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
It began as I pulled my car into the parking lot outside the restaurant, which is located in a strip mall near the downtown end of Coral Way. The entrance was blocked by a valet service, so, this being a strip mall lot, I drove to the next entrance, figuring that those who chose not to pay $12 to have their car parked could do so by themselves. Not so, for the other ramp was closed too. So I left my car with the valet guys after all, who, much to my surprise, drove it away to a different location instead of leaving it in the nearly empty lot. It was explained to me that the nearby spots are saved for when Post gets busy later on with high-rolling guests "who will pay $50 to park here." In other words, I forked over twelve bucks for the second-class valet service.
Once inside, we were given the option of being seated at "a table or couch." I chose the former, my thinking being that it would be difficult to dine on a couch, but peering around the cavernous space, I noticed that the couches had tables too. Many of Post's 100-plus seats run along the perimeter of the area, with the bulk of the couch seating on the far side of a large, imposing bar that anchors the center; on weekends most of these tables are reserved for said high rollers who will buy bottles of premium spirits and champagne. Poured cement floors, bulky drapes over the windows, and hanging lamps that emit an orange glow conspire to cast Post in a clublike and vaguely depressing light for a restaurant, though not necessarily for a lounge. Post's Website refers to the décor as "cosmopolitan" and "Tribeca-style."
Speaking of which, I've neglected to mention my pangs of guilt and self-blame. After all, I wouldn't have ended up at Post had I followed my long-standing rule of thumb: Never use the Internet to research potential restaurants for review. Dining Websites are invariably missives of misinformation and misguided opinions, as are pages put up by the restaurants themselves. Post even posts confusing hours of operation: "Dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 7:00 to midnight. Closed on Sundays." What happens if you show up on a Monday? Same thing that happens if you show up on Sunday or, for that matter, on Tuesday. Closed.
The site goes on to pant about Post being "an innovative, dynamic concept." Not to burst their bubble, but a bad restaurant that turns into a busy lounge isn't a new idea. It boasts that the owners, including Laurent Bourgade ("the face of famous GRASS Restaurant & Lounge"), "bring New York in downtown Miami." Actually that would be "to" downtown, if indeed there were anything remotely similar between Post and New York I mean other than people paying $50 to park.
I guess I need to get the crux of the problem off of my chest: the food. Which is described thusly: "The menu emphasizing healthy fresh flavors spans Southeast Asia & Japan with savory dishes, aromatic curry, cilantro and ginger." Touted specialty items include "Malaysian mixed food ceviche," "Duck Breast Mora with ginger-glazed roasted sweet potatoes and blackberry sauce," "Airline Free Range Chicken Andino," and "for dessert a delectable pineapple carpaccio." Only the chicken Andino remains from earlier menus. Also removed, without being replaced, are a vegetarian stir-fry lo mein; 22-ounce Porterhouse steak with Pisco ragout; steamed yellowtail snapper in lemongrass soy broth; Thai seafood fricassee in coconut-curry sauce; and diver scallop and mango ceviche. In other words, the menu has been pared down to a half-dozen starters and an equal number of main courses, and resembles a bar-snack listing both physically and in content. Post might have started out as a restaurant and lounge, but it has obviously dropped any pretense toward fulfilling the former function in any serious sense.
Looking over the sparse and insipid selections, I suspected that Post's chef, Pedro Duarte, who served up fairly impressive food at Grass, had flown away with the fricassee. I was partly right; he was down in Peru for the month. Post's Website whets the appetite with its description of Duarte's native cuisine: "Over thousands of years, the influences of the indigenous people and the Spanish, French, African, Chinese and Japanese were fused together to create what is known today as authentic Peruvian fare. Similar to the culinary history of his country, Pedro mixes different ingredients from many countries to develop new and exciting dishes." Our first course was fried calamari.
The pile of pale, softly crusted squid was executed in relatively decent fashion, and, granted, came with a spicy sriracha (Thai chili) dipping sauce that one could argue makes it a little bit "Asian." "Old-fashioned" Peruvian ceviche brought a generous serving of, in the waiter's words, "a tilapialike fish," and in the menu's words, "marinated for four hours" in lime juice, rocoto chilies, cilantro, "feather onions," and choclo. The onions were plain red, the choclo (corn) missing, the clock used for timing the marination evidently in need of repair the fish seemed to have been absorbing lime juice for a day or two at least.
During another visit, I began with the Peruvian specialty of beef anticuchos, which was served rather quickly after we were seated (I was grateful for this, because no bread precedes the meals). The anticuchos consisted of two skewers with two hefty hunks of medium-rare beef speared upon each (not the traditional beef hearts, but that's okay). The succulent squares of meat were glazed with a mildly piquant panco (Peruvian pepper) sauce that had a premade, bottled taste to it not too impressive considering the $14 price. Same aji panco was pasted on a grilled skirt steak, as was a vinegary chimichurri sauce an unnecessarily complicated combination, but the steak itself passed muster. Sharing the plate were blandly seasoned, softly roasted potatoes and "sautéed vegetables," also known as roasted broccoli which, I should note, is as popular in Japan as it is in Peru.
I broke yet another of my rules of thumb concerning the chicken Andino: Never order an entrée whose description begins with "airline." The free-range breast proved free of moisture, as did a clumpy peanut sauce in which it was swathed. More broccoli and roasted potatoes composed the rest of the grimly colored course. Airline food not only tastes better, but it's also a lot cheerier to look at.
"Sancyo-dusted" wild salmon brought another brown-tone composition, thanks to the dusty sancyo (which I think might be a mushroom) and gloppy shiitake-tamari sauce that was a too potent, salty, and gravylike suitor for the fish. Beige onion rings my dinner guest suspected had been shaken from a can were sprinkled atop the salmon; a dish of lukewarm jasmine rice came on the side. The only bright notes were sounded by sprightly green spears of pencil asparagus beneath the sauce and the fact that the fish was fresh and only a little overcooked.
Almost all the desserts listed on the Website menu are gone, including the only inspiring one, lucuma mousse (a photo of the tropical fruit graces the Web page and looks mighty tempting). Alas, as an all-too-honest waiter confided, "We're not famous for our desserts." The profoundness of this understatement became apparent when he recited the available treats: crème brûlée and tiramisu (how Latin-Asian!). A sip of the souplike brûlée confirmed that dessert fame won't be arriving any time soon.
As a departing gesture, Post's menu informs that an "eighteen percent gratuity and a two percent service charge will be conveniently added to your check." Two percent service charge? Why, those greedy sons of ...
Hey, you know what? My doctor was right. I'm beginning to feel better already.