Side Dish

Stormin' Norman

I'm not the only one drenched in bad feelings about Bambú, apparently. A source told me that Bambú owner Karim Masrisent consulting chef Norman Van Aken an e-mail saying Masri wasn't going to pay Van Aken, who has placed his personally trained protégés in Masri's restaurants, for his services. Ah, the personal nature of the Internet. Van Aken, says my source, was so furious he threatened to pull out of Astor Place as well. Van Aken hedged a bit when I called him, but eventually admitted Masri had sent him an e-mail and said, "Karim would rather me focus and concentrate on Astor Place [than Bambú], but he indicated to me that he was going to pay me well." I smell compromise: Van Aken has a one-year contract at Astor; he's fulfilled six months and at the moment has every intention of seeing it through. But he also had a contract for a year at Bambú, which now is apparently null and void, since Masri "changed his desire and perception" for the eatery. This is all fine with Van Aken, who will be working on a series of projects that "have nothing to do with restaurants [other than Norman's]. I'm able to take a high road," he says, "because I don't want to be associated with something I can't control. If they begin to listen to me less at Astor Place, I'll be the one to initiate the phone call, and let the word go out [I have] zero to do with day-to-day operations."

Kvetch: Other fallout: S. B., publicist for Bambú who grudgingly thanked me "for keeping her name out of it," called to let me know that "I am so upset over your piece I can't even tell you." Then she proceeded to do just that. "I am always open to the freedom of criticism ... but it would have been nice if someone called to find out what the goal of the party was," she said. Forgive me, but that's the point: No one should have to phone for a post-mortem on restaurant openings because they should speak for themselves. And Bambú's was loud as thunder. As it turns out, "this party's goal was to fly in 100 personal friends of the owner.... Only three people from Ocean Drive were there, and they enjoyed a flawless four-course meal."

•For a while it seemed as if eponymous deli Arnie & Richie's, located on 41st Street in Miami Beach, was going to be sold. But an injection of new family blood will keep the place where it belongs: in London hands. Troy London, Arnie's son (and Richie's nephew) will be joining the bagel biz on April 3. Regulars can breathe a smoked fish-scented sigh of relief. No other changes are on the horizon. Unfortunately probably not even a kinder, gentler, and more efficient waitstaff.

•One name change will occur on the mainland: The five-star Grand Bay Hotel in Coconut Grove will heretofore be known as the Wyndham Grand Bay. Nevermind the current Wynd-y monopoly on hotels throughout the city, just as long as we don't have to start calling Bice, the Italian restaurant in the hotel, the Wyndham Bice. The only mouthful I look forward to in this case is one of pumpkin ravioli.

•As if we didn't already know Miami was pan-Latin, the Samba Room will soon be placing the phrase in italics. A sister to T.G.I. Friday's, the burgeoning chain is planning a new location on Fifteenth Street and Collins Avenue on South Beach. One Samba Room, named for the Brazilian dance, already is open in Fort Lauderdale, and a third South Florida restaurant will be installed in West Palm Beach. The menu features all manner of reinvented Latin-derived dishes, including a ropa vieja sandwich and a caesar salad with Peruvian purple potatoes. Jaded Miamians may want to skip some of the more definition-stretching fare like the jerk chicken or Rasta rings, however, in favor of exotic cocktails, particularly the Samba java -- iced coffee spiked with cinnamon, coconut, and black rum.

Send your tasty tidbits to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Or e-mail kavetchnik@aol.com

 
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