4554.

La Goulue Christian Delouvrier opened late October in Bal Harbour Shops. This Parisian-style bistro, with renowned chef-partner Delouvrier at the helm, is a bit more casual than the upscale NYC establishment, but promises to be no less high-end when it comes to the regional French cuisine. Another location will open in Boca Raton in 2007. La Goulue Christian Delouvrier, Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-865-2181, www.lagouluebalharbour.com.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, from hometown fave chef Michael Schwartz (ex-afterglo) and wife Tamara, is set to debut this February in the Design District. This will be the first place he’s owned since his venerable Nemo days, with plenty of his past signatures beckoning back old customers and new items, plated in four differently sized portions (small, medium, large and extra-large) attracting the uninitiated. Longtime friend and Au Bon Climat winemaker Jim Clendenen is a partner. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, 130 N.E. 40th St., Miami.

Vita Restaurant has re-opened its outdoor garden space as the 120-seat Vita Garden. Owner Roberto Caan wants to keep things “fresh and hip,” with a new glass bar, additional lighting and plenty of flower beds and plants. Caan is also planning a new concept for the indoor space in 2007. Vita Garden Restaurant, 1906 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-7855.

Big Time Restaurant Group returns to Clematis Street, one of its first haunts, with a new venue: Nobles. The bar, an up-market 3,500-square-footery that aligns closely with other concepts City Cellar, City Oyster, City Kitchen and the original Big City Tavern, features live music. Nobles, 213 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, 561-651-1075.

Asia goes royal with Zensai Asian Grill, a pan-Asian place that offers a multitude of Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes. You’ll have to go west for it, though, not east. Zensai Asian Grill, 10223 Okeechobee Blvd., Royal Palm Beach, 561-795-8882.

Fah Asian Bistro and Sushi Bar is a true third child, combining the best of older siblings Sushi Thai in Boca Raton and Lemongrass Asian Bistro in Delray Beach. Fah Asian Bistro, Boca Valley Shopping Plaza, 7461 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561-241-0400.

The third time is really not that charming: OLA Miami, which started life on Biscayne Boulevard before transferring to the Savoy Hotel, has re-opened in its third location as of November 1. Now at The Sanctuary in the former Sugo space, the indoor/outdoor 80-seat restaurant, including the bar and lounge area, offers roof top dining for private parties. Executive chef Jose Luis Flores, who is also heads up Ola Steak & Tapas in Coral Gables, has added more ceviches and smaller plates, served family-style. OLA Miami, The Sanctuary Hotel, 1745 James Ave, Miami Beach, 305-695-9125.

Mari Nalli Gourmet Quesadillas, a 50-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant that operates on the options-are-everything principle, has opened. The self-service eatery offers 24 globally-inspired versions of homemade flour quesadillas, each ready in 90 seconds from a turbo convection oven. Even a grand caffe mocha non-fat no-whip coffee from Starbucks takes longer than that. Mari Nalli Gourmet Quesadilla, 2271 Ponce Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-648-0688.

Ideas, a modern yet classic Spanish restaurant, has turned on the Coconut Grove culinary community like a lightbulb. The 60-seat restaurant is owned by Jose Luis Esteve and presents chef Alvaro Beade, a native of Valladolid, Spain, who marries contemporary gastronomic techniques and technology with authentic and fresh ingredients to create intensely flavored dishes that are both innovative and traditional. Ideas Restaurant, 2833 Bird Rd., Coconut Grove, 305-567-9074.

Cielo Garden & Supperclub has won the heart of Coconut Grove back from teenage domination with the latest in Nuevo Latino cuisine, cocktails and Copacabana-style entertainment. The venue boasts a seductive outdoor garden, wine and cigar lockers, a private chef’s table with special wine pairing options, a built-in entertainment stage, signature bar, custom-created bone-hued leather lounge areas, brushed metal and honey colored wood finishes and 50” plasma TVs equipped for corporate presentations. Cielo Garden & Supperclub, 3390 Mary St., Streets of Mayfair, Coconut Grove, 305-446-9060.

Miami’s fine cuisine scene will evolve even further with the opening of David Bouley Evolution in December. Expect the best of French and Japanese fusion cuisine. David Bouley Evolution, 1669 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.

Hobo’s Fish Joint, which went bankrupt two years ago at its Coral Springs location, has re-opened in Deerfield Beach. Chef-proprietor Steven LaBiner is presenting the same great menu that won kudos from area critics, plus some new dishes. Hobo’s Fish Joint, 246 S. Powerline Rd., Deerfield Beach, 954-571-9700.

Sublime, the vegan haven that was damaged by the 2005 series of hurricanes, has re-opened with a fresh outlook and a sophisticated list of globally inspired “green” fare. Sublime, 1431 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 954-615-1431, www.sublimeveg.com.

The Podoni family makes it easy to say mangia: The second U.S. location of their Palladio Italian Gourmet Market, featuring 100 international cheeses, 800 vintages of wine and 65 prepared dishes every day, is debuting in North Miami Beach on Biscayne Blvd.

The fish has left the marina: Tuna’s Garden Grille, a remake of Tuna’s Seafood Grille of Aventura, has opened in the Greynolds Village & Shoppes. The 300-seat restaurant relocated after more than two decades in its waterside location. Tuna’s Garden Grille, 17850 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach.

Restaurateur Paolo Della Puppa brings Milan to Merrick Park with his new Via Quadronno, offering homemade pastas, tartina, panini, espresso and 28 flavors of authentic gelato. Via Quadronno, Village of Merrick Park, 320 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-476-1160.

Et voilá: Brasserie La Cigale has been reborn as just plain La Cigale. Restaurateur Francis Touboul moved his much-loved establishment to a new location just South of Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach, taking the opportunity to revamp its image as well in terms of both menu and decor. Chef Farid Oualidi, a Moroccan native, roams France, Spain, Italy and Africa for “Med-regional” fare such as pan-seared branzino with braised fennel, dried Roma tomatoes and black olive tapenade or veal tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto. La Cigale, 253 Southeast Fifth Ave., Delray Beach, 561-276-6453.

Dinner and dancing are the ticket at the new Atrium Supper Club in Boca Raton. Proprietor David Miles, ex-manager of London's Hippodrome and a former executive chef himself, has hired Wolfgang Puck vet Stuart Hursch and Manhattan’s River Café-trained Brian Smith to control the direction of the menu. Watch for plenty of cuts of meat, including Kobe beef filet, paired with compound butter, and a wine program that features 24 vintages by the glass. Atrium Supper Club, 301 Yamato Road, Boca Raton, 561-995-9090.

Where, oh where, has Christina Wan gone, you ask? The short answer: Fort Lauderdale. No longer in the Hollywood location where she made her name, the restaurateur has opened a new, more sophisticated version of her popular Chinese spot. The reasonable wine list is another unexpected bonus. Christina Wan's, 664 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 954-527-0228.

All white in décor elements and clean-lined in cuisine as well, the Sushi House is a contemporary take on Japanese cuisine, put together by restaurateur Mark Koyfman and Chef Enrique Jasso. A veteran of Su Casa of Tokyo in Chicago, co-owner Jasso and co- executive chef Jesus Comeras’ “modern sushi” menu allows for the introduction of global influence—think jalapaños in some of the sushi rolls—and terrific wine pairings with menu specialties, such as Valley of the Moon pinot blanc with the house signature spicy octopus tail. Sushi House, 15911 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach, 305-947-6002.

For a bit of the Brit combined with a dash of South Beach, stop in at The Betsy Bistro and Tea Room at The Betsy Ross Hotel for traditional cream tea, high tea or a light lunch. Designed by Shiraz FL caterers, the menu offers the classic cucumber sandwiches and scones with Devonshire clotted cream as well as heartier bites such as mini burgers and coconut-crusted filet of salmon stuffed with raison-mango chutney. Too hot for a cuppa English breakfast? Sip on the Mar-Tea-Ni cocktail instead. The Betsy Bistro and Tea Room, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-3934, ext. 356.

Wine bars rage on: The new D’Vino, meaning either “divine” or “from the wine,” depending on your interpretation, has launched in Coral Gables. The 56-seatery, which presents 40 small-batch wines by the glass and a menu of small plates, also features a second-story boutique for tastings and seminars. D’Vino, 3143 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-443-8466.

8 ½ , however, was given its moniker because of its number. Located at 821 Washington Avenue at the newly renovated Art Deco Hotel Clinton, the spot replaces Aïgo and, before that, Pao. Here’s hoping Pearl and Shore Club alum Jason McClain and his partner, Westin and Hyatt veteran Kevin Boals, break the bad luck streak and succeed with such items as baked Cajun crab cakes with charred corn relish and key lime chipotle aioli or pan-roasted rock bass with artichokes, fingerling potatoes, chanterelle mushrooms and Manila clam broth. 8 ½, Hotel Clinton, 821 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 786-276-3850.

No, it wasn’t named for the address. Nor is FIFTY Restaurant & Lounge a fusion of ingredients or dishes, say executive chef Roly Cruz-Taura, his sous chefs Nestor Gomez and Augustin Toriz and pasty chef Carolina Romero. Rather, they call the fare Progressive American Cuisine, defining it as “a combination of classic American fare presented in a contemporary style with dishes influenced by a variety of cultures and countries that have found their way onto the American table.” More important to note, perhaps, is that the launch date is late June. FIFTY Restaurant & Lounge, 444 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach.

Absinthe has opened in the Boca Center adjacent to the Boca Raton Marriott. Chef Esteban Arguedas’ menu features brasserie fare with specialties like the roasted chicken and mizuna salad with pomegranate-sweet chili vinaigrette, polenta-crusted diver scallops and rotisserie du jour. For dessert, try the brandy braised pineapple with curried ice cream. Design elements pay tribute to the storied liquer of its namesake. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Absinthe, 5150 Town Center Cir., Boca Raton, 561-620-3745, www.absintheboca.com.

Just in time for summer, an al fresco version of the Oakwood Grill steakhouse has debuted in Palm Beach Gardens. Owner John Spoto has also initiated a lighter, more family-friendly menu offering moderately priced items such as ribs, burgers and freshly grilled fish. 4610 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-776-5778, www.oakwoodgrill.com.

Cornwall meets Jupiter Farms with the Queen Mary British Pub. Its three native Birmingham owners, Deborah Walker and her sister and brother-in-law Vanessa and Neil Archer, are showcasing their Cornish grandmum's recipes, including the famous pasties. 16891 Jupiter Farms Road, Jupiter, 561-747-6317.

Il Cioppino has taken over the Il Trullo space in Lantana. Chef-owner Gregorio Filipo is an ex-toque of Renato's in Stuart and Carmine's Trattoria in Palm Beach Gardens. He and wife Rosa provide an upscale Mediterranean menu that highlights fish as well as the seafood dish for which the restaurant is named. 210 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana, 561-588-1420.

Former Palm Beach Bice vets Francesco Blanco, a maître d’, and chef Fabrizio Giorgi have opened Café Sapori in the old Jo’s space in West Palm Beach. The fare maintains an Italian focus but is occasionally accented with other ethnicities, including “Spanish Japanese.” Yes, it seems even Italian restaurants can’t escape the tapas and sushi trend. 205 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-805-7313.

From the Chicago Art Museum to the center of plastic surgery: The caterer for the former now is the restaurateur in the latter at Polo101, a tiny spot that somehow manages to shout its thoroughbred bloodlines. 5030 Champion Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-997-2922.

Chef Jorge Varona, ex-Mark’s South Beach, Pacific Time and Chispa, and brother Jean-Paul, ex-Biltmore Hotel and Touch, have joined forces to open The Varona Boulevard in Hollywood. Brotherly love is expressed in such items as guava-glazed salmon, mojo-marinated mahi-mahi and chili-rubbed flank steak. 1926 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 954-272-6836.

Because we need more pasta filling out our bikinis, Il Mulino premiers in Sunny Isles Beach in May. The Abruzzi-inspired menu features its signature items, including spaghettini Bolognese, rack of lamb, the legendary langoustines and the complimentary antipasto tasting comprising soppresatta, bruschetta, fried zucchini and garlic-cheese bread sticks that begins all dinners. Reservations can be made by calling 305-466-9191 beginning the end of April 2006. 17780 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles Beach, 305-918-8000.

VINO Miami, a wine bar with a retail component, has materialized in South Beach, much to the delight of the adults who sometimes still brave the club-heavy social scene. With more than 400 boutique labels by the bottle and 50 by the glass, the spot features wine happy hours, tastings and other grape-related events. 1601 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 786-207-8466.

