Don't Curry, Be Happy

But there is one treat in store -- if you can limit your mastication and restrict yourself to drink and discussion -- in the shape of a waiter. His name is Warwick. This unquenchably cheerful fellow is the single reward for those patrons who aim to endure the shack's cooking experiment to its incontestably bitter conclusion. But Warwick is simply the finest waiter imaginable: friendly, informative, witty, attentive. He'll describe the ingredients of Jamaican cuisine like an expert; he'll relate the history of the Marlin like an Art Deco doyen; and he's indefatigable when it comes to offering Shabeen's tall-glassed and rum-laced tropical punches. An example of Warwickian wit: he compared a visit to the above-mentioned rest room to "falling into a jar of jellybeans." Aided by a delightful waitress, Melanie, he raised the spirits as our minds and stomachs wallowed in curry-satiated mire. No mean feat.

Warwick's origins had to be Jamaican, I thought, given his typically Jamaican name, culinary expertise, and nonchalance. But appearances are deceiving at Shabeen, like much else. When I pursued this line of inquiry, our waiter smiled cannily and answered, "I'm from Cincinatti, Ohio, man."

1200 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 673-8373. Open daily from noon to midnight.

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