Side Dish

Forget BAM -- Emeril's looks to be a veritable SLAM dunk. The buzz-driven gastrognoscenti are descending in droves, overwhelming the restaurant formerly known as the Gaucho Room. Indeed the polished dining room, dominated by wine refrigeration units that could make any half-knowledgeable enophile drool with envy, has completely evolved from the days of cowhide décor, putting the Loews Hotel in the culinary ranks of the Ritz-Carlton, whose South Beach location, now hiring for its November/December debut, will no doubt find itself with destination-dining competition. I haven't seen tables this coveted since Mezzanotte. And yes, head honcho Emeril Lagasse himself was doing the meet-and-greet, at least on the Saturday night that I dined on, among other delicacies, beautifully spiced andouille-crusted redfish and creamy lobster cheesecake. And no, I will never wash that hand again -- let alone brush my teeth.

The revolution is ongoing: Yet another name chef is opting for the 'burbs. Or, more correctly, the Village. Former Restaurant St. Michel executive chef Curtis Whitticar, an eight-year veteran of that renowned restaurant, is about to make my personal dream come true on my home turf. He's taken over the Village Café, an underutilized spot that a couple of years ago was the first new property in downtown Miami Shores to gain a beer-and-wine license since, well, ever. Whitticar and partner Elaine Minick Stone, both of whom are Johnson & Wales grads as well as long-running residents of Miami Shores, promise high-end eats with a tropical influence and white-linen dinner service plus flowers and candles, but minus the attitude. Finally, a local place to take my mangoes, not to mention my family.

Second verse, hardly same as the first -- Bagels and Company, a North Miami breakfast-lunchery, has expanded hours to supper service. The last time this place, fondly known as Guns 'n Bagels in the community (due to its proximity to a gun shop), offered dinner, about ten years ago, the menu was Italian. This time around its dinner items are more in keeping with the delicatessen theme -- hot open-face turkey or roast beef platters; brisket; homemade meat loaf; roast chicken. And just like in the successful delis of yore, all dinners, none of which top the $11 mark, include potato, vegetable, beverage, and dessert.

Previously unreported new restaurants never cease: Café Mosaique has taken over the groundbreaking Da Ermanno space on Biscayne Boulevard in the Upper East Side. Don Mamerto, a Cuban place manned by chef Jorge Luzarraga, has launched on Douglas Road. In the four-week-old Four Seasons Hotel Miami, Acqua's northern Italian chef Marco Bax is offering menu items such as potato-leek soup with black truffles and foie gras. Meanwhile others adjust: You can find debuting fall menus at Café Ibiza, Timo, Barton G, and Pearl, where Brian Molloy of Nikki Beach has just been named executive chef.

And so this week's gastronomy goes.


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