Palm Beach Gardens just keeps growing. But with the addition of The Strip House this April, it’ll also be losing—some of that steadfast Palm Beach-style staidness. With scarlet-hued walls, pink lighting and photos of vintage burlesque stars, the tongue-in-cheek steakhouse, the fourth location in the metropolitan New York chain, pays homage to healthy meat and robust appetites. Just don’t expect live entertainment à la Rachel’s Steak House and Gentlemen’s Club. Downtown at the Gardens, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-296-4900.

Absinthe, a chicly designed and, we can only hope, aptly named restaurant and bar, opened in the Boca Center. The 240-seat space features the fare of Costa Rican native Esteban Arguedas, who takes his influences from Asia, Europe and Latin America. 5150 Town Center Circle in Boca Raton, 561-620-3754, www.absintheboca.com.

Do look twice: Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, featuring the talents of Nicola and Fabrizio Carro, twin chefs hailing from the Piemonte region of Italy, will open in April. Owners Karim Masri (of Hotel Astor/Astor Place) and Nicola Siervo (Joia), who currently co-own Mynt, along with partners Nicola Schon and ex-Heat player Rony Seikaly, promise monthly tasting menus, matched by an all-Italian wine list selected by Schon, who is also a vintner. 1014 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 305-531-4833.

And look twice again: Michy’s in Miami’s Upper East Side has opened, as has Social Miami at Sagamore Hotel on South Beach. What do they have in common? Chef Michelle Bernstein, who is co-proprietor of Michy’s with local restaurateur Steven Perricone, and chef-consultant for restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow’s Social in both Miami and Hollywood. Chances of finding her in person are better at the 50-seat Michy’s, for the record. Michy’s, 6927 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-759-2001; Social Miami, Sagamore Hotel, 1671 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786-594-3344, www.sagamorehotel.com.

So you don’t know what a firkin is. Join the club and find out at the Firkin & Friar Pub, located where the brilliantly failed Don Quixote tilted at windmills, while you nosh on typical Brit pub fare such as bangers and mash and fish and chips. Draw a pint or two and get a clue. Still haven’t got it? Okay, we’ll tell you. A firkin is a small wooden barrel. See? Now get your mind out of the gutter and back to the dart board. 3148 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, 305-443-2774, www.firkinpubs.com.

And now for something not completely but at least a little refreshingly different: Rice House of Kabob, a quick-service (as opposed to fast-food) Persian place, offers deceptively simple kebabs on rice pilaf speckled with barberries and saffron (or lima beans and dill or lentils and raisins). Highly charged with marinated, char-grilled flavor, the beef, chicken and swordfish skewered chunks are also delicious stuffed into just-baked tandoori bread and laced with cucumber-yogurt sauce. 1318 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-531-0332.

The Yard House, as in that’s how we measure our beer, has debuted at Downtown at the Gardens. The restaurant offers more than 100 items as well as a prix-fixe children’s menu and daily late-night dining, with the American Fusion fare courtesy of executive chef and partner Carlito Jocson. With a nod to his Filipino heritage, many of chef Jocson’s dishes feature flavors of the Pacific Rim paired with more traditional fare, from open-ended moo shu eggrolls to turkey pot pie. But those stats are nothing compared to the brewski’s: the glass-enclosed keg room will house as much as 200 kegs and some 1,000 gallons of beer at any given time; more than five miles of steel tubing stretches from the keg room to the signature island bar; and a fleet of 130 handles highlight regionally produced brews. 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens, Palm Beach Gardens, 561-691-6901.

The aptly named Cottage, newly opened in Lake Worth, serves an ever-in-flux menu of globally inspired tapas and boasts a pretty patio for al fresco munching. 522 Lucerne Ave., Lake Worth, 561-586-0080.

Santo, a Mexican haute cuisine venue, has opened on Lincoln Road. Run by a former principal of the erstwhile Rumi, the restaurant features an after-hours nightclub. But foodies will want to go for the whole fish, split in half and cooked in a wire basket to succulent perfection. 430 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 305-532-2882.

Houston’s might want to watch its very popular Gables backside: The 7,000-square-foot Max’s Grille, which marks creative comfort cuisine king Dennis Max’s return to Miami environs, has debuted with a lavish party. Executive chef Patrick Broadhead is executive chef; John Belleme oversees culinary operations. 2 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-567-2600.

And then there’s City Cellar Wine Bar & Grill, also set to give nearby Houston’s a competitor for happy hour and Fleming’s a run for its vino. From the Big Time folks who brought South Florida Big City Tavern and City Oyster, City Cellar may offer a pat formula, but the 500-bottle wine selection more than compensates. 45 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.

The Atrium Supper Club, whose Art Deco style channels the Copacobana, is set to open in Boca Raton, Florida, on February 10, 2006. Lunch will be served as the Atrium's Sidewalk Café, and live jazz, blues and swing music will be featured nightly. 301 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton, 561-995-9090.

Peek in at the Spy Lounge and Brasserie, open mid-January in The Catalina Hotel and Beach Club, and you’ll probably want to stay with your eyes wide open. The French-based menu—rack of lamb, short ribs, salmon over ratatouille with a warm balsamic dressing—is enticing for this time of year. 1756 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-761-9564, www.thespylounge.com.

Driving the nail into the billboard advertising the comeback of Ocean Drive: LA’s celeb chef Govind Armstrong anticipates opening Table 8 South Beach in the new Regent Hotel in late February or early March. Our guess is that he’s aiming to get it up and running just before the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Feb. 24-26, 2006), in which he’s participating as co-host of the American Express Grand Tasting. The Regent Hotel, 1458 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-695-4114, www.table8southbeach.com.

Hollywood’s Argentango has indeed diversified as promised, but not in the Biscayne Boulevard spot where it’s had a banner up for the past two years (and which the website estimated would debut in fall 2005). Instead, the popular Argentine steakhouse has opened doors—and more sophisticated ones they are, too—in Coral Gables. 1930 Ponce de Leon, Coral Gables, 305-461-6488, www.argentangogrill.com.

Brothers Alex and Victor Lopez recently launched AV Grill and Wine Bar in North Miami Beach, a 34-seatery that is already running Spanish wine theme dinners and is planning more. Pretty ambitious for a strip-mall locale, but then you can’t get anywhere without guts in this town—and, come to think of it, a lot of wine. 3055 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach, 305-945-7576.

Jay Simpson and Cindy White obviously have a penchant for puns as well as Pinot. Their wine shop and bar, The Grape Escape, opened in the Dolce Vita spot in downtown Lake Worth. 9 N "J" St., Lake Worth, 561-493-3330.

Uber-banker Joe Castro works his prestigious day job, then slips into something a little more comfortable at night—the kitchen of his new restaurant, Vida! Bistro & Wine Bar. The forty-seat eatery, which he runs with wife Maria, offers only prix-fixe meals (three-course for $40, five-course for $65 and seven-course for $75), and the dishes depend on what Joe feels like making. Don’t fret—he usually feels like making at least one dish with foie gras, another with caviar and a third with venison, Wagyu beef, Scottish salmon, duck breast or whatever luxe ingredient comes his way. 1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-443-8863, www.vidabistro.com.

Former Ortanique on the Mile GM Michael Shikany has become a competitor. He’s now just a few blocks away, at the helm of the new La Cofradia. Billed as Mediterranean with Peruvian influences—Mediterruvian? Perranean?—the menu promises something just a little bit different. Witness the house risotto, made with lobster and aji Amarillo chile pepper sauce. 2525 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables.

OLA on Ocean, Douglas Rodriguez’s restaurant, relocated this past summer from Biscayne Boulevard, opened with a slightly delayed (thanks to Wilma) splash: El Diamante del Cielo tequila, a hand-crafted spirit aged to its legal potential, sponsored the launch with samples of its products, hostesses dressed in custom Cielo-inspired gowns and a live artist painting bottles for lucky patrons to take home. No doubt the setting for OLA will prove more hospitable than the construction-ridden Boulevard, but we could have done without the manufactured “cool” factor—party guests were forced to wait in line behind a velvet rope even though the multi-room restaurant was barely filled. And be forewarned: If the SoBe scene makes you queasy, you should note that, per OpenTable.com, OLA is “available for private parties, photo shoots and film production.” OLA on Ocean, 455 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-695-9125, www.olamiami.com.

Gables Diner, watch out: The king of upscale comfort food, Dennis Max, returns to Miami with a new Max’s Grille, to launch any minute now (official projection is the end of January) in Coral Gables. 2 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-567-2000, www.maxsgrille.com.

Meanwhile, 510 Ocean debuted catty-corner right before the hurricane on the ground floor of the boutique Bentley Hotel. Press info has it that the place is already attracting music celebs of the highest order (read: Madonna). And admittedly, owners Julie Grimes and Bryan Davis do have a supper-club vibe going on, reminiscent of the early Nineties. There’s even a back garden in which to enjoy exec chef Cory “Big Tex” Smith’s global take on cuisine: beef tenderloin skewer with gorgonzola crust and chimichurri relish and blackened mahi-mahi with coconut sweet potato purée and pineapple-rum pico de gallo, to offer two examples. 510 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-1788.

Miamians think they have a lock on Cuban restaurants. Bella Cuba tells us to guess again—Cuban native chef-proprietor Juan Carlos Jimenez and his Ukrain-born wife, Larisa, first opened in Dublin, Ireland, eleven years ago. Even more compelling a reason, aside from mojo-marinated pork and coconut-crusted red snapper, to visit? The 110-bottle wine list. 1659 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-7466, www.bella-cuba.com.

Wine is a must-quaff at the newly opened Clarke’s, an insider’s joint where the South Beach elite hang out when they need a break from being ultra-cool in front of eye-spying tourists. Essentially an upscale Irish pub with upscale American and Continental influences thrown in from chef Seth Lowenstein—the menu ranges from fish and chips to seared sea scallops—it’s also something of a wine bar, proprietor Laura Cullen having been a local liquor rep for many years. She knows her stuff, and it’s reflected in the all-too-interesting wine list. Pink Pinot Grigio, anyone? Really, it’s quite dry and delicious. Just ask the other wine salespeople, who gather at the mahogany bar after (or perhaps during?) their shifts. 840 1st St., Miami Beach, 305-538-9885, www.clarkesmiamibeach.com.

Bless Mr. Chu’s—er, make that Japanese owner Toni Takarada, who formerly ran Thai Toni’s in this spot—for bringing fine Chinese dining back to the beach. Not only do servers dish out the Hong Kong-style cuisine at this recently revamped restaurant, designed rather like a banquet room, they argue over who’s going to do it. Now if they’d only add dim sum to the repertoire, we’d all be happily plump as pork buns. 890 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-8424.

Fratelli La Bufala brings a new pizza concept to Miami: worship of the water buffalo. The Italy-based chain, with expat locations in England and South American, uses only bufala cheeses, imported from Italy, for its wood-oven fired pizzas. Good antipasti and numerous pasta dishes round out the menu, with all meat sourced from water buffalo—the only type of meat served—raised by local Seminole Indians. That’s some spicy meatball. 437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-532-0700.

If you’ve been missing Vino since it disappeared from the Coconut Grove scene, dry those crocodile tears. Owners Michael Brooks and Gigi Olah have relocated into a chic spot on one of South Beach’s main drags. Minimalist décor, boutique wines and la-di-da nibbles including caviar, foie gras, smoked salmon and imported meats and cheeses. Now that’s what we call happy hour! In the words of Lionel Richie, “nnhh! all night long.” 1601 Washington Pl., Ste. 110, Miami Beach, 305-532-8466.

The DiLido Beach Club at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is now open for lunch and dinner every evening until 10 p.m. What could be more relaxing than nibbling on chef Bernardo Espinel’s Mediterranean-inspired menu, including tapas, sandwiches, salads and entrées after a day of sun and bikinis, South Beach-style? Well, maybe valet parking, which is complimentary when visiting the restaurants or lounges. The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, One Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 786-276-4000.

Ernie’s is the latest from erstwhile Pearl (and other South Beach hot spots) chef Frank Jeannetti and wife Sandra-Leyva Jeannetti. The pair named the restaurant for her father, a food aficionado. The pair also do catering in the sixty-seat, loft-style restaurant or 300-person on-site ballrooms, as well as in venues of your choice. So get your quince on. The Imperial House, 5225 Collins Ave., 305-282-6740, catering@jeannetti.com.

Because we need more sushi-Thai restaurants like a pomegranate does seeds, Asia Bay Bistro & Sushi Bar has debuted in Bay Harbor Islands. Actually, it does bring diversity to the limited neighborhood, which boasts one modest French bistro, a more upscale Italian eatery and an expensive steak house. No doubt Islanders are supine as sashimi with relief. 1007 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands, 305-861-2222.

