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
Were we that desperate for something new and interesting on the epicurean market? I suppose so, and it seems we still are, given the reaction I've been getting from my column about La Broche. For each food professional who agreed with me, there were about two who disagreed. I've also been receiving unsolicited e-mails from readers like Martha Rzadkowolsky-Raoli, who claims that La Broche gave her "a life-changing experience," and that she "will never again feel the same way about eel or lychee or garlic or pigeon or foie gras or apple. A shift has occurred in me." Then there's the author of The Sunburn, a Website about South Florida art, who used my article as the basis for saying, "Honey, welcome to the club. We here in the visual arts have been putting up with this for ages. We go to see art in handsome galleries that serve up visual concoctions that do to our eyes what confit of lamb tongue does to your taste buds, and are made to feel that something is wrong with our education or priorities if it repulses us."
What it all comes down to is that no matter how one feels about La Broche, it is clearly a controversial restaurant that has finally given Miamians more than a mere mouthpiece. Every time the words "La Broche" are mentioned, an immediate and heated debate ensues. Which is why I thought it appropriate to present both sides of the issue, with arguments written by the colleagues and culinary professionals whom I respect the most. And for the sake of perspective, both historical and contemporary, I'm not even going to make any snide comments. I've had my say; now I'm going to let them have theirs.
"I don't quibble with Jen's right to criticize La Broche; it is clearly not for everyone. Nothing radical ever is -- most schools use as example the chorus of boos that first greeted Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Besides La Broche boasts such a preponderance of wacky, eclectic ingredients, there are bound to be some combos that don't hit the mark.
"But to focus on whether cold cauliflower soup with raspberry foam and olive oil 'makes savory sense,' when we're in a town nearly bereft of international culinary talent, and stuck in the muck of repetitive Asian-tropical-Latin fusions (many of which truly don't make sense), is akin to a political writer turning a blind eye to government scandal in order to question the bow-tie selection of one of the few incorruptible politicians. This branch of La Broche is, after all, the sister of a two-star Michelin restaurant, which makes it the closest relative to gastronomic royalty we've got. That alone should be enough to propel every food writer in South Florida to yahoo from the rooftops with glee, even if they don't personally approve of every single dish.
"I take issue with another of Jen's assertions: 'I'll sample the stewed pig trotters and the confit of lamb tongue that La Broche routinely offers. But ... as a people and a culture, we stopped eating the less desirable -- i.e. tough and chewy -- parts of animals when we could afford to indulge in the more tender, fleshy areas.' An instructor at The Culinary Institute of America taught me that you could theoretically train a monkey to properly roast a rack of lamb -- add salt and pepper, place in 400F oven for 25 minutes, remove and slice (though I strongly advise cutting the meat yourself, as it has been my experience that an excitable monkey wielding a knife has a disturbing effect on dinner guests).
"In other words if you want a rack of lamb, you can go to any restaurant, or easily cook it at home yourself. If you want some confit of lamb's tongue, set aside a few days on the calendar and good luck -- or else dine someplace with a professionally trained chef who can turn these less-common cuts of meat into intriguing and delicious treats. This constitutes a large part of haute dining's allure, and we don't have as many local chefs capable of preparing such cuisine as some will have you believe."
-- Lee Klein, New Times restaurant critic
"I've never been to La Broche here. I've eaten a lot in Europe, though, including two parts of Spain where [chef] Ferrán Adria had a huge early influence: Catalonia right around Barcelona, the area where his restaurant -- or laboratory, as it sometimes seems more appropriate to think of it -- El Bulli is located; and the Basque country, including San Sebastian, which has long been considered the New Spanish cuisine capital ... By [the time I took] a trip in 2000, I don't believe there could've been a chef left anywhere close to the Spanish/French border without a syphon. Adria's influence has totally changed the whole Barcelona restaurant scene, and all his shock-rock-type 'you're expecting this but you're gonna get that' unexpectedly flavored gelées and hot/cold juxtapositions were all over San Sebastian, too. I even found foam in a little mom-and-pop place in St. Jean de Luz, above the border in France.