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BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING Miami 2004 - Flute

At this champagne lounge, the food specialty is caviar -- a problem because procuring Caspian caviar has been difficult for years, ever since the Soviet Union's dissolution resulted in phenomenally increased, unpoliced poaching and black-marketing. A lack of quality control has resulted in uneven goods from most suppliers, but Petrossian's caviar reliably tastes as it should, and that's what Flute serves. Beluga here is properly soft and delicate-skinned but not mushy; osetra is richly fruity and nutty; and bracing, briny sevruga can be expected to produce that playful, pronounced pop. But there's another problem. Since Petrossian's caviar retails for two to three times the price of less trustworthy roes, dinner for one connoisseur would run somewhere between $400 and $600. That's not counting the champagne. A bottle of Moët & Chandon's $65 brut rosé would be festive; the rich 1990 Dom Perignon, at $290, would be downright profound. And then there's dessert, maybe half a dozen handmade, ganache-coated chocolates from Paris's La Maison du Chocolat, at $2.50 each. So you're looking at a tab, with tax and tip, that could range from $600 to $1100. But you're not paying. Not a problem.

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