Parioli Café has opened to terrific buzz, the kind not heard about an Italian restaurant since the long-ago debuts of Osteria del Teatro and Escopazzo. Imported Mediterranean fish—branzino and orata, for starters—and true-to-roots ingredients are flown in. With a seaside location and Italian natives owning and staffing the place, Parioli is authentic, not faux-thentic. 7300 Ocean Terr., Miami Beach, 305-865-4026.

Louie’s Brick Oven, opened in October by Lou and Debbie DiBono (formerly of China Grill and Suva in Miami Beach) and executive chef Jamie Fisher (formerly of Red Square-Miami) is perfuming the neighborhood. And not just with grilled vegetable, smoked salmon or meatball pizzas either. The coal- and wood-fired oven turns out such items as chicken wings, baby back ribs, even a whole butterflied trout. 15979 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach, 305-948-3330.

Formerly Flora’s, EastSide Pizza opened on the end of the 79th Street Causeway (or the beginning, depending on your direction). In addition to “cheesy” pizza names—“Totally a California Delight,” for instance, comprises goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and the “Great White Hope” is made without tomato sauce—the restaurant, which features al fresco dining, offers the panzerotti, a take on calzone. 731 NE 79th St., Miami, 305-758-5351.

TacoMax’s first location might seem modest, but owner Joel Laiter has a grand scheme—he’s already got plans in the works for locations in Calle Ocho, Dania Beach and South Beach. And with Mexican native Arturo Gonzalez, the former opening chef at Jalapeno Jax, at his side, it just might be feasible. Gonzalez has got a completely different mindset than his competitors, as evidenced by his pork rind, foie gras and blood sausage soft corn tacos, among other more traditional offerings, including his veg-friendly beans and chicken marinated for three days in citrus juice. 7931 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-759-7774.

Graziano's in the Gables, sibling to Graziano's Parrilla Argentina, the Argentine steakhouse on Bird Road and 92nd St. (305-223-4933), has opened where Giacosa used to ply its trade. Owner Leo Graziano’s signature 1,000+ wine list alone commands a visit. Graziano's in the Gables, 394 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables, 305-774-3599.

Proprietor Sandra Stefani has opened a new wine room in the back of her Casa Toscana. With fourteen seats indoor and sixteen in the garden, it’s as Lilliputian as the Tuscan restaurant itself, but as they say, size doesn’t matter. She’s stocked it with vintages from boutique wineries and cult bottles from Spain, Italy and South America, and she is serving them by the glass for $5 or by the bottle close to retail. Casa Toscana, 7001 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-758-3353.

Because sometimes you just want a beer while you’re playing after sunset with glow-in-the-dark golf balls, Toby’s Sports Bar & Grill opened at the Palmetto Golf Course in Kendall. A veteran of entertainment venues including Miami MetroZoo and the Orange Bowl, Toby’s offers burgers, dogs, wings, sandwiches, salads, nibbles and signature frozen lemonade. Happy hour is daily, as is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Toby’s Sports Bar & Grill, 9300 SW 152nd St., Miami, 305-254-4653.

It’s all in the name—and the neighborhood: Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle, also located in Fort Lauderdale and Weston, has launched in Coral Gables. Like the location in Weston, though, the name has been tweaked to Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill. Co-founder Tim Petrillo says, "I think of every one of our Tarpon Bends like children in a family—each has a different personality and quirks that make them unique and playful.” Of course the new title could also be due to the fact that guests can shoot oysters, enjoy a ceviche trilogy and choose from a large assortment of local seafood as well as the Fed Ex’ed goods from seaports all over the world. Tarpon Bend Raw Bar & Grill, Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, 305-444-3210, www.tarponbend.com.

For a little culture with your café, check out Tocororo Galeria-Café. Owners Olga Deulofeu, a Cuban-born artist, writer and poet, and Jules Mendel, also an artist, have modeled their spot after the Sixties avant-garde coffeehouses, with a menu that would make a Cuban cafeteria proud, including sandwiches named for the provinces on the mother island. Expect live, scheduled and impromptu entertainment ranging from music to poetry readings. Tocororo Galeria-Café, 1133 71st St., Miami Beach, 305-865-0421.

The Corner Muse Café (210 NE 18th St., Miami, 305-808-7977) is located within a secondhand goods store called Shoppie Seconds. This place was formerly the Florida Grand Opera House—quite a change in concept.

The Restaurant at The Setai (2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-520-6000, expects to open softly in early August. The menu will deliver recipes from Southeast Asian cultures, peppered with some Western influence.

Tantra restaurant and lounge owners Dr. Tim Hogle and his wife Irina Korneeva clearly want you to have that glow. That’s why their newest restaurant, afterglo, is set to debut in August in the original Mezzanotte space. Executive chef Michael Schwartz’s (ex-Nemo) “Beauty Cuisine” is designed not only to be delicious but to impart all the health and nutritional benefits necessary for the inner supermodel in all of us. afterglo, 1200 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-695-1717.

Replacing Mayfair Grill in the Mayfair Hotel & Spa (yes, it’s now a spa) will be Ginger Grove Restaurant, set to debut in September (3000 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove). Executive chef Christian Plotczyk was previously executive chef at China Grill in Miami Beach.

Vita (1906 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-538-7855, www.vita-restaurant.com) has re-opened in South Beach.

Anastasia is not a Disney movie. Or is she? The effusive artist who goes by “Anastasia the Great” has finally opened her long-promised Anastasia Art Café: Ristorante, Enoteca and Art & Fashion Club—where “art meets cuisine” and you “dine like a diva.” Anastasia Art Café, 427 Jefferson Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-0770.

The aptly named Boulevard Bistro has taken over where Café 71 left off. Offering “casual neighborhood food” to the tune of wraps, paninis, grilled main plates and gourmet comfort food entrées, as well as daily breakfast and Saturday brunch, the venue this time around might be something to hum, if not sing, about. Boulevard Bistro, 7100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-762-7600.

Cantina Beach, The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne’s new causal dining venue, opened up—along with the heavens—on June 17. Fortunately, the tropical storms held off until most guests had sampled the café’s Cabo San Lucas-inspired fare. Miami’s first waterside Mexican restaurant, Cantina Beach offers an on-premise “tequilier” to educate the public palate about the best elixirs to mix and sip. Leave it to the Ritz. The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, 455 Grand Bay Dr., Key Biscayne, 305-365-9575, www.ritzcarlton.com.

A second location of the highly regarded Biscayne Boulevard hot dog stand, Dogma, has brought its “frank philosophy,” along with its buns, to sexy South Beach. Dogma, 1500 Washington Ave., 305-695-8259.

Popular Prezzo re-opened after a hiatus as Prezzo Martini Bar & Grill. The retro ’80s head of roasted garlic is back with a vengeance, as is original chef Mennen Tekali, who has added more Middle Eastern influences to the Italian cuisine. Prezzo, Loehmann's Fashion Island, 18831 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, 305-931-5775.

Replacing Mezzanotte in Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale’s waterside white elephant, is Metro Café. Word is that the redecorated space, serving casual family Italian food, is actually bringing in the peanuts. Metro Café, 300 SW First Ave., Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale, 954-761-8787.

It’s more than a mouthful at Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & Latam Grill, especially if you follow up the seven ceviches-by-the-spoon and Latin American meat and fish dishes with dulce de leche cheesecake. A Mexican section on the menu reminds us that Central America is Latin, too. Good-value South American wines and beer are the standard. Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & Latam Grill, 3067 Grand Ave., Coral Gables, 305-444-0216.

Go with the Flow—sorry, it was too hard to resist—Flow Restaurant, that is. Located in the former Grillfish space in Coral Gables, Flow sounds like a similarly minded seafood restaurant. Don’t be surprised that the name more accurately recalls the very Cuban, 90 mile rafting experience. Typical Cuban items include pechuga de pollo à la plancha (pounded, grilled chicken) and camarones enchilados (shrimp in Creole sauce) with all the requisite black bean, rice and plantain accompaniments. Flow Restaurant, 2325 Galliano St., Coral Gables, 305-445-6411.

The Latin American takeover in south Miami-Dade continues with a nod to the gods at Ambrosia Peruvian Restaurant in Coconut Grove. Chef-owner Lucia Audibert, a Peruvian native whose mother ran a well-regarded eatery in Lima, presents a small menu that manages to adequately pay homage to the country’s Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, French, African and native Quechua Indian influences, with dishes ranging from cau cau (tripe, potato and chili pepper stew) to lomo (beef stir-fry). Ambrosia Peruvian Restaurant, 2779 Bird Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-529-0000.

Speaking of the culinary religion, Thira, subtitled “Taste of the Greek Islands,” also claims it serves “the food of the gods.” Find out if deities are among the clientele sampling the multitude of traditional dishes on the extensive, catch-all—including hummus—menu, courtesy of chef-owner Margarita Morfidis. Caffeine aficionados should note that the stone-ground Greek coffee here, including the yummy iced frappé, is very authentic. The menu advises ordering it: sketo (no sugar), metrio (medium-sweet) or glyko (tooth-jarringly sweet). Thira, 100 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale, 954-454-9676

The newest location of the 70-year-old, family-owned chain, founded by Beatrice Ruggeri, has opened under the auspices of her 32-year-old grandson, Raffaele Ruggeri. Located in the recently launched oceanfront resort hotel, Le Meridien Sunny Isles Beach, the restaurant features al fresco oceanfront seating (also a cooler indoor setting) and the cuisine of two Bice vets, chefs Matteo Migliorini and Marcello Rivetti. But it’s not all about Italy, oddly enough—Ruggeri has launched a "Mayan sushi bar," apparently in preparation for future sushi bars that Bice plans to open in French Polynesia later this year. Bice, Le Meridien Sunny Isles Beach, 18683 Collins Ave., North Miami Beach, 305-503-6000.

Jalapeño Jax looks like it has jump-started a Biscayne corridor location that had failed to ignite time and again. The freestanding building has always been a charmer no matter what its ethnicity—kosher Middle-Eastern Kemia, Japanese Sushi Box—but never a draw until now. Thanks to owner Buzzy Sklar (former Automatic Slim’s operator) and executive chef Arturo Gonzalez (ex-Rosa Mexicano in NYC), happy-hour crowds are thronging the outdoor picnic tables, and families are flocking for everything from briskly shaken margaritas to healthy vegetarian burritos. Jalapeño Jax, 7251 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-751-8030.

PAUL® Biscayne—and don’t forget those capital letters and that copyright symbol—is tempting the typical Aventura Barbie-mom to go off her low-carb diet with its maiden stateside bakery and café. The bread and pastry specialist, in operation since 1889 and now with more than 300 locations and franchises in France, also offers light bistro fare including salads, sandwiches and hearty soups du jour—served in a bread bowl, of course. PAUL® Biscayne, 14861 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach, 305-940-4443, www.PAULUSA.com.

Tommy Billante and company, creators of South Beach’s infamous Mezzanotte, return to the fine white sands with Sugo restaurant in the exclusive Sanctuary Hotel. Chef Manual Paucar’s dishes are Nuevo Italiano: chicken breast stuffed with shrimp and mushrooms over polenta; salmon with raisins, pine nuts, onions and tomato over risotto; and filet mignon with foie gras and porcini in Barolo sauce. Sugo, 1745 James Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-8804.

Now you can satisfy more than just your appetite for the written word at Mitchell Kaplan’s original Books & Books location on Lincoln Road. Voracious readers can order a variety of panini, burgers, salad creations and other well-rounded lunchtime fare at The Café @ Books & Books, an 80-seat indoor-outdoor, full-service restaurant that connects to the bookstore. Chef Bernard "Bernie" Matz, who co-founded the Wet Paint Café in 1986, also cooks up supper ranging from chicken fajitas to vegetarian platters, served family-style. And yes, from time to time you just might catch a local writer or two doing the Hemingway thing with a cold glass—er, bottle—of wine. The Café @ Books & Books, 933 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 305-695-8898.

Take that, you fat old sausage: Both traditional-minded and health-conscious Franktitude, with four types of franks (beef, chicken, salmon and tofu), three types of buns (white, whole grain and poppy seed) and close to 30 toppings available, has opened the first of four locations in downtown Miami. Accoutrements include salads, soups, fries, corn on the cob, coleslaw and even an ice cream dessert hot dog. Franktitude, 21 NW Miami Ct., Miami.

Restaurant Brana, the brainchild of Jeffrey Brana, erstwhile executive chef of Norman's Restaurant, and his wife Anna E. Brana, formerly Norman's Marketing Manager, is now open. The Florida Creative cuisine relies heavily on local and sustainable products. Restaurant Brana, 276 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, 305-444-4595.

