Kenny Rogers is indeed correct: You gotta know when to fold 'em. Jeffrey Chodorow and his China Grill Management team (which again includes director of business development and guest relations George Slover, who had decamped for Touch and Kiss about a year ago) decided not to gamble any longer on South Beach's Red Square, SUVA, and Javier Cantina. The official spin is that the eateries were doing well enough, though I had my doubts about Red Square, which had faded to something more like a nondescript pink blob in the past couple of years. But rising rents -- the landlord for SUVA and Javier wants two-and-a-half times what CGM was paying -- pretty much make any venture that goes in there inequitable. Chodorow and partner Lou Di Bono are looking for new locations for the pair of eateries, though not necessarily in Miami. Taps is definitely on the record for Miami's Red Square, though the Las Vegas sibling continues to be a hit and the New York version will be launched at the close of 2002. Meanwhile CGM still owns the successful trio of China Grill, Tuscan Steak, and Blue Door on South Beach, and it's quite possible that the company will be bringing us the Rock Lobster concept -- rock music and lobster rolls -- that debuted in Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay but is about to give way to its latest invention BLEU, BLANC & ROUGE, a French (as if you couldn't guess) bistro-patisserie. Confused? Join the lobster club sandwich.
I'm not sure why restaurateurs continue to think the old Beverly Hills Café space on West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach is an option. A multitude of concepts, running from organic vegetarian to pan-Asian, have been installed in there since BH closed, only to fail from being nonvisible. But if any eatery has a chance to sharpen our culinary vision -- before blurring it, that is -- it's Martini's Bistro-Bar. Ulrich Koepf, former chef of Hot Chocolates in Fort Lauderdale (a supper club of gastronomic repute despite its syrupy name) and his chef-partners are delivering some high-quality Italian-French bistro fare and hip martinis, not to mention, for the nostalgic few who might insist, a really good mug of hot chocolate.
I could offer you dozens of reasons to attend the 11th annual Feast Among the Grapes event at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort on June 15: Chip Cassidy is hosting the champagne VIP reception; door prizes, live music, and a silent auction will provide entertainment; and a plethora of restaurants from Azul to Tropical Chinese will be dishing up the goods. Frankly I'd go for the dim sum alone. But if you're a postmenopausal woman, the real inspiration for buying the $75 ticket ($85 at the door, $150 for inclusion in the bubbles) is not because the fundraiser benefits the University of Miami's Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, but because by attending you can prevent diabetes from occurring in your own life. Yup, it's true -- a U.S. Department of Agriculture study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that moderate drinking for postmenopausal women decreases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Yippee. Bring on the wine, go easy on the hot flashes, and call 800-321-3437 for your investment in health management.
Rumor control: On the yea side, Spris pizzeria did open a sibling restaurant in the Gables. Café del Mar did receive a full liquor license just in time to celebrate its first anniversary (I suggest martinis on the house for customers loyal enough to stick to wine and beer for the past twelve months). National nonprofit organization The Wine Brats, eager to "suck the snob factor out of the art of wine appreciation and toss it in the spit bucket," will be hosting their first Miami event at Café Tu Tu Tango on June 12 ($25 at the door). On the nay side, Tantra is not closing for the summer. Executive chef Sean Brasel is not leaving Touch and Kiss (he's heard that one, too). Bambú did not close down for health violations (indeed the Department of Business & Professional Regulation confirms that no sanitation or safety violations have ever been filed against the eatery). And I am not, nor have I ever been (at least not in this life), a man, so stop addressing press releases to Jon Karetnick.