My Dinner at Andre

Wonderfully fresh, salade de maison was a treat. Every kind of crunchy, nutty green imaginable tangled together on the plate, accented by ruby radicchio and tomatoes. A creamy dressing, properly sharp with vinegar, pepper, and garlic, was served in a small tureen on the side. Because I love vinaigrette, I can never pass up a salad in a French restaurant; Andre Chauveron didn't fail me here.

Main courses, though, need to repeat a grade.
Averaging about twenty bucks a plate, entrees were all served with the same soggy florets of broccoli and cauliflower, which only enhanced the bad-banquet-hall feel of the place. Starches varied between an overbroiled wedge of potato and a greasy scoop of tough white rice. Veal scaloppine with herbs was the best of the bunch, three soft, pounded medallions dredged and lightly pan-fried. These were buttery and supple but small, the herbs nonexistent.

Tricolor peppercorns were too much in evidence, drifting whole in a cream sauce over a sirloin steak. Flambeed, the medium-rare meat was juicy but a deceptively tender cut -- it yielded to the cutting edge of a fork but chewed like jerky. The quality of yellowtail snapper Louisanne was better, the white fish mild and flaky. The server's description, however, proved misleading: The fillet had been dipped in an egg batter and fried, a fact of which there had been no mention. It wasn't sauced as we expected but rather was topped with quartered artichoke hearts and white mushrooms. This was a tolerable dish, a little dry and tough as it cooled, but not bad.

Frogs' legs were perfectly awful. The texture of the flesh was ideal, falling away from the fragile bones in delicate white hunks like lump crab meat. The sauce, composed of chopped tomato, oil, and garlic, was flavorful if on the spare side. And the serving size was large enough -- eight legs like whole chicken wings. But despite the server's assurances, the frogs simply weren't "Everglades fresh," as attested to by the swampy miasma rising from the plate. The resulting gaminess made them inedible.

The house special dessert, Grand Marnier or chocolate souffle, was ordered with our appetizers and entrees so as to correctly time its preparation. We waited twenty minutes anyway for a chocolate one . Served at the table, it smelled delicious ladled onto individual plates with a vanilla sauce, but it was to chocolate what fat-free cheese is to the real thing -- bland and unsatisfying -- and, at fourteen dollars, too expensive. The oldest coffee I've ever had in a restaurant didn't help to wash it down, either. Staid chocolate mousse and a cup of tea might have been the richer choice.

Clearly, my expectations of Andre Chauveron's Cafe were very high. I hope his distinguished track record and his wealth of experience can offset this poor showing; prices are too high for customers to forgive and forget here. Many Miamians have gotten used to eating some very fine meals in his restaurants, not to mention in this particular shopping center. But instilling cravings for junk food is not the way to introduce the next Cafe Chauveron.

Oh yeah -- about that dinner-table conversation: Salty, greasy Fritos may be good for a hangover, but Cool Ranch flavor Doritos are the better all-around finger-lickin' snack food. I'm partial to peanut butter Cap'n Crunch, minus milk, straight from the box. And my spare change frequently buys me a Tootsie Roll, a Milky Way, and, believe it or not, those coin-size lemon-filled sandwich cookies. Yup, I adore those empty calories.

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