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
"Mushroom-stuffed mushrooms" were filled with a porcini, portobello, and *CQ shiitake duxelle, garnished with cool chayote slaw, and sauced with a potently smoked tomato vinaigrette, all of which help catapult this Continental standard (formerly known as "stuffed mushroom caps") into the 21st Century. All in all, however, I'd go with the "two way shrimp " instead, one pair of plump crustaceans boiled and chilled, the other deep-fried duo wrapped in soba-noodle-and-scallion paste. Cocktail and remoulade sauces come on the side, as does a gray mound of smoked sea salt, which is obviously smoky and salty but in perhaps unexpectedly potent manner -- a parsimonious pinch lends a puckery punch.
Dinner unfolds at a leisurely pace, partly because that's the sort of place this is, and also because the kitchen is a little slow in putting out the food, which sometimes occurs when courses are cooked to order. Peck at your bread, sip some wine. What's the rush? Soon enough your main course will appear. Maybe it will be a whole grilled *CQ branzino fish with tomato butter and leek fondue. Or roasted duck with figs, gorgonzola, and orange-lavender sauce. I didn't try either of these but it was painful not to -- each evening's eight or so entrées reads more alluringly than the next.
It almost doesn't matter what you pick, as all is cooked with confidence and seasoned with verve. A generous portion of skirt steak, red slices fanned upon an oval plate, received an invigorating splash of wild mushroom vinaigrette and scattering of lobster mushrooms, accompanied by fresh corn kernels sautéed with meaty cubes of pancetta. Another succulent success: moist and mellow white fillets of heavenly hog snapper (a local fish) topped with a quenelle of smoked eggplant purée and served in a shallow bowl of "shrimp chowder," a Manhattan-style clam-tomato-and-vegetable broth stocked with corn, potatoes, carrots, shrimp, and pancetta, which offered pleasant pork pluck but should probably be mentioned in the menu description for the sake of noncarnivores.
11052 Biscayne Blvd.
North Miami, FL 33161
Mr. LoSasso and his crew flat-out know how to cook, but nobody's perfect: While a crisp bulghur crust provided an appealing crunch to Alaskan "wild ivory salmon," and a carrot-ginger vinaigrette paired in properly pungent manner, the fish exuded, well, a fishy flavor.
Homemade desserts are composed with a full cup of creativity and tablespoon of whimsy. Grilled angel-food cake certainly meets those standards, though the grill didn't do much other than attractively mark the fluffy white square, which was accompanied by a "mojito" syrup of key lime, mint, and rum, and a scoop of coconut sorbet -- fun, fatless, refreshing, and strangely satisfying, though I don't believe the cake itself would win any pastry awards. Lemon-flecked risotto rice pudding was a gem, creamy arborio grains layered with thin, delicate rounds of sugared filo dough, rum-soaked raisins clustered around the perimeter.
It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood.