Side Dish

A new year and it's new times at New Times. If you skipped Lee Klein's review this week, allow me to be the first to tell you: The esteemed Mr. Klein has left the building. But not the corporation -- he's taking on my erstwhile territory of Broward and Palm Beach counties, formerly known as the Great White North, for New Times Broward/Palm Beach. Which brings me back to town as an anonymous reviewer once again, a situation that is allowing my mileage-heavy Montero to heave the exhaust of relief, but may cause some chefs and restaurateurs to inhale with anticipation. Don't hold your collective breath. Despite my continued and somewhat visible duties as Dish and Side Dish columnist, when it comes to criticism, I'm still going to be as undercover and honest as ever. And if you don't believe me, just ask the publicist who recently hosted a media dinner at Food Café. Even though the guest list and attendance was limited and the rep has had face-to-face encounters with me for the past decade, she failed to recognize me for 90 minutes. And all I was doing was wearing a hat. Just wait till I start donning those wigs!

Of course I'm not the only one back again in the grand closet we call Miami. Dale and Dewey LoSasso have returned with their family from the chill Northeast. While Dewey, former Tuscan Steak chef first in South Beach and then in Manhattan, chews over his opportunities, Dale, a past manager of both Chef Allen's and Mark's South Beach, has wasted no time. She accepted the position of general manager at Carmen the Restaurant, a move that could make a misogynist cringe in misery but warrants the rest of us to praise girl power. As for Tuscan Steak, Barbara Scott has taken the helm at the South Beach location. The ex-head chef of Red Square, Scott left parent company China Grill Management to become chef de cuisine at Ortanique on the Mile's Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. outposts. Judging from general manager Steve Haas's official response -- "Her management and organizational skills combined with their creative and culinary artistry will most certainly benefit Tuscan Steak" -- Scott's no prodigal daughter. Her welcome back to the CGM family feels as genuinely warm as a perfect South Florida winter day.

And diet another day, because January also brings some tempting openings: Look for the Ritz-Carlton South Beach -- yup, it's finally arrived -- to debut its Americana restaurant and DiLido Beach Club menus, featuring items such as pizza with garlic confit shrimp and avocado; spiced caesar salad with tempura dates; and balsamic-glazed yogurt cheesecake and jellied watermelon. In Boca Raton, the 7000-square-foot, 200-seat, $2.7 million restaurant Bong, owned by Filipino native Ernesto Sta. Maria, Jr., who claims the appellation as his nickname, will be smoking. "Bong will offer traditional Asian cuisine that many people are familiar with, with a unique flair ... [but] our signature specials will be a menu of Asian fusion creations perfected by our chef Tep Vichyavichien and his staff," Bong says. Translation: "Crispy dunkin' chicken with seaweed" with pickled ginger, sliced cucumber, and sesame-soy dipping sauce; "Wok-seared tri-peppercorn crusted filet mignon medallions" with Cebu Island scallops, taro fries, and sake-cream peppercorn sauce; and "cashew meringue cake and roasted black sesame seed ice cream" with vanilla essence, crème de cacao, Grand Marnier, and chocolate curls. And the Four Seasons Hotel Miami is now serving Sunday brunch from 11:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m., for $50 per. In addition to classic breakfast fare, brunch offerings are being described as "Northern Italian specialties such as wild mushroom risotto with truffle butter and Parmesan; garlic-rosemary roasted leg of lamb, and mini desserts" courtesy of pastry chef Franck Mounnier.

Wig or no wig, it's good to be home.


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