It may not bring world peace but it does promise unity of a sort: Oneburger, from The Globe Cafe & Bar proprietor Daniel Guiteras, has launched next door. It offers four types of burgers—beef, poultry with veal, seafood and vegetarian—in various gourmet variations. No discriminating here against French fries, either, as there are also three types of hand-cut fries (Yukon Gold potato, yuca and sweet potato). Oneburger, 376 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, www.oneburger.com.

New in the city is Town Kitchen & Bar, in South Miami’s Plaza 57 building. Tutti’s Trattoria grads John Janette, manager, and Stefano LaCava, chef, joined partner Brandon Lurie in this immediately popular indoor-outdoor, all-things-to-all-citizens venue. Town Kitchen & Bar, 7310 SW 57 Ct., South Miami. 305-740-8118

It’s not named after Jennifer Aniston’s favorite diet. Or is it? Cuisine at the recently unveiled The Zone is “light continental,” according to proprietors Randy and Bente Lamchick, formerly of Fleming's: A Taste of Denmark, once owned by Bente's brother, Fleming Johansen. The Zone, 12313 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest, 305-232-9663.

It’s fire (inside the coal pizza oven) and water (the direct views of the Intracoastal Waterway) at the new Fire Rock Grill located in revitalized downtown West Palm. Fire Rock Grill, One N. Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Pick an island, any island. You’re likely to find its representative cuisine at the Asian/Caribbean/Hawaiian-fusion themed J. Shores, set in an historic, two-level Venetian-style building. J. Shores, 300 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

Nightclub impresario Rodney Mayo reopened The Lounge, which now features sushi, sashimi and sake, in addition to karaoke and live acoustic entertainment. The Lounge, 517 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

For a different take on club-dining, go Underground. This 3,200 square-foot basement, formerly the site of The Underground Coffeeworks, now features quick lunches, tapas and a full continental-style dinner menu. Evenings, The Underground morphs into an upscale, members-only nightclub, complete with a Russian specialty vodka and caviar bar. Underground, 105 Narcissus Ave., West Palm Beach.

It’s run by Italians, which partially accounts for the name: The Crazy Cuban has opened in Boynton Beach. Another reason? Owners Sam Mancuso and Bill Brogna restored the 1925 period building in which it’s housed with wood from a 1909 shipwreck. Dishes called ropa vieja (literally: old clothes) sound perfectly at home. The Crazy Cuban, 400 E. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach, 561-734-1544.

La Vieille Maison fans, weep no more over its passing: Former chefs Matthew McDonald and Brett Katz have opened their own restaurant, Spontené. The menu is market-fresh American, with unique presentations and interesting surprises here and there. Spontené, 432 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561-276-8848.

Burgers as Beauty Cuisine?
Afterglo, Miami Beach’s home of self-described “Beauty Cuisine,” has added lunch to the roster, and it’s not tofu. They may be all made with specifically-sourced, organic and wild ingredients, but executive chef Sandee Birdsong’s menu actually includes burgers, pizza, franks and French fries. Now that’s what we call beautiful. Afterglo, 1200 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

Out With The Old at Out of Denmark
Delray Beach’s Scandinavian restaurant Out of Denmark has been emphasizing the “out”—as in, out with the old. New proprietors Maryann and Jeff Salvey expanded the place into the space next door, took antiquated dishes such as tongue and sweetbreads off the menu, lowered prices and added lunch service, cash-only early-bird dinners and a separate menu available at the two full bars. Out of Denmark, 1715 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach, 561-276-4950.

The Grape Wine Bar and Retail Seller ripens this fall at the Village of Merrick Park. Stop in for a glass of wine, a gourmet meal or a bottle to take home from the wine shop. The Grape Wine Bar and Retail Seller, Village of Merrick Park, 360 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables.





This November, Toscano Grille writes a new script to be played out in the legendary Le Festival restaurant space. This one, with a custom-built, oak-fired brick oven, is penned in regional Tuscan by executive chef Ricardo Davila, formerly of Café Abbracci, and corporate chef Jose Davila, formerly of Amalfi Ristorante—two brothers, originally from Nicaragua, who between them have more than 32 years combined experience in regional Italian cuisine. Under the business auspices of Alcides Davila, the eldest brother, there’s even room for improve: Toscano promises an “open menu,” allowing patrons to order any classic Italian dish, whether or not it’s listed. Toscano Grille, 2120 Salzedo St, Coral Gables, South Miami, 305-448-5111.

Formerly Lila's Bistro of Downtown Miami, Mama Lila's Bistro has opened in the former Vida! Bistro and Wine Bar space. Named for the Valderrama family’s maternal matriarch, the place runs on the efforts of four sisters: chef Elisa, who merges classic culinary training with Peruvian heritage; right-hand Lili, who works in the kitchen; eldest Rosa, runs the front of the house; and youngest Roberta, the wine maven. 1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-461-2424.

The new Yuga Japanese Restaurant, from the owners of Lan Pan-Asian Café, offers fare way beyond sushi. Check out the gammo tofu steak, crispy lamb ribs, lacquered duck salad and giant prawns in lemon-black bean sauce. Yuga Japanese Restaurant, 357 Alcazar Ave., 305-442-8600.

South Coast Kitchen, with an open kitchen and open-air grill ready to receive the catch of the day, debuts to the tune of $2 million in Delray Beach in late autumn. It’s the latest from Tim Petrillo and corporate chef and co-owner Peter Boulukos, who operate the Tarpon Bend family of restaurants and the historic River House on the Fort Lauderdale riverfront. South Coast Kitchen, 290 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach.

Coal Oven Pizza Co. is the latest joint to take advantage of the fact that South Florida has no ban on coal-burning ovens. Check out the specialty pies, wings and other assorted roasted goodies in its Wellington location and soon-to-be Coral Springs spot. Coal Oven Pizza Co., 10660 Bay 170 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington, 561-793-1880; 9521-9523 Westview Dr., Coral Springs, 954-340-2625, www.coalovenpizzaco.com.

After a couple of years’ absence, brothers Alex and Tony Pepaj and brother Alex have reopened their signature eatery, the sweet sixteen La Finestra, serving the same Northern Italian menu. The location, however, has changed from East Palmetto to Southeast Mizner, so make sure you’re checking an updated listing before you head out. La Finestra, Royal Palm Plaza, 507 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-392-6729.

Got beef? Yup. Got wine? You betcha. Bucky's Bar-B-Que says it’s a “wine bar and barbecue” joint, with 50 vinos by the glass along with a geography lesson of eats: Texas brisket sandwiches, Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, jumbo Buffalo shrimp. Fine with us. Anyway you look at it, fill ‘er up. Bucky's Bar-B-Que, 1198 N. Dixie Highway, Boca Raton, (561) 750-5421.

Nick Nickolas is back in the game, and at 69 years old, happy to just be playing. At one time owner of 33 restaurants, as CEO of Harman-Nickolas Restaurant Group for more than 40 years, he’s launched single proprietorship of his first-ever public Florida restaurant, Nick’s Fishmarket of Hawaii. (He closed the 18-year-old Nick's Fishmarket at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, a private venture for guests and club members only, this past summer.) Pupu platters for everyone! Nick’s Fishmarket of Hawaii, 150 E. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton, 561-393-9880.

N9Nz Restaurant & Bar (nine-z) has opened in the Garden Shoppes. With lots of drink menus, late-night bites, a DJ from 9 p.m. til 2 a.m. and plenty of plasma TV’s, it’s the new hip hangout. Try calling the information directory for that name, though. N9Nz Restaurant & Bar, 7036 Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561-392-5040.

At the new Rivals Waterfront Sports Grille, co-chefs Chris Masco and Craig Berkower are challenging each other to better bar food with items such as bloody Mary oyster shooters and Kobe patty melts. And don’t forget to power down the bar’s unique beertinis. Westin Diplomat Spa & Resort, 3460 S. Ocean Dr., Hollywood, 954-602-8760, www.rivalshollywood.com.







Renaisa Indian Restaurant
has re-entered the building. The restaurant, which was closed over the summer due to an argument and subsequent split between owners and landlord, has reopened under new management. Renaisa Indian Restaurant, 620 NE 78th St., Miami, 305-758-2929.

Former Renaisa Indian Restaurant restaurateurs Tipu Rahman and his wife, Bithi Begum, are now running their own Heelsha Authentic Indian Cuisine. The restaurant, which is named for a Bangladeshi village (and the Bengal national fish), serves the pair’s native Bangladeshi cuisine. Heelsha Authentic Indian Cuisine, 1550 NE 164th St., North Miami Beach, 305-919-8393.

Dining at the newly debuted Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club is a dual lesson in music theory and jazz history, with Latin-influenced dishes ranging from “Trumpet Evolution” (chicken stuffed with goat cheese with an orange-wine glaze) to “Arturo Sandoval & The Latin Train” (catch of the day served with fried boniato) to “Live at the Blue Note” (grilled flank steak with red beans and rice). Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club, Deauville Beach Resort, 6701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-403-7565, www.arturosandovaljazzclub.com.

Viaggi Café-Boutique opened at Hotel Victor. In addition light fare such as pear and gorgonzola salad, pepper chicken panini, and chevre vegetable panini, patrons can source products from jewelry and handbags to designer candles and beauty creams. Viaggi Café-Boutique, 1140 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-674-9170.

Chef Shuffle

Miguel Migana, 29, is the new chef de cuisine at Bizcaya Grill, the currently Italian-style top-end restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove. Previously, Los Angeles native Magana, an Art Institute of California graduate, was chef de cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey’s Jer-Ne restaurant, a post he was awarded after mere months as the eatery’s sous chef. Bizcaya, 3300 SW 27th Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-644-4680.

Early February saw the opening of Jason’s at the Harrison, named for its executive chef Jason McClain, former chef/owner of much critically-praised and much missed 8 1/2 (which folded in September of 2007, after barely a year in business). But no use getting excited about the creamy spicy rock shrimp tempura, and all the other old 8 1/2 favorites on the new place’s menu. By early March, McClain had departed. Despite Miami’s reputation for rapid chef turnovers, the one-month stint is thought to be a new record, handily trouncing the three months that Wish’s renowned original chef, Gary Robbins, put in before fleeing back to Manhattan in 1998, and even beating chef Michael Schwartz’s briefer blitz at the Beach House Bal Harbour’s Atlantic restaurant in 2002. 

China Grill Management’s Tuscan Steak recently celebrated ten years in Miami Beach by introducing a new executive chef, Benjamin Rottkamp, and a new menu that brings back several old favorite dishes from the fashionable but family-style restaurant’s baby days. Rottkamp is a 1999 Culinary Institute of America graduate, whose past credits include Joachim Splichal’s Zucca Ristorante and, most recently, a chef de cuisine post at Frank and Andrea Curto-Randazzo’s Talula. The new/old menu enables diners to party like it was 1997, with a meal including the Tuscan House Salad (pepperoni, salami, garbanzos, stringbeans, roasted peppers, olives, housemade Mozzarella); fluffy gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce; truffle honey-glazed duck, or a mammoth “Florentine” sliced T-bone steak (in sizes ranging from 20 to 50 ounces) with a side of amaretto-infused whipped sweet potatoes; a decadent mixed dessert platter; and, of course, lots of white truffle oil-soaked garlic bread. Tuscan Steak, 431 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-534-2233.

Roly Cruz-Taura, chef/owner at the late, lamented Fifty (which briefly, in 2006-2007, raised Ocean Drive’s mediocre Mediterranean dining bar with Cruz-Taura’s uniquely imaginative regionally-inspired multicultural dishes) is now executive hotel chef at the landmark Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. But Biltmore regulars needn’t worry–chef Philippe Ruiz, of the resort’s innovative high-end French/New World fusion restaurant, Palme d’Or, and chef Gaetano Ascione of the indoor/outdoor Italian/Mediterranean eatery Fontana (formerly 1200 Courtyard Café) still helm their individual venues. The Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.

Hiro Asano, whose inventive creations (like spicy crisp shrimp with chipotle aioli) transformed the menu at South Beach’s branch of the Manhattan sushi spot BondSt from copycat to uniquely clever, has left to become executive chef at Abokado, a Pan-Latin/sushi restaurant scheduled to open in late January, in downtown Miami’s Mary Brickell Village. Mike Hiraga, former sushi maestro at the currently shuttered David Bouley Evolution (and, before that, at insiders’ favorite hole-in-the-wall hotspot Hiro’s Yakko-San), has replaced Hiro at BondSt. 

