The Sisters Act

The boniato-crusted shrimp, with a papaya-lime salsa, definitely appealed to us. Two jumbo shrimp were stuffed inside shredded, deep-fried boniato and served with a beautiful little salad of endive and other greens. Boniato, a root vegetable that tastes like a cross between a potato and jicama, is a sweet, fashionable item these days. It complemented the tender shrimp enormously, a welcome change from a more familiar version, the frequently encountered coconut shrimp.

My companion's appetizer, the chilled-grilled seafood sausage, was equally as fresh and even further along the evolutionary scale of New World cuisine. This pressed and sliced combination of lobster, shrimp, and scallops was far removed from what we normally view as sausage, a Lamborghini to a Jimmy Dean Model-T. Two saucer-size slices hovered over a red pepper coulis and a frilly escarole salad. In traditional cooking, a coulis refers to the juices that run out of meat while it is cooking; these are collected and transformed into a sauce. In New World parlance, coulis means a liquid puree, commonly of crustaceans or vegetables.

Another conventional sauce is made from the reduction, a brown sauce derived from the juices of the meat. This concoction is then cooked down to make it thicker in consistency and to increase its savorability. At Two Sisters, the sauce under our roast peppered loin of lamb was spiked with applejack brandy. The brandy flavor, a pleasurable addition, was readily apparent despite the too-salty demi-glace; the lamb itself, a startling rare bit of paradise, was served on a pancetta potato pancake, perhaps the source of the salt.

The starters were deceptively filling; I could hardly manage more than a few wonderful mouthfuls of my entree, the cashew-encrusted yellowtail snapper. This was a personal failure, as well as a missed opportunity, for rarely have I encountered such a well-prepared fillet, the rich nuts perfectly balanced by a lemon-butter sauce and a crunchy orange-jicama relish.

Service at Two Sisters was as royal as the marble wainscotting suggested. Both the waiter and the manager, Robert Stanfield, inquired after my meal, and the chef visited every table, only a few of which, unfortunately, were occupied.

Though an occasional wanderer or local regular may dine on weeknights, there is a worrisome lack of foot-traffic in this exclusive Coral Gables hotel setting. Clientele is sometimes limited to hotel guests. On weekends, however, the nightclub Alcazaba attracts a crowd, and Two Sisters is a prime choice for a predancing dinner. Sunday brunch and on- and off-premise catering also contribute to the Two Sisters' attractions, a restaurant which, like its namesake, is "a splendid pile," a lavish, impressive monument to pleasure.

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