Side Dish

The opening fete of Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach raised one immediate question: Why didn't superstar chef Daniel Boulud, proprietor of New York City's Daniel, Café Boulud, and DB Bistro Moderne, debut his first eponymous venture outside the Apple in the Magic City? The simple answer is seduction of the subtropical kind -- after all, the island of Palm Beach is surely as rife with landscaped greenery and ripe with falling fruits as, say, Coral Gables. Also, owners of the Brazilian Court hotel, an historic 1926 landmark boutiquery, tempted him with restored Spanish architecture and Zen-like courtyards (and from rumored reports, greatly reduced rent), though at the moment the romance is all on the exterior; rooms with missing light fixtures and portable TV sets still need some updating. And no doubt the residents of Palm Beach, snowbirds who frequent his restaurants in N.Y.C., will sporadically support Boulud's refined effort, even if the richness of the fare, not to mention the prices, say "special occasion" no matter how caviar-jaded one is.

But the real curiosity was among the 400 attendees, the number of Miami-Dade County chefs who make up Boulud's fan base and support system: Michelle Bernstein of Azul in the Mandarin Oriental Miami; Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time; Willis Loughhead of Bizcaya Grill in the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove; Michael Schwartz, erstwhile of Nemo (and despite published reports in the Miami Herald, not opening a new restaurant in the 5061 space after all). Very few, if any, recognizable gastronomic gods from Broward and Palm Beach counties exerted their guest list powers. Perhaps they see him as more of a threat than a colleague. Or it could be that the welcome wagon got stalled by the construction on I-95 around Delray and Boynton beaches. As opposed to New York City, in South Florida, where