After more than eight years, Loews Hotel Miami Beach’s executive chef Marc Ehrler is moving on–sort of. He’s being transferred from ocean to desert, but stays within the family as executive chef of The Loews Ventana Canyon in Tucson Arizona. Loews Hotel Miami Beach, 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.

Cellarmaster Alejandro Ortiz, who impressed the cognoscenti with his wine list for the luxe spot The Restaurant at the Setai in Miami Beach, has left his position. He’s launched his own wine exporting and consulting company, I.O. Concepts LLC, based in Miami, exporting American wines to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong. The Setai, South Beach, 2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-520-6000.

From frying pan to fire: Elizabeth Barlow, erstwhile executive chef of the Key Biscayne Sonesta Beach Resort, now being completely renovated, is now executive chef at the Fort Lauderdale Grand Hotel & Yacht Club—which is also under renovation. 1881 SE 17th St., 954-463-4000.

The Coral Gables Palm welcomes—and welcomes back—new executive chef, Mary Rohan-Dominguez, who helmed several high-end Miami restaurants before leaving town a couple of years ago. Village of Merrick Park, 4425 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 786-552-7256.

Executive chef Michael Schwartz has left afterglo. He is currently considering new projects.

L'Opera in downtown West Palm Beach has announced a pair of new chefs: Philippe Hourtal and John Paul Klein. The co-chefs will come in handy, as the operation is expanding into the space next door.

Pasquale Lena has been named executive chef at Ristorante Luna Rosa, which is located adjacent to the Howard Johnson’s Resort, on the beach near the historic fishing pier. Lena was formerly executive sous chef for four years at the Ristorante’s sister restaurant, Caffè Luna Rosa in Delray Beach. 2096 NE 2nd St., Deerfield Beach, 954-429-8386, www.caffelunarosa.com.

Gerdy Rodriguez, ex-La Broche, ex-Mundo and ex-Karu & Y (before it even opened) has become chef de cuisine at Café Sambal, the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s 160-seat all-day dining restaurant. Chef Rodriguez’s new menu of contemporary Asian cuisine blended with Miami and European influences will debut in spring this year. 500 Brickell Key Dr., Miami, 305-913-8251.


Julian Greaves
has replaced chef Ryan Brown at Sol Kitchen, a Delray Beach restaurant specializing in “sun-inspired” cuisine. Greaves has a CV that includes some of the area’s top restaurants, including Grille 66 in Fort Lauderdale, La Vieille Maison in Boca Raton and 32 East in Delray Beach. 4 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach 561-921-0201, www.solkitchenrestaurant.com.

Mosaico’s dynamic Ferràn Adria disciple Jordi Vallès, the restaurant’s opening chef, left his post in December. Juliana Gonzalez, the sous chef at Mosaico for the past year, has been promoted to chef de cuisine.

Chef de cuisine Michael Gilligan replaced Roger Ruchs at the Conrad’s signature restaurant, Atrio. The fare promises to be “sense-ational,” though there’s pinky-swear about it being “cent-sensational.” So don’t get your homonyms in a twist. Atrio, Conrad Miami, 1395 Brickell Ave., Miami, 305-503-6500, ext. 207, www.conradhotels.com.

Just in time for summer, Donna Wynter has taken over the helm at Baleen, Grove Isle’s distinctive waterfront restaurant. The menu has yet to change but resident fans of Wynter’s former work at Satine, Palme d’Or at The Biltmore Hotel and Donna’s Bistro are hoping her signature will soon emerge. Baleen, 4 Grove Isle, Coconut Grove, 305-860-4305.

A boon for the locals as well as the tourists: Rob Boone, formerly of Metro Kitchen & Bar, Bambú and Norman’s, is now the chef de cuisine at Preston’s in the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The in-house restaurant has been failing to thrive under the shadow of big brother Emeril’s, but Boone’s talent will likely drive it toward some necessary sun. Preston’s, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-604-1601.

Mama Lila’s Bistro, formerly Lila’s Bistro in Downtown Miami has just opened a new location in Coral Gables. Family owned and operated, the restaurant serves a mix of Latin, Asian and Mediterranean cuisine with an emphasis on American classics including menu items such as jumbo shrimp wrapped in prosciutto, fresh greens and glazed walnuts tossed in goat cheese vinaigrette, and guava glazed salmon with white rice and grilled veggies. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily and for brunch on Sundays. Mama Lila’s Bistro, 1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables, 305-461-2424.

The renowned Sunfish Grill has opened in its new Fort Lauderdale location to great acclaim. Chef-proprietor Tony Sindaco and wife Erika moved from their former Pompano Beach location after more than eight years. Enhancements include a sexy lounge, a full liquor license and a room for private dining. Sunfish Grill, 2761 East Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, www.sunfishgrill.com.

It may spring from the home of the peach, but the Atlanta-based Grape Wine Bar and Seller is now pouring vinifera bottlings at Downtown at the Gardens. Grape Wine Bar, 11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave., Palm Beach Gardens, 561-694-7799.

Former wholesalers and restaurant purveyors David and Nicole Evans have taken their Pastry Parlor public—and with their on-site café, where they serve home-style soups and sandwiches, they’re doing far more than letting us eat cake. Pastry Parlor, 906 S. Dixie Hwy, Lantana, 561-540-8040.

L'Opera in downtown West Palm Beach has yet another new chef. Robert Goodhue’s global offerings add to the bistro’s largely Mediterranean menu.

Patrick Duff, the new executive chef at Acqua Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, has gutted the Italian menu, bringing a renovation of Asian and Latin American dishes instead.

Luis Pous, a Cuban native and a graduate of the National School of Culinary Arts in Cuba, is now executive chef at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the lower Florida Keys.


Esteban Arguedas, who has been a head sushi chef for the defunct Tsunami as well as garde manger for Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago, is now executive chef at Absinthe in Boca Raton. Absinthe, Boca Center, 5150 Town Center Circle, Boca Raton, 561-620-3754.

Richard Blais, who hails from such distinguished establishments as The French Laundry and restaurant Daniel, is the new culinary director at Barton G. The Restaurant in South Beach. Barton G. The Restaurant, 1427 West Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-8881.

Andrew Rothschild, ex-The Forge, is at the stove at Santo on Lincoln Road in South Beach, which is no longer Mexican but now modern American.

Chef Michael Altman, who worked with Charlie Palmer in New York for four years, has replaced original toque Stefano LaCava at Town Kitchen and Bar. Plaza 57, 7301 SW 57th Ct, South Miami. 305-740-8118.


News Bytes

Free Wine Classes
At The Food Gang, owner (and longtime wine connoisseur) Patrick Charpentier is helping fellow xenophiles combat America’s predicted double-dip recession---or at least forget about it once a week---with free wine classes, every Wednesday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Featured are a variety of vintages from across the globe, selected for pairing with tapas prepared by new chef Paul Anthony Morello. Reservations are required. The Food Gang, 9472 Harding Ave., Surfside, 786-228-9292.

Talula Acquires Catering Company
Frank Randazzo and Andrea Curto-Randazzo, the chefs/owners of South Beach restaurant Talula, have expanded into full-service catering with the acquisition of Creative Tastes Catering, a 17 year-old Miami-based events production company. With facilities including a 2,300-square-foot home base as well as a mobile kitchen, the husband/wife chef team can now cater everything from a massive corporate picnic to an intimate sit-down dinner or a gourmet cocktail party in visitors’ hotel suites. Specialities include butler-served hors d’oeuvres like crispy shrimp and ginger wontons with peach/blood orange dipping sauce, and small plate offerings (corn cakes with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and chipotle aioli; braised short ribs on mascarpone polenta) that reflect Talula’s menu mix of Mediterranean, Asian, and Southwestern American influences. Additionally, the Randazzos offer a variety of international-themed buffets (Authentic Tuscan, Italian-American, French Bistro, Asian, Latin, Caribbean, and more). For more information, call 305-672-0778 or visit www.creativetastes.com.

Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud Spotlights South Florida
MOJO HD’s show “After Hours with Daniel” returned with new episodes featuring chef Daniel Boulud (of New York City’s Daniel and Bar Boulud) collaborating with chefs in Miami and New Orleans. On the series, Boulud visits with host chefs early in the day to prepare a special meal, which is later served to all the chefs plus invited food writers and local celebrities. Restaurants and host chefs from South Florida include Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink with Michael Schwartz; Ortanique on the Mile with Cindy Hutson; The Lido at The Standard Miami with Mark Zeitouni; Michy’s with Michelle Bernstein; and Sardinia Restaurant with Pietro Vardeu. Curried whole yellow tail snapper with West Indian pumpkin and local spiny lobster; rabbit braised with leeks; and whole roasted pig with Mojo sauce are just a few of the dishes that will be featured. Look for “After Hours with Daniel” on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Late Night Menu at AltaMar
Old dog, new tricks: Longtime locally-favored AltaMar, an Italian-style seafood spot secreted on the secluded westernmost spur of Lincoln Road, now serves SoBe nightowls. A new late night menu (available Thursday-Saturday, 10 p.m. to midnight) offers half-sized portions of old favorite dishes like homemade black fettucine with capers, olives, red peppers, tomato, and sautéed calamari; local yellowjack with mustard/green peppercorn sauce; and lightly battered fritto misto di mare. 1223 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-532-3061.

Dinner in Paradise
Now in its fourth season, “Dinner In Paradise” offers local and visiting foodies a uniquely South Florida dining experience: idyllic all-organic al fresco dinners, prepared by top Miami restaurant chefs, at Paradise Farms, less than an hour south of the city in the rural Redlands. Designed to showcase the region’s myriad of local organic produce—some exotically tropical (and impossible to grow in other U.S. climes), some just plain tasty— the evenings include a cocktail reception, a farm tour, and a six-course meal paired with wines. Priced at $150, the upcoming dinners will feature chefs Michael Bloise (Wish), Clay Conley (Azul), and Thomas Azar (Emeril’s), on April 13th; and Larry LaVally (Mark’s South Beach), Jeff McInnis (The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach’s Dilido Beach Club), and Kira Volz (Creek 28), on April 27. Reservations: 305-248-4181 or www.paradisefarms.net.

Dinner and Drama
Dinner theatre is sure not what it used to be in grandma’s day at Spiegelworld. Presented in a historic Spiegeltent (an ornate mirror, stained glass and wood-paneled portable structure, designed in the 19th century as touring dance salons), the traveling circus/review features not only the cutting-edge Cirque du Soleil-like main show “Absinthe,” but surrounding gardens, cabanas, bars, and a suitably evocative Old World/New World restaurant. Catered by The Raleigh Hotel restaurant (whose new chef Jeffrey Brana normally serves up similarly contemporary/retro fare), the menu ranges from delightfully simple snacks such as grilled corn on the cob to Za’atar-crusted lamb chops with chick pea panisse (like Nicoise socca), or a re-invented brat plate: boudin blanc with sautéed cabbage and pears, plus mustard-dressed potato salad. The tent and its restaurant, which has been set up on the sands of South Beach since mid-December, fold on February 17. Spiegelworld, 22nd St. and Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-534-6300, x164.   

Jean-Georges Spices Up Miami
In 2008, Jean-Georges Vongerichten is planning to open a Miami outpost of his New York restaurant Spice Market, which features a high-end take on Southeast Asian street food. Vongerichten and his business partner Phil Suarez are also looking to go global with the dining concept, with locations possibly popping up in Istanbul, Dubai and Barcelona.

Local Chef to Host TV Show
Michelle Bernstein, chef/owner of Michy's, is hosting “Check, Please! South Florida,” a show for local foodies on WPBT Channel 2. Each week, three guests will pick their favorite restaurants, visit these recommended restaurants anonymously, and then dish about their experiences back at the television studio. The first episode will premiere in January and feature three restaurants in South Beach, Miami and Margate.

Expanding the Empire
Burt Rapoport, proprietor of Henry’s in Delray Beach, Opus 5 at the Shops at Boca Center in Boca Raton and Bogart’s Bar and Grille at the JM Lexus Premier Level at Muvico Palace 20 in Boca Raton (and partner in Max’s Grille at Boca Raton’s Mizner Park), took over operations at Gotham City restaurant, in Delray Beach, Florida. Rapoport, a popular industry veteran who has influenced the palates of South Florida diners for over twenty-five years, named John Belleme, who previously cooked for Rapoport at other projects (including the erstwhile Zemi, where Opus 5 now stands), as executive chef. Gotham City was created by David Manero, who owns Vic & Angelo’s Coal Oven Enoteca in Palm Beach Gardens and who will be unveiling DeVito’s (as in Danny DeVito) South Beach this spring. Gotham City, 16950 Jog Rd., Delray Beach, 561-381-0200.

