I often find myself wondering, as the millennium approaches, where this country's cuisine goes from here.
In the Seventies overseas chefs introduced us to nouvelle cuisine, with those perfect, tiny morsels set in the middle of huge plates and served in elaborately stuffy restaurants or beneath mirror balls in nightclubs. During the Eighties American cooks became chefs, embraced regionalism and local purveyorship, and bought into boutique restaurants that specialized in born-again fare -- New Southwestern, New Southern (or Low Country), New New England. Nineties chefs have taken that notion global, scouring entire continents and aiming for all-encompassing cuisines: pan-Asian, Pacific Rim, Mediterranean.
And yes, New American. Like South Beach, New American cuisine has surpassed "of the moment" status. Which is not to say its cutting edge has been dulled. As I see it, two phenomena will guide the polished blade into the next century.
The first growth opportunity is technology-driven. No longer do we have to tramp from the Old World to the Third World looking for hitherto-unseen ingredients: Scientists are making them for us. From hybrids to clones to brand-new breeds and strains, the food we eat is constantly being updated. Forget about the behavior of that sheep in Scotland. The real question is, How does it taste?
The second factor is penetration. Busy cities attract exciting restaurants -- multicultural metropolitanites, I suppose, are more open to experimentation. Lately, though, I've also noticed a slight movement away from urban inner circles. It seems some chefs have realized that suburban markets -- and even rural ones -- are only deceptively sleepy and will bear the fine-dining experience gratefully.
David Sloane, executive chef of Bill and Patricia Krassner's Revolution 2029, may be the best example of local outward-bounding. The husband-and-wife team's two-month-old restaurant is located along the stretch of Harrison Street just west of Young Circle. This smart little shopping-and-arts area was renovated about two years ago, and one would expect designer eateries to flourish there. But half the gleaming storefronts seem to sport For Lease signs, and none of the shops is open past six. Enter Revolution 2029, one of the few places to see the opportunistic light -- and spill it, along with live jazz, onto the polished sidewalk tables during the evening hours.
Inside, the 80-seat space is sleek and uncrowded, with plenty of room to maneuver: It's the rare South Florida restaurant that can accommodate a full house without looking or sounding like it. Tables are arranged in a circular design opposite a curving bar and under a multilevel ceiling that glows scarlet. Porous travertine stone floors, wrought-iron accents, and the occasional animal print accessorize the handsomely contemporary room, which Bill Krassner, who managed his own construction and remodeling firm for five years, designed along with local Hollywood architectural firm Kaller & Associates.
Striking restaurant design isn't unusual around these parts -- stellar attractions such as Nemo and Mark's Las Olas come immediately to mind. But here a second component augured for a memorable meal: an attentive, knowledgeable staff. This is revolutionary for South Florida. The menu had been revamped the previous day, and everyone on the crew had tasted each and every item.
While having a drink at the bar before dinner, we asked the bartender for her recommendations, then repeated the questions to our server. And for a change we came away with the same answers, one of which was to be sure to order the whole red snapper. Two voices are too many to disregard, and the snapper did prove an excellent main course. Battered tempura-style and deep-fried, the greaseless fish was presented upright, as if swimming through its accompaniments, creamy red pepper remoulade and pale green minced eggplant "caviar." A cool quinoa salad tasting of cucumber and fresh herbs was a splendid contrast to the warm, fleshy fish and its shattering fried skin.
Other entrees were just as accomplished, and as complex. A fragrant osso buco perched amid a sea of ratatouille fell cleanly from the bone. The chopped eggplant, zucchini, squash, onions, and tomatoes were accented by French green lentils, which added grainy, slow-cooked texture to the crisp vegetable cubes. Leaves of fresh arugula garnished the musky and tender veal's slow-roasted top.
Grilled twin pork chops, our waitress informed us, were farm-raised. Translation: Order them as rare as you like, because the meat has been bred free of disease. We asked for them medium, and they were as succulent and juicy as any I've had, perhaps owing some of that suppleness to a balsamic vinegar and herb marinade. A tangy red onion marmalade and a stewed tomato-Gorgonzola cheese timbale gave the thick chops some Mediterranean depth, as did two isosceles triangles of deep-fried polenta. A hearty, filling dish.
Sloane roams continents for inspiration, and he often finds it in Asia. His open-face wonton ravioli was more like lasagna, sheets of pasta shrouding a plenitude of plump sesame-seared shrimp. A huge pile of mixed stir-fried vegetables, including bok choy, snow peas, and water chestnuts, filled the spaces between the large pink shrimp. The only flaw here was an overly cloying orange-wasabi sauce.
Peanut sauce was a rich complement to a fabulous appetizer, vegetable egg rolls. Enormously stuffed with shredded zucchini, carrots, and cabbage, the rolls were crunchy and flavorful, particularly when paired with spicy kim chee, a Korean pickled cabbage salad, which underscored the four sections. It was eclipsed in the tongue-searing department, however, by the baked crawfish enchilada starter. This crisp flour tortilla, formed into a tube and filled with chunks of buttery crawfish encased in curried sour cream, was a zippy little number, to say the least. Hearts of palm stew, a side dish, didn't exactly ease the heat, blazing plenty of sun on its own.
One of my favorite openers was a glazed quail, a surprisingly meaty bird candied with Kahlua and orange flavors. The Southwest supported the game with a spring onion and corn salad, flavors reiterated in a crumble of jalapeno cornbread. But easily the best appetizer was a stylishly presented roasted corn chowder: Our server brought a spinach-corn flan in a bowl, then tumbled the thick soup around it from a silver gravy boat. The result was a silky flan that rose like a castle in a moat of chunky chowder redolent with sweet potatoes and roast corn.
Partakers of the Revolution should be aware that appetizers, like main plates, tend to be oversize -- and a little overstated. Even the gratis breadsticks and basil-flavored white bean dip served at the beginning of the meal are filling (the breadsticks, flecked with herbs, are more like baguettes). Which is to say: Don't eat so much that you can't order dessert. Chocolate-peanut butter terrine with strawberry coulis and fresh whipped cream was irresistible, soft and nutty triangles accented on the underside by fudgy chocolate and sweetened by the aromatic, fruity compote.
Sloane's background includes stints at Mark's Place and then three popular Miami restaurants that all eventually went (unlike his snapper) belly-up -- Janjo's, where he worked with chef-owner Jan Jorgensen; Starfish, where he took over after chef-partner Kerry Simon left; and Embers, where he came to the rescue as executive chef after the restaurant had been open (and openly criticized) for a couple of months. He'll be returning to Miami on May 5 to demonstrate three of his recipes, including the aforementioned dessert terrine, at Jan Jorgensen's Two Chefs Cooking school (call 663-2100 for more information). Meanwhile, at Revolution 2029, Sloane takes on the role of spin doctor to an entire neighborhood. I daresay he's up to the task.
A silky flan rose like a castle in a moat of chunky chowder redolent with sweet potatoes and roast corn.
2029 Harrison St, Hollywood; 954-920-4748.
Lunch Tuesday -- Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Dinner Sunday and Tuesday -- Thursday from 5:00 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until midnight.
Whole red snapper
Chocolate-peanut butter terrine
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