Big Easy Flavor

Liaison

Louisiana redfish, practically hooked into extinction because of the blackened craze of the 1980s, forgoes that treatment for a buttery sauté that gently complements the heavy white flakes of the fish. Toasted rice is a perfect foil, a sly twist on New Orleans pecan rice. Spaghetti strands of zucchini, usually bland and watery, are nicely seasoned, and the horseradish in the “horseradish sauce” hardly registers (just as well, as the mild wine sauce works fine). Grouper braised in sauvignon-leek broth with butter lettuce and roasted potatoes -- oops -- they forgot to bring those. The potatoes arrived a few minutes later, without our asking, with an apology from the waiter. They were cooked just right.

Dinner, after a proper interlude, slides seamlessly into dessert, as Valerie Paz's clean creations play to a similarly simple but striking tune as the food. Plum and hazelnut composition is the most ambitious and delicious: A circular base of hazelnut cake topped with the same size disk of tart-sweet plum ice cream and crowned by two battered and fried plum halves. A plum sauce spiked with dessert wine was pooled on the plate. Five textures, three temperatures, and innumerably subtle shades of tart, sweet, creamy, nutty, and fruity tastes in one dessert -- yet it's just cake, ice cream, and plum. Other homemade ice creams and sorbets also are available, like chicory coffee and an intense, brownielike chocolate-pecan made with deeply bittersweet, obviously top-quality chocolate. Another winner: Esther's mango pie, with soft flaky crust, moist mango custard, and fresh whipped cream. Mangoes and plum make great sense, as both are in season now. For that matter so are all the foods on this menu.

Feels a little like Bourbon Street, courtesy of chef Kris Wessel
Steve Satterwhite
Feels a little like Bourbon Street, courtesy of chef Kris Wessel

Location Info

Map

Liaison Restaurant & Bar

1436 Drexel Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Music Venues

Region: South Beach

Details

Appetizers

Oyster andouille gumbo $5.95

Petit rouget with rouille $7.95

Entrées

Grouper in broth $18

Lamb with Reblochon gratin $22

Desserts

Esther's mango pie $4.50

1436 Drexel Ave, Miami Beach; 305-538-1055. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 6:30 p.m. till midnight; bar open until 2:00 a.m. Beginning late August, Sunday jazz brunch 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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Because of a strategically quiet opening and general sluggishness of season, Liaison is operating with a somewhat skeletal crew. No problem during our visits, but if favorable reviews and positive word of mouth should suddenly fill the seats, I fear they'll be hard pressed to keep up the quality of food and service. Are Wessel's management skills as stellar as his cuisine? We'll see. Meanwhile Liaison demonstrates in compelling and delicious fashion just how much more “less” can really be.

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