All Hail Nuevo American Cuisine
Johnny Vinczencz will return to the Astor Hotel, where he first made his name as executive chef of Astor Place. In December, he opened his second restaurant, Johnny V South Beach, at the hotel. He will continue to operate Johnny V Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, where longtime right-hand Dwayne Adams will oversee day-to-day operations. Astor alum Kelly Sheehan will rejoin Johnny V as chef de cuisine of the South Beach shop. Johnny V South Beach, 956 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

Marking Up Lunch
Mark Militello, owner of Mark’s Las Olas, one of South Florida’s most critically-acclaimed dining destinations, has begun serving lunch, Mond.- Fri., noon-2:30 p.m. “We haven’t served lunch at the restaurant for several years now, but I decided the timing was right to start up again,” Militelle notes. “As someone who has lunch out most days, I’ve noticed that there are very few options available if you want to have an upscale meal midday. In most major U.S. cities, as well as in Europe, there are plenty of options – and I think this market is ripe for a true lunch destination.” Mark’s Las Olas, 1032 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-463-1000.

Now On the Tapas Train
OLA Steak has been revamped as OLA Steak and Tapas. The menu now offers an assortment of small, mix-and-match hot and cold tapas ranging from marinated Spanish anchovies served in a roasted Yukon gold potato to a signature white salad of frisée, toasted almond, white grapes, asparagus, feta and Amaretto gelée. OLA Steak and Tapas, Village of Merrick Park, 320 San Lorenzo Ave., #1320, Coral Gables, 305-461-4442.

Vacation from Lunch
Carmen The Restaurant will be closed for lunch during the months of June and July, then reopening in August with the beginning of Miami Spice month. The restaurant is still available to host private luncheon events for 20 people or more.

Double W
Florent Blanchet and Eddy le Garrec, proprietors of the charming little W Wine Bistro in the Design District of Miami, are in the process of opening a second boutique at 1328 Alton Rd. on Miami Beach.

Sommelier Shuffle
Sebastien Verrier, the long-time sommelier at La Palme d’Or at The Biltmore Hotel, has gone over to Casa Casuarina (the upscale night club on the premises of the erstwhile Versace mansion).

Dolphins' Team Effort
Henry Barrow, a former radio commentator for the Miami Dolphins and wine buyer for Gardner’s Markets, has joined Jimmy Cefalo, former Dolphins coach, as wine director at Cefalo’s Wine Corner. The new wine shop, bar, courtyard, cellar and gourmet Italian market will be located on the site of Miami’s historic Taurus restaurant and is a more expansive version of the celebrated coach’s first effort, Cefalo’s Wine Cellar, which closed this May. Cefalo’s Wine Corner is projected to open in September. 3540 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove.

Can't Get Enough Coal
The coal-fired pizza craze continues: Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza is set to open its third location in North Miami shortly, and Vic & Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizza will open the first of four planned sites in Palm Beach Gardens in the near future. South Florida’s ozone layer might suffer, but palates will surely be pleased.

Neighborly Acquisition
The Riverside Hotel, downtown Fort Lauderdale’s most unique and historic lodgings, has acquired neighboring Brio Mediterranean Bistro as part of an overall culinary expansion scheme. The menu has been retooled but still focuses on fresh Mediterranean dishes including paella, pasta and pizza from the brick oven.

Pacific Time All Day
Having recently and successfully added lunch hours, Pacific Time is now going to be open all day long. A new bar menu has been added, and summer specials will include happy hour two-for-one drinks; “Wine Down Mondays” with half-off bottle prices; prix fixe meals; and an expanded children’s menu.

Hy-Vong Rolls Out Specialties
Vietnamese restaurant Hy-Vong has begun marketing its popular beef and pork rolling cakes at Gardner’s Markets locations throughout Miami.

Ending Hunger
The Fort Lauderdale Share Our Strength “Taste of the Nation” 2006 event raised $135,000 to feed hungry children.

Wine Helps Wipe Out Cancer
The 2006 Biltmore International Food & Wine Weekend raised more than $250,000 in revenues, with net proceeds to benefit the UM/Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Norman’s chef de cuisine Jeffrey Brana has resigned his position, along with wife Anna Elena, who was chef-owner Norman Van Aken’s marketing manager and personal assistant for many years. The pair has moved onto a new project. Meanwhile, Van Aken has made ten-year Norman's vet Frank Ferreiro chef de cuisine. 21 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables, 305-446-6767.

Michael Gilligan, formerly of Rumi, is the new chef de cuisine at Atrio in the Conrad. His signature style blends Asian and Latin American influences. (See "Bytes" for more on Chef Gilligan.) 1395 Brickell Ave., Miami, 305-530-6529.

News Bytes

Doraku, the boutique sushi restaurant and lounge located on Lincoln Road, has reopened for lunch; Benihana’s VP of marketing Kevin Aoki says his regulars were “up in arms” by the temporary closure. In addition, the restaurant unveils an exciting new drink menu, developed by general manager/saké sommelier Adrian Najara, on Monday, May 1. The fifteen-drink, Asian-inspired menu includes new creations such as the Doraku ginger ale, a medley of ginger-infused vodka, fresh lemon and lime, club soda and Doraku’s housemade ginger ale as well as the “fire-breathing dragon,” a hot and cold concoction with infused mango vodka, red pepper, Serrano chile and fresh mango nectar. Complimentary tastings will be available between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., May 1-4 (offer limited to one drink per customer). 1104 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-695-8383, www.dorakusushi.com.

Noir Bar at the Conrad has reopened after months of recovery from the 2005 hurricane trifecta. The chic, intimate black boîte, located on the 25th floor of the hotel and adjacent to the superb Atrio, is once again the perfect spot to unwind with sexy cocktails, reasonably priced fine wines by the glass, and a delectable bar menu, created by Conrad Miami’s newly anointed chef de cuisine, Michael Gilligan. Items range from yuca fritas with mango-habanera dipping sauce to baked crab cakes with grilled corn and chipotle aioli, all a natural match for the signature Noir martini, a mix of Blavad black vodka, blue curacao, peach schnapps and sweet & sour. 1395 Brickell Ave., Miami, 305-530-6529.

O-R-o has new operating hours: Sunday to Thursday from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight. The restaurant also has a new website,
www.o-R-o.com, with a complete listing of all menus, photos and banquet event information.

Taco Max has morphed into Arturo’s Taco Mex, according to chef-owner Arturo Gonzalez. Okay with us, as long as the foie gras taco doesn't become the chopped liver burrito. 7931 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-759-7774.

Brio Mediterranean Bistro has been brought under the umbrella of the neighboring Riverside Hotel. Look for menu updates from the hotel group's executive chef, Kenneth Williams. 720 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-525-3710.

For those missing the T-bone, fried onion rings and Gorgonzola salad served for 50 years at Manero’s, located across from Gulf Stream race track, mourn no more. Though that restaurant is gone, with the very building scheduled for demolition to make way for—what else—condominiums, the three signature items have survived. Nearby restaurant Joseph’s on the Water, whose owners the Maggi family are good friends with the Manero family, has added them to its menu for longtime Manero’s customers to enjoy. And if you call Manero’s old number, Joseph’s answers—they had it forwarded. How’s that for loyalty? 1975 S. Ocean Dr., Hallandale Beach, 954-455-6996, www.josephsonthewater.com.

Mendoza Matters
Is it an opening, a closing or a reunion? First it was the much-ballyhooed but short-lived La Broche, then it was the even briefer Biscayne Bistro, followed by the Argentine chef Francis Mallman’s Mendoza, a bigger flop than recent Oscar up-dos. Now the restaurant space, still called Mendoza, is back under the management of Biscayne Bistro owners Roberto and Cheska Cavalcanti, while the chef is Alex Rubio, formerly of Pulcinella Restaurant, 94th Aero Squadron and—you guessed it—Mendoza. Meanwhile, the cuisine is Mediterranean with Latin American accents, with appetizers such as gazpacho with crab meat and oven roasted crab cakes with mixed greens and pomegranate sauce, and entrées like salt-crusted fish with spinach and baby potatoes and rack of lamb with julienne of zucchini and mashed potatoes. Go figure, because we sure can’t. 1155 Brickell Bay Dr., Miami, 305-377 4442.

Good Cause
Legal Sea Foods
raised $7,500 to benefit Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation (MCHF) by donating a portion of Gift Certificate sales during the holidays at the company’s three South Florida restaurants. This was the fifth year for the Gift Certificate program in South Florida, which is an extension of Legal’s long-standing annual tradition, begun in Boston, of partnering with community organizations in fundraising efforts during the holiday season. The Florida campaign has generated $30,000 in the past five seasons that it has been in operation, bringing the total to
$ 37,500 raised.

Couscous and Co.
Christian Nazon and David Sultan have taken over Moroccan Nights, adding belly dancing and Middle Eastern music nightly along with a change of menu. Look for homemade grilled Moroccan beef sausages, baked eggplant with tahini sauce, a variety of different couscous dishes and a selection of tagine, including one stewed with prunes and another with olives. 9555 Harding Ave., Surfside, 305-865-5333.

New at Doraku
Doraku has new hours. The South Beach restaurant, no longer serving lunch or brunch, is now open everyday from 4 p.m.-1 a.m. 1104 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.

Talula is Back with New Menu
After two hurricanes, a fire and the birth of a new baby, Talula chef-owners Frank Randazzo and Andrea Curto-Randazzo have bounced back with a new menu. It includes appetizers such as tender hamachi ceviche on a puddle of lime-soy & ginger root marinade, with sliced chiles, avocados and crispy malanga strips, and entrées such as New Zealand venison loin crusted in lavender, black peppercorns and herbs, seared and served with a rich porcini-leek bread pudding and ancho-glazed Japanese eggplant, and drizzled with a vinaigrette made of cold-smoked grapes, rendered pancetta and balsamic vinegar. 210 23rd St., Miami Beach, 305-672-0778, www.talulaonline.com.

New at North One 10
North One 10 is offering a prix-fixe dinner menu from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $28 and prix fixe lunch for $18, available Monday through Friday. 11052 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami, 305-893-4211.

Light Lunch at Bahia
Bahia at Four Seasons Hotel Miami is now serving a full, albeit light, lunch menu that reflects the seventh floor poolside/terrace setting of the restaurant. 1435 Brickell Ave., Miami, 305-358-3535.

Get Lost, Locanda
Locanda Sibilla has dropped the "Locanda." Now just called Sibilla, the Italian al fresco bistro, with a touch of Latin and tropical influences, is part of the international chain of restaurants called the Bice Group. 833 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, 305-695-1613.

Bring Joe's Home
Miami’s internationally renowned Joe’s Stone Crab has taken a cue from the “soup that eats like a meal” people and gone into the retail business. The regionally focused seafood restaurant, known for its stone crab claws and other local products, is doing it one better, however: Joe’s Hearty Entrée Soups are flash-frozen, using new and unique technology, as opposed to canned. Add a little water, stick ‘em in a microwave, and in six minutes you’ve got a fourteen-ounce serving that’s designed to be an entire lunch or light dinner. At $3.99 per, the soups come in three flavors—New England Clam Chowder, Shrimp and Scallop Minestrone and Shrimp Noodle—and are a lot easier on the wallet than the stone crabs.

Early Bird gets the Food Deal
It’s really just another name for the early bird special: Art Café has announced its Sundowner Supper Club. Monday through Friday, only-at-dusk diners (6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) can partake of a two-course menu for $19.99. The deal includes a glass of wine. Art Café, 427 Jefferson Ave., Miami Beach, 305-531-0770.

Brunch and the Classics
Talula restaurant has launched “Sunset Strip” Sunday Brunch. No, it’s not a new type of naked worship. Rather, priced at $30 per person (excluding tax, gratuity and beverages), the buffet-style brunch, filled with classic and contemporary American delicacies, will show movies on the restaurant’s flat-screen TV and have hand-picked music from the era to play. “Think Ella Fitzgerald and a lot of Sinatra,” co-chef/owner Andrea Curto-Randazzo adds. Or, at least, think about singing along. 210 23rd St., Miami Beach, 305-672-0778, www.talulaonline.com.

Late Lunch
China Grill is offering a prix-fixe lunch menu, prepared for two to twenty people and served family-style. Depending on the amount in your party, you choose from two appetizers, a main course, a side dish and dessert sampler. The lunch runs weekdays from noon till 6 p.m. Wait a second—won’t that spoil your dinner? 404 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305- 534-2211.

