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
There is nothing consistent about the menu, which varies week to week. The style of cuisine gets shuffled as well, and I consider it a lucky draw that we ended up with a "Taste of France" theme (when calling in advance to reserve, you can ask what genre of food will be available). Tables were formally set, and in the center of each sat a wooden artist's palette aesthetically garnished with Brie and cheddar, crackers, green grapes, and a carved apple swan. It was a nice touch, even if such a course is more viable, digestively speaking, at meal's end. Fresh, homemade French bread with softly whipped butter is a real treat any time (one of the ovens in the sprawling, well-equipped kitchen is capable of baking specialty loaves from all over the world). Beverage options are sparkling water, iced tea, and red or white wine.
An appetizer of shrimp bisque was shockingly, fine-French-dining-establishment excellent. It boasted an impeccably smooth texture and beautifully balanced flavors of shellfish, brandy, and cream — with a piquant peck of cayenne. Even a plump shrimp poking up from the center of the bowl was perfectly cooked. My companion had asked for a substitute starter and was served a plate of braised fennel and red pepper — also done just right.
Diners are offered one of two entrées, and on this particular day, there was no wrong choice. Braised short ribs of beef, bookended by mashed potatoes and onion strings, melted into fulsome, meaty flavor — so satisfying one could overlook accompanying gravy that was a tad too salty, and an overcooked broccoli stir-fry the color of army fatigues. Fillet of sole en papillote was pretty much faultless, the fish steamy-fresh and topped with julienned vegetables; asparagus and saffron rice on the side were executed with aplomb. Velvety chocolate crème brûlée, deep with quality-cocoa taste, was capped by a diaphanous sheath of caramelized sugar and wispy dollop of whipped cream. A cup of espresso sealed the meal.
18100 Collins Ave.
North Miami Beach, FL 33160
Region: North Dade
Southwest 28th Street and 37th Avenue
Miami, FL 33125
Region: Central Dade
FIU School of Hospitality and Tourism Management: 13000 NE 151st St, North Miami; 305-919-4500. Lunch seating begins at 11:45 a.m.
Lula Kebab House: 18250 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach; 305-792-0151. Open Tuesday through Sunday noon to 10:00 p.m.
Orale Taqueria Mexicana, SW 28th Street and 37th Avenue, Miami. Open Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Being a former culinary student, I remember what it was like getting thrust into a dining room to wait tables without any experience. Thus the only criticism I am willing to render in this regard is that service was a little less than polished. Overall, though, this particular class put out cuisine that compares favorably to that found in most of our local restaurants. At meal's end, the 28-person crew marched from the kitchen, two at a time, pausing to announce their names and home countries: China, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. of A. Let's hope they all settle in Miami and share their uniquely indigenous foods with us, whether it be proffered from strip mall restaurant or truck. We could sure use more Lulas and Orales.