Learning Curve

Stylistically, the cafe in no way resembles a first-time effort. Salvador and Flaherty, who designed the space from scratch, crisscrossed the ceiling and walls with attractive cedar beams, around which dried plants and flowers cling everywhere. Handsome, comfortable rattan chairs were handmade in Venezuela. The effect is cozy, country charm, all the more warming and surprising considering that no light escapes the Venetian-blinded window into the parking lot.

In other areas, Basilique evidences some kinks that need to be exercised out. The hostess tried to seat us before our table was ready. The server was sweet but not exactly suave, returning to ask us again which wine we had ordered (a Cune rioja chosen from a small list of decent California and Spanish vintages). And a busboy attempting to replace silverware between courses was completely in over his head; frustrated, he wound up proffering his tray for us to choose the appropriate utensils as if we were selecting chocolates from a box.

Still, Salvador and Flaherty's initiative is commendable, as are their accomplishments. And once they've flexed their staff into shape, they might consider bringing one element of the classroom right into their restaurant: a blackboard to replace the printed menu, so that mistakes can be erased and corrections made. That would be practical.

Side Dish
I might not be willing to allow an apprentice electrician to rewire my fuse box, or a mechanic-in-training to tune up my car, but I'll let just about anyone practice their cooking on me. That includes the students at Johnson & Wales University's new classroom restaurant Chef & Apprentice, located at 1701 NE 127th St. in North Miami. Every other week the facility rotates a menu featuring New World cuisine. Entrees average $11 to $13 (served with soup or salad). The restaurant is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., and for Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Reservations are required; the phone number is 892-7001. Just remember, popular Floribbean flavors notwithstanding, the overall dining experience still can be somewhat potluck. Be patient.

If you demand that your training-meals dollar buy more of a sure thing and you're up for a drive, Cafe Protege at the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach might be the ticket. Chef-instructors offer "dinner labs," in which patrons can sample the results of a five-course demonstration while seated at stainless-steel worktables. The price for the dinner lab is $35 per person excluding tax, tip, and drinks. The address is 1126 53rd Ct. (at Australian Avenue); call 407-687-2433 for reservations.

And beginning in early April, the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale's department of culinary arts will serve lunch and dinner at its own practicum establishment, a former Olive Garden restaurant. For information call 463-3000 and ask for the department of culinary arts.

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 011591, Miami,

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