Friday, July 23, 2010 at 11:52 a.m.
It has been said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is truly the case, Sugarcane
should feel exalted by the new Lulu
in Coconut Grove.
Lulu isn't shy about this. The dinner menu opens with roasted dates stuffed with Manchego and linguiça and then wrapped in smoky bacon. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's the recipe Timon Balloo shared with us for our annual Taste guide, published earlier this year. We also spotted Balloo's goat cheese croquettes with membrillo marmalade sporting a "honey-orange" glaze on Lulu's menu, along with his Brussels sprouts with orange and sweet soy presented instead with "mandarines [sic and balsamic vinegar." Hmm.
The second entry on Lulu's menu is fried green tomatoes, an unusual find in Miami if not for the fact that this recipe
, too, was featured in our Taste guide, compliments of chef Michael Altman at Smoke't.
We'll let the burrata with prosciutto, truffled mac and cheese, and Kobe sliders slide, because many local restos feature variations of these on their menus.
Parisian Sylvano Bignon opened Lulu this past June 28. He insists nothing is copied and notes the menu changes every day. He adds that the date dish has long been served at other restaurants in town, including Sra. Martinez. "A menu is a puzzle that you put together," he says. "In one week, it will be different. We have 35 or 40 items on our menu, and they are all at other restaurants.
"Of course, we are the only place serving lamb ribs... We inspire ourselves from everywhere, from different spices. For instance, I don't know of any other restaurant that has a hummus vinaigrette. Of course, we have spinach-artichoke dip; there are probably 30 restaurants that serve that. In every restaurant, you will find dishes that you'd find in other places. To make our menu, we have been testing and tweaking for the last two months."
Bignon acknowledges he has visited Sugarcane, but not Smoke't. "I can take you to Sugarcane and show you 20 dishes that are served at other places."
Whether menu items are copied or not, locals seem to like the place. When we ate there, we found the service was pretty good, and the comped-for-no-apparent-reason champagne wasn't bad either. As for the food, well, it suffices to say the flavors were decent, but if we wanted to taste Sugarcane or Smoke't, we would've gone to... Yeah, you guessed it.