By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
From there it was all downhill. My partner's "cajun rubbed" grouper with blackberry and orange vodka relish was encrusted in so much rosemary that all other flavors were obliterated. And it was accompanied by totally tasteless black-eyed peas and "wild rice" that reminded me of the familiar long-grain variety that enjoyed significant popularity circa 1960. Worse yet was my filet mignon, which I'd ordered rare in what I thought was foolproof language: "Bleu. Meaning very, very, very rare. Meaning, basically, tell the chef to shoo the cow over the grill and let it walk to the table -- get it?" Our waiter said he did indeed get it.
What I got, though, was a steak that was a dead ringer, both visually and texturally, for shirt cardboard. A replacement (which showed up long after my partner's entree was finished) was closer to what I'd ordered, arriving medium-rare. However, an underlying bed of "peppery southern greens" -- which sounded so appealingly New South but amounted to little more than overcooked, Old South collards -- so imbued the meat (and accompaniments of a fennel potato fan and roasted shallots) with a soggy bitterness that the degree of rareness was irrelevant.
On this particular evening dessert was limited to three items: raspberry sorbet, raspberry key lime tart, and (non-raspberry) cheesecake. We ordered one tart, two forks. We also should have requested a knife -- the tart's dense, gluey filling was nearly impenetrable.
"Betcha it bounces, too," I whispered to my partner, suddenly feeling young again. "Wanna see?"
"Let's just get a doggie bag," she giggled. "One of our bedroom windows needs recaulking."
A few days after our initial Oval Room dinner, we called the restaurant to obtain information about its hours of operation for this review. Upon being told that a review was forthcoming, Oval Room maitre d' Fabian Gomez begged us to withhold judgment for "a few weeks," until new chef Renshaw had time to revamp old chef Woods's menu, establishing his own specialties in the process. It seemed like a reasonable request, and we said we would consider it if Gomez would tell us exactly when we would be able to check out the new menu. He promised to call us the next day. He didn't. Nor did he or the chef respond to messages left at the restaurant. When we finally reached Gomez, he revised his estimate for a new menu to "maybe in a few months."
How about a reality check? Tantra's new chef Michelle Bernstein-Nimer revamped that restaurant's menu in two days; at the time of Gomez's plea, Renshaw had been at the National for more than two months. And the Oval Room certainly is not offering diners reduced prices during this transition period.
Happy ending: Despite recent rains, including some glancing blows associated with Hurricane Georges, our bedroom window hasn't leaked yet.
Oval Room (in the National Hotel) 1677 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 305-532-2311. Breakfast daily 6:30 till 11:00 a.m. Lunch noon till 3:00 p.m. Dinner 6:30 till 11:00 p.m.
Baby romaine in dough ball
Key lime tart