Nibbling Rivalry

Black-pepper-seared ahi, succulent and steak-red from the addition of the Japanese herb shiso, was another wonderful treat. The tuna was also accented with ponzu-flavored butter; baby bok choy were sliced in half, wokked, and served, still green as grass shoots, on the side.

The only service flaw -- the failure of a main dish of slow-roasted duckling to make a timely appearance -- was balanced by our waiter's willingness to patiently provide tastes of sauces and side dishes that accompanied other dinner offerings. We sampled, for instance, the sinus-clearing wasabi aioli that dresses an ahi appetizer, and devoured a healthy scoop of what was undoubtedly the most unhealthy roast-garlic-chili-mashed potatoes in fat-free America.

The duckling eventually arrived, steaming hot. The breast meat was simultaneously soft and resilient, the glazed skin crackling like a fire. Though the coating was too salty, a dish of pureed plum sauce exhibiting notes of raspberry and mango helped even out the seasoning. A mound of stir-fried vegetables supported the duck from underneath, while warmed flour tortillas did double duty, substituting for Peking duck pancakes and adding Mexican flair.

Dessert was outrageous. A warm chocolate raspberry bombe was sectioned with peanut shortbread cookies and lidded with a smooth, intensely flavored roast banana gelato. On the lighter side, three scoops of mango sorbet spilled out of a horn-shaped sesame-macaroon cookie; kiwi, strawberries, and a passion fruit coulis completed the plethora of fruits.

At first glance the revamped Two Sisters appears to have joined the hot-membership-of-the-moment, the pan-Asian club. In reality, it leads the Pac.

Side Dish
New York City's China Grill, self-proclaimed originator of "World" cuisine in 1987, has finally put an end to years-old rumors about opening a second location in South Beach by doing precisely that, at 404 Washington Ave. The 200-seat main dining room will open to the public in early December; the indoor/outdoor And Zen Sum Cafe, serving mainly sushi and satay, debuts in November. Executive chef Ephraim Kadish pulls influences from Italy, Japan, France, China, and America to create dishes such as the oxymoronic tempura sashimi, lamb dumplings with a ginger-mushroom sauce, spice-rubbed pork loin with papaya and berry salsa, and grilled rosemary scallops with plum and goat cheese risotto. If you can manage to get a reservation before the New Year, be aware that cachet don't come cheap -- entrees range from $18 to $29. Call 534-2211 for info.

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