Gloom Service

In keeping with the menu's dance theme, meat dishes are listed under "Salsa," which seemed appropriate enough -- the marinated strip steak we ordered was served with a smoky, wood-grilled vegetable version. Williams's Southwestern influences shone brightly here, distinguishing him from the rest of the New World crowd, who lean more to the tropical East. The steak was succulent and meaty, all robust flavor and texture. A side of boniato mash was purposely left lumpy and homestyle rather than whipped to a chic froth, a choice we admired. An inch-thick pork chop glazed with an ancho chili-tamarind mixture ($19.95) was also tasty, despite the fact that the meat was tough, not the highest-quality cut. Well-prepared accessories -- zesty black beans and cooling jicama slaw -- contrasted to good, back-yard barbecue effect.

The aforementioned venison special, unfortunately, consisted of gristly, overdone chunks of not-very-good meat served over mushy farfalle (bow-tie pasta), a combination that wasn't abetted nearly enough by a wine-rich wild mushroom demiglace and a fragrant, bright green coriander sauce. "Guess I was wrong," our waiter admitted as he set down the dish. "There's no rice." Yeah, and there's very little tip, too.

For dessert, a white-chocolate brownie was stale and unappetizing, though the double fistful of chocolate mousse underneath was certainly spoon-catching. At least the bridal party thought so, judging by their comments. So did a phalanx of husband-seeking strays from the singles event next door, and the members of a visiting soccer team, all of whom sauntered past the open-to-the-lobby dining room while our meal wound down.

Diners as captive entertainment renders the setting completely at odds with this demanding, urbane menu. Much as I hate to go along with the herd, perhaps public opinion is right about this one A we shouldn't expect too much from a Sheraton Hotel restaurant. Only with indisputable excellence could Moon Dance possibly elevate its surroundings. Andy Williams and company are allowing themselves to be dragged down a level.

Side Dish
One trend Miami needs like a tropical storm: coffee bars. As with so many trends, Miami has come late to coffee bars. Or so it would appear to the casual eye. Simply because Starbucks hasn't made it south yet doesn't mean we don't have our own coffee culture. In fact, Miami, thanks to the Caribbean and South American influence, has an extremely viable hot-beverage history, one I'd pit against Seattle any day.

Still, one doesn't exactly linger over a colada. So it's nice to see that our town has embraced the notion of coffeehouses, those retro repositories of arty ambiance.Maria Custodio Arenas's Cool Beans Cafe is my pick for coffee bar of the month. Tucked away in a strip mall at 12573 Biscayne Blvd., in North Miami, this six-month-old establishment is filled with artwork; one wall is covered with tasteful, poetic graffiti, courtesy of pen-wielding customers. Another point in its favor: coffee in real mugs, not paper cups. "Beanoccino" -- cappuccino flavored with chocolate and coconut -- is the local favorite, a perfect choice for the subtropics. Other cool beans at Cool Beans include spiced Jamaican rum and New Orleans chicory. The cafe also offers a limited lunch and dinner menu and fabulous chocolate desserts, as well as wine, beer, port, and coffee-flavored liqueur.

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