Mark your Calendars
The prix-fixe is also on at Mark’s South Beach, where the alliteratively named executive chef Larry LaValley offers a three-course dinner priced at $45 per person exclusive of tax and gratuity, and lunch is $25 for the same deal. The special menus are available every day for lunch, and for dinner Sunday through Thursday. Hotel Nash, 1120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-604-9050.

No Need to Squeeze Your Pocketbook
Ortanique on the Mile calls it “The Squeeze” lunch menu. At $20.05, we call it a tasty bargain. The three-course meal will be offered year-round, but the menu will change periodically to feature chef-proprietor Cindy Hutson’s continuous creativity. Other Ortanique specials include the half-calorie mojitos offered during Sunday Night Jazz Quartet evenings and half-price mojitos (that’s two for one and double the calories) at Monday Night Mojito Madness celebrations. 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, 305-446-7710.

Roast Pigs at OLA Steak
The pig roast, made famous at OLA in the parking lot of the now-closed Biscayne Boulevard location, has moved to OLA Steak. Enjoy the same roast suckling pig, straight out of the la caja china, along with $5 mojitos and margaritas. But note the difference—rather than Thursday happy hours, the pig roast is now a family-friendly sport, running Saturdays and Sundays from noon till 4 p.m. and featuring live music. Village of Merrick Park, 320 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 304-461-4446.

Pick the Piccolo
From pigs to truffles—it’s a natural progression. And Acqua at Four Seasons Hotel Miami has them in the blanco version, direct from the Alba region of Italy. At $20 per five to eight gram shaving while they last, the truffles are available to garnish any dish. Chef Marco Bax recommends adding them to the weekly piccolo, or prix-fixe, menu, created especially to pair with the fragrant fungi. Four Seasons Hotel Miami, 1435 Brickell Ave. (14th St.), Miami, 305-358-3535.

Go to B.E.D.
B.E.D. Beverage. Entertainment. Dining has announced its new winter menu. Cuddle up under the covers with dishes including “Sesame Scented Ahi Tuna Napoleon with Goat’s Yogurt Tzatziki;” “Caribbean Lobster and Baked Pineapple, Celery, Tomatoes with a Coconut Cashew Ginger Sauce;” and the “Love Stack: Mamey Cheesecake over a Cinnamon Crème Brulée with Chocolate and Honey-Vanilla sauces.” Just don’t wipe your chocolate-stained hands on the pillowcases. That’s what your partner is for. 929 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-532-9070, www.bedmiami.com.

Il Mulino Expansion
Acqualina, A Rosewood Resort, has been in the Sunny Isles Beach works for a while. Expect to see another multi-nomial, Il Mulano New York, courtesy of Abruzzo, Italy natives and brothers Fernando and Gino Masci, as its signature independent restaurant, slated to open February 2006. This marks the first expansion for Il Mulino New York, and given that we’re an NYC Borough, we’d say it’s a natural one. 17780 Collins Ave., 2nd Fl., Sunny Isles Beach, 305-936-9088. www.acqualinaresort.com/dining.cfm.

Culinary Affairs at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival
The 43rd Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival, taking place February 18 through 20, 2006, is now a lure for the gastronome. In addition to the wide array of traditional quick eats and casual food items enjoyed by throngs of Festival guests, the 2006 Coconut Grove Arts Festival will feature new restaurant-style dining options from two fine restaurants–Casa Larios (Larios Café) and Tropical Chinese. The Festival will also debut their new Culinary Arts area, a tented pavilion offering free educational seminars, live chef demonstrations for kids and adults and much more.

Lunch at North One 10
Lunch is back at North One 10, just in time for those who need a refuge from holiday madness or who want to celebrate the conclusion of Biscayne Boulevard construction in this area. And for vicarious eclectic comfort, chef-owner Dewey LoSasso and wife/co-owner Dade have also launched a new website. 11052 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami, 305-893-4211.

Boca Bacchanal Set for March
The Boca Raton Historical Society has announced the pairings of the Vintner Dinner chefs, vintners and venues for Boca Bacchanal, the weekend winefest and auction planned for March 10-11 to benefit its Heritage Education Programs. There will be eight extraordinary and delicious Vintner Dinners, with quirky and thought-provoking names such as “The Italian Casanova Courts a Trio of Boca Belles” and “The Leaping Frog joins Atlanta’s Prandial Prince? A Culinary Conundrum!” on Friday, March 10, to launch the festivities. For information, contact the Boca Raton Historical Society at 561.395.6766 X 101 or at www.bocabacchanal.com.

Happy Hour, Roger That
Happy hour has never been more accessible than at Roger’s Waterfront Bar and Grill,
where the barbecue—twelve-spice dry rub signature ribs, chorizo, herb-marinated mahi mahi skewers, mini-burgers and chicken lollipops—is $5, the watermelon margaritas, made with fresh purée, are 2-for-1 and the valet parking is free. A daily 2-for-1 shrimp and oyster menu is an added bonus if you’ve got the room. 1601 79th St. Causeway, Miami Beach, 305-866-7111.

Wall of Visionaries at The Capital Grille
Who knew peddling rum could be so respectable? On Tuesday, January, 10 p.m., The Capital Grille will unveil the newest addition to its wall of business visionaries—a portrait of Bacardi's founder, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó at a V.I.P., invitation-only reception. The Don Facundo Bacardí Massó portrait will join other portraits on display including Henry Flagler, John S. Collins, Julia Tuttle and George E. Merrick.

Honoring Van Aken
The fourth annual International Summit of Gastronomy Madrid Fusión, taking place January 17-19, 2006, in Madrid, Spain, will honor South Florida’s own Norman Van Aken, along with colleagues Mark Miller, Paul Prudhomme and Alice Waters, as one of the “Founders of the New American Cuisine.” The award is granted to those who have pioneered dining trends in the States. As an interesting footnote, though, Van Aken has recently put his flagship restaurant Norman’s in Coral Gables up for sale. For more information on Madrid Fusión and its schedule of events, visit www.madridfusion.net. For more info on Van Aken, check out www.normans.com.

Neo-technical Spanish Concept
Karu & Y are not the newest comedy team on the circuit. Rather, they’re the latest restaurant (Karu) and lounge (Y) to piggyback on a concept—otherwise known as the venue-within-a-venue syndrome. In this case, the restaurant and lounge will be adjacent to the Ice Palace Film Studios and is slated to try a neo-technical Spanish concept. Expected to open sometime this fall after a year of pre-press, the 19,000-square-foot behemoth features a 7,000-square-foot private room for celebrities to host private parties marking the beginning or end of filming, or for just plain celebrating. At the helm: Chef Alberto Cabrera, formerly of Baleen, Norman’s and the controversial La Broche. Karu & Y, 71 NW 14th St., Miami, 305-403-7850.

Get Your Tickets on October 20
It’s a mouthful alright: The 2006 South Beach Wine & Food Festival is featuring “Decoding Ferran Adrià: The Tribute dinner” on Saturday, February 25. The dinner in the culinary innovator’s honor, orchestrated by colleagues and friends Thomas Keller, Gray Kunz, Nobu Matsuhisa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Miami’s own Norman Van Aken, will take place at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, headquarters and host of the fifth annual festival (7p.m. to 11p.m., price $600). Now here’s the important part: Tickets go on sale October 20 and are expected to sell out as fast as Green Day’s. Visit the festival website www.sobewineandfoodfest.com or call 877-762-3933.

Miami Socialite
She’s baaaack—and we couldn’t be happier. Fresh from her MB restaurant in the Fiesta Americana Hotel in Cancún, renowned chef Michelle Bernstein has partnered with Steve Perricone and is developing Michy’s, a comfortably priced, Jewish-Latino restaurant on the Upper East Side. The gastronomic multi-tasker has also joined Jeffrey Chodorow’s China Grill Management as chef consultant for two new national restaurants—Social Miami at the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach and Social Hollywood at the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles. She’ll collaborate with Social Miami executive chef Sean Mohamed (formerly of Blue Door at Delano) on a global "small plates" menu for Social Miami.

Pascal Debuts New Menu
In South Florida, where restaurants age as rapidly as large dogs, award-winning chef-proprietor Pascal Oudin is celebrating the five-year anniversary of his namesake contemporary French restaurant, Pascal’s on Ponce, with the launch of a new menu.
Look for local blue crab cake with chilled tomato gazpacho and avocado as a starter; diver sea scallops and beef short ribs served with young fennel, carrot rounds and asparagus or filet mignon "Farci" with escargot Provencal, au gratin potatoes and horseradish sauce as main courses; and baked Alaska with strawberry and vanilla ice cream and Grand Marnier meringue for a final sweet. Pascal’s on Ponce, 2611 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305-444-2024.

Prix-fixe Brunch
Sushisamba Dromo is offering three unique prix-fixe brunch concepts: the Continental brunch ($15), a selection of brunch classics, accompanied by the Pika Pika cocktail; the Feijoada brunch ($13), a menu featuring Brazilian-inspired dishes and the Orange Batida drink; and the Aso Gohan brunch ($12), a medley of traditional Japanese breakfast favorites, including green tea. Sushisamba Dromo, 600 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, FL 33139, 305-673-5337.

ORo with a View
Uber-maitre d’ George Slover, who has handled the front of the house for Barton G. The Restaurant and The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, just couldn’t resist: He’s branching out on his own. The 150+ seat oRo will open in SoFi—that’s south of Fifth Street on SoBe (South Beach). Slover is promising divine cuisine, hip décor and over-the-top views, quite literally speaking, as the restaurant will be located in the second story of the building at the Miami Beach Marina (formerly Monty’s on the Beach’s fine-dining component). oRo, 300 Alton Rd., Miami Beach.

Moving and Shaking
Picnics at Allen’s Drugstore has left the building. And that’s not metaphoric. The 50’s-era soda fountain and diner has moved into its own free-standing quarters a few miles down the road. (A Latin café takes its place in the all-American drugstore digs.) Picnics, 6500 Bird Rd., Miami, 305-665-6964.

Get Your Fruit On
In an effort to enhance and promote Florida’s tropical fruit industry, the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida (TFGSF) will feature fabulous fresh Florida-grown tropical fruit in the upcoming “Taste of the Florida Tropics” educational television series. Featuring award-winning chef Allen Susser and local growers, delicious recipes and fun tidbits about tropical fruits will be shared with consumers on local cable television outlets of Cable Tap, every Friday-Sunday until December 20. The shows air twice a day every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. On October 14-16 and 21-23, guest Bill Mee of Lycheesonline.com offers info and recipes about lychees; on October 28-30 and November 4-6, Marc Ellenby of LNB Farms shows how to use frozen tropical fruits in drinks and other recipes. Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, 305-401-1502. Show schedules can also be found at www.tropicalfruitgrowers.com.

Big Fish Story
The long-running riverside eatery Big Fish (55 SW Miami Ave., 305-373-1770) is closed, for the umpteenth time since its incarnation, for renovations. Estimated re-opening is in October 2005.

OLA is Relocating
Douglas Rodriguez’s pan-Latin protégé has ceased function at 5061 Biscayne Blvd. He’s bringing the concept to South Beach instead at 455 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, in late August. But don’t mourn the Thursday pig roast too much. The infamous happy hour has moved location and time to Friday at the OLA Steak location in Village of Merrick Park. From 4 p.m.-5 p.m., get your free mojitos and complimentary tapas. Until 8 p.m., enjoy draft beers from $2.50-$3.50, well drinks for $4.50 and snacks. OLA Steak, 320 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-461-4442.

Label Readers, Take Note
Legal Sea Foods has introduced a special menu for those afflicted by celiac disease (also called sprue), an autoimmune disorder caused by an allergy to gluten in wheat and grains that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. Nearly one person in every 133 healthy, average Americans suffers from celiac disease including, it’s rumored, some food writers. So keep your eyes open for critics, if you can tear them away from your gluten-free plate. Town Center, 6000 W. Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 561-447-2112; Palladium City Place, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-838-9000.

Get Your Fruit On
In an effort to enhance and promote Florida’s tropical fruit industry, the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida (TFGSF) will feature fresh Florida-grown tropical fruit in the upcoming “Taste of the Florida Tropics” educational television series. Featuring award-winning chef Allen Susser and local growers, delicious recipes and fun tidbits about tropical fruits will be shared with consumers on local cable television outlets of Cable Tap, every Friday-Sunday until December 20. The shows air twice a day every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. On August 5-7 and 12-14, grower Roberto Perez and chef Allen cook with Florida sapodilla; August 19-21 and 26-28 features grower Roger Washington with fun pitahaya (dragon fruit) facts and recipes. Show schedules can also be found at www.tropicalfruitgrowers.com.

Dollarhide Debuts in South Florida
Who knew? St. Supéry Vineyards & Winery chose to release its 2004 Limited Edition Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc exclusively to the South Florida public (otherwise it’s available at the winery and online). “South Florida boasts an eclectic dining landscape, which makes it perfect for test marketing the Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc,” said St. Supéry CEO Michaela Rodeno. “We’ve hand-selected restaurants in the area to include the Dollarhide on their wine list.” Find out which ones at www.stsupery.com.

Design-Your-Own Internship
Francy Deskin, sous chef at Mark Militello’s acclaimed Fort Lauderdale restaurant Mark’s Las Olas, won a $5,000 Jean-Louis Palladin Award, an internship that recipients can design themselves—be it serving pork tenderloin or serving slop on a pig farm. Mark’s Las Olas, 1032 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-463-1000.

For the Road Rage-less
South Beach and London neighborhood restaurant fave Balans won approval from the Miami Zoning Board to open an 18,000-square-foot sibling with a 22-car parking lot on the Upper Eastside. Morningside and Bayside residents are peeved about potential traffic problems, but gastronomes aren’t complaining about the development of this neglected site. Balans folk go before the City Commission for final approvals in July and September. Balans, 68th & Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

Spice It Up
It’s nearly that time of year again: the annual Miami Spice Month, whose name is now just a wee bit off, will take place in August and September. Participating restaurants to date are listed at www.miamirestaurantmonth.com.

If You Can't Take the Heat...
Michael Bloise, executive chef of Wish at The Hotel (801 Collins Ave., 305-531-2222), had his come true on PBS’ show “Cooking Under Fire.” An episode featuring him airs on July 7. For more PBS fun, check out Norman Van Aken, preparing “Apple-Stuffed Crêpes with Dulce de Leche Sugarcane Barbecue’d Duck with smoky Plantain Crema” on July 23. It’s a mouthful just to say, let alone make and eat.

Z, Y, X, W, V
Johnny V is learning his culinary alphabet—backwards: Johnny Vinczencz, chef-proprietor of his eponymous Las Olas eatery, has launched “The New Q,” a New Florida barbecue section of his lunch menu. Selections from “The New Q” addendum ($11-$16) include: barbecued duck breast “meatloaf” with smoked apple bacon and mango barbecued braised beef short ribs, along with sides including macaroni and goat cheese and mango cole slaw. In development? An “I” menu—for pastry chef Malka Espinel’s forthcoming array of homemade ice creams. Johnny V, 625 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-761-7920.

Kovaceski Sells Crystal Café
Renowned chef-owner Klime Kovaceski sold his name-making Crystal Café and moved to San Francisco. New owners Sal Dicembino and wife Maria José have retained much of Kovaceski’s “New Continental” cuisine and are continually adding Italian and Mediterranean specialties as well. Crystal Café, 726 Arthur Godfrey Rd., Miami Beach, 305-673-8266.


An SOS Success
Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation Miami® raised a record-breaking $111,000 this year. "Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, chefs and The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, we attracted more people than ever before to SOS Taste of the Nation Miami and will donate 100% of ticket purchases to fight childhood hunger," said Allen Susser of Chef Allen's, longtime chair of the event. "We raised more money this year than any other event in Taste of the Nation Miami's 19-year history."

Conley in the Big Apple
Azul chef Clay Conley will cook at the James Beard House in New York on September 7. Joining Chef Conley will be Azul sommelier Richard Hales and executive pastry chef Patrick Lassaque. The five-course menu specially created for this occasion includes such dishes as Hawaiian tuna tartar, Moroccan inspired Colorado lamb and caramelized spice ice cream. For information call 305-913-8358.

Greetings from Peru
When executive chef of Sonesta Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove Christopher Cramer returned from Peru, he brought back a wife, along with a new commitment to Peruvian cuisine. Now on the menu at Panorama Restaurant and Lounge: ravioles dorados (fried dim sum filled with minced beef, peppers and onions); choritos a la chalaca (steamed mussels with a corn, tomato & onion salsa); pastel de choclo (corn cake filled with queso fresco and duck confit topped with a porcini mushroom sauce); and various ceviches and tiraditos including conchas de jengibre (scallops with lime juice, garlic and pickled ginger). Panorama Restaurant and Lounge, 2889 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove, 305-447-8256.

Rapoport Takes Over
Noted South Florida restaurateur, Burt Rapoport, has taken over the food and beverage operations at the JM Lexus Premier at Muvico Palace 20 in Boca Raton. Rapoport, who will be changing the official name of the restaurant in the fall to Bogart’s Bar and Grille, will feature a menu comprised of signature items from his other popular eateries, Opus 5 and Max’s Grille, in Boca Raton, and Henry’s in Delray Beach, along with some favorites from two of his former Boca Raton restaurants Mon Ami (which he just sold this August), as well as Prezzo.

Closings

The barely year-old Casa Toscana Wine and Gourmet Shop, in Miami Shores, has closed. Ongoing road construction in front of the store, as well as hassles due to the village’s over-restrictive (many would say downright backward) zoning laws had plagued the market/café since its opening in the spring of 2007. According to owner Sandra Stefani, the shop’s educational wine tastings and cooking classes, plus a limited selection of artisan products, will be available at her long locally-popular Upper East Side trattoria, Casa Toscana. Casa Toscana, 7001 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 786-262-6408.   

After closing Mark’s South Beach about a month ago, chef Mark Militello has now closed Mark’s Las Olas, in Fort Lauderdale.

Karu & Y, the $25 million “alta cocina” restaurant/lounge that opened less than a year and a half ago in one of the city of Miami’s most depressed areas, has switched off the Dale Chihuly chandelier and closed. Y Ultralounge is scheduled to re-open, after sprucing up, in time for the Winter Music Conference in late March. And though there’s no timetable, as yet, co-owner Cesar Sotomayor says it will likely re-open with a Mediterranean theme, a big name chef, and big-bucks backers from out of town.

Pearl Restaurant & Lounge, the upstairs restolounge serving as the formal fine dining component of South Beach’s notorious model/model wannabe hangout Nikki Beach, has closed, and re-opened as Club Nikki. The new venue is a resto-free lounge, with no food (unless you count Champagne, and eye candy).   

Ending a shocking food year with a bang, Chispa Restaurant & Bar (translation: “spark”) in Coral Gables–a Nuevo Latino hotspot that opened four years ago with trendies lined up around the block–joined, in December, the funeral procession of top Miami eateries that closed in 2007. These included Norman’s, Pacific Time, Johnny V South Beach, afterglo, Max’s Grille, Madiba, Duo, Fifty, 8 1/2, and, first to fold, in January, 2007, the barely six-month-old food critics’ favorite Restaurant Brana. A second Chispa, which opened last year in Doral (with similar contemporary Latin decor, and a similar Nuevo Latino menu by longtime Chispa executive chef Adam Votaw) remains open, for lunch and dinner daily. Chispa Doral, 11500 NW 41st St., Doral.

David Bouley Evolution in Miami Beach has closed. However, chef David Bouley, whose other restaurants include Bouley and Danube in New York, told the Miami Herald that the closing is temporary and that the restaurant should reopen soon under the same name.

After 27 years, the traditional French restaurant Cafe du Parc, located in Lake Park and owned by Marie and Pierre Latuberne, has closed.

It was a very short year: After about only twelve months in business, Max’s Grille in Coral Gables has pulled the plug. Locations in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens are still running strong, however. Max’s Grille, 2 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, 305-567-2600, www.maxsgrille.com.

Salero, struggling to hang on after its more notable sister Mosaico went under last year, has finally left us. Salero, 1000 South Miami Ave., Miami, 305-371-3473.

Jalapeno Jax on Miami’s Upper East Corridor has closed.

Say farewell to a dining room with a view: o-R-o has disappeared from the South Beach scene.

Boca Raton’s venerable La Vieille has shut down operations after 30 years in business.

Tsunami in West Palm Beach’s CityPlace has gone under.

Restaurant M. Woods has closed its Low Country doors at 12953 Biscayne Blvd. in North Miami Beach. Lordy, but we’ll miss that fried yard bird (chicken).

Roger’s Waterfront Bar and Grill has abandoned attempts to salvage its reputation at 1601 79th Street Cswy. in North Bay Village. When even happy hour is a misery, you know it’s time to go.

The venerable Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House is a victim of the times. The ancient deli will be replaced by condos that feature a Jerry’s Famous Deli—another brand of Rascal House’s parent company—instead. But can anything really replace those ginormous prune Danish?

Most people expect their lawns to retire in autumn. So the demise of Grass, the Design District’s trendiest entry of the past couple of years, is right in season. And given the fall of interest from the culinary-minded, it’s not entirely surprising, either.

Owner Alan Roth has closed Rumi, the once-popular supper club on Lincoln Road, and is beginning renovations for a new concept in the same spot. Stay tuned for ATM—Asian Tasting Menu—a moniker that will no doubt provoke a bank vault’s worth of puns (so allow me to be first).

Forget Elvis—the ham(burger) has left the building. Cheeburger Cheeburger, an institution on Las Olas Boulevard long before anybody realized it was a chain, numbers among the dearly departed. Some are blaming the neighboring introduction of another chain, known to some only as Cheecake Cheecake...

Bistro Zinc has shut its Aventura doors. The five-year-old restaurant was proprietor Mogens Mueller’s follow-up to his long-running, erstwhile Tivoli in North Miami Beach.

Chez Rosie, the rickety dive of a Haitian place on Biscayne Boulevard that nevertheless made great stewed oxtail and fried pork, has closed down in preparation for a move. Let’s hope the new digs reflect the quality of the cuisine this time around.

The building in which Oggi Caffè has resided for the past decade is being renovated. So the beloved Italian eatery is closed. Fortunately, it’s only temporary—the venue has plans to move practically across the street. 1740 79th St. Causeway, North Bay Village, 305-866-1238.

Smitty’s, an institution for downtown right-wing politicos, left-of-center journalists and assorted anti-establishment academics, has been sold. The 64-year-old business closes its creaky doors for good on July 2 at 3 p.m. Myra and Ted Tampouris, who have owned the venerable diner for the past 11 years, will be on hand to help grieved patrons go gently into that good afternoon. Smitty's, 3195 NE Second Ave., Miami, 305-573-3162.

The world still turns but Mundo has bid us a bittersweet adios: The only non-eponymous restaurant owned by South Florida’s busiest celebrity chef, Norman Van Aken, closed in early April. Villagio, of the Tommy Billante group that created Mezzanotte and owns Carpaccio, Carnevale and Sugo, among others, has taken its place, serving its crowd-pleasing Italian standards. Villagio, 358 San Lorenzo Ave., Coral Gables, 305-447-8144.

The much-beloved Biscayne Wine Merchants & Bistro (738 NE 125th St., North Miami) has closed, owing to the sale of the building that housed it for the last fifteen years. Owners Jan Sitko and Esther Flores plan to re-open when they find a suitable location.

Renaisa has closed on 79th St. Causeway in Miami.

L’Entrecote de Paris has closed on Washington Avenue on South Beach.

The Ritz-Carlton, Manalapan’s Grill Room is among the dear and departed. After renovations, two stylish restaurants will take its place, most likely to be unveiled during the holidays.

Capri Blu has closed in its original downtown on West Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach location after ten years. It will reopen in new digs at 251 Sunrise Ave. in Palm Beach in late September.

The historic Testa's Restaurant, closed after a February fire, will reopen in September. 221 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach.

Due to a fire on the eighth floor of the David William Hotel in Coral Gables and the resulting water and smoke damage, Carmen the Restaurant, located in the lobby, was destroyed. No word on when or if the restaurant will relocate.

The Painted Horse Café on West Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach has closed.

The Atrium supper club in Boca Raton is closed.

Delray Beach’s Splendid Blended has closed.

Sublime is closed—again. The Fort Lauderdale gourmet vegan restaurant had finally reopened this early summer after hurricanes Katrina and Wilma had battered it the year before. But a partner dispute has sealed the doors once again. Principal owner Nanci Alexander vows to reopen. Watch this space.

The 71-year-old Fu Manchu, open since 1935, and the second oldest restaurant in Miami Beach after Joe’s Stone Crab (open since 1913), has shut down. Owners Julius and Lucy Yee and Jesus and Vicky Li, who purchased the restaurant 35 years ago, have retired. Fu Manchu, 325 71st St., Miami Beach.

RESTAURANT AWARDS 2014

Check out the 2014 edition of GAYOT's Annual Restaurant Issue, which features the Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S., Rising Chefs and more.

TOP 10 BREWPUBS IN THE USThese Top 10 Brewpubs in the US are prime places for locals to gather over great food and handcrafted beer made by small-time, dedicated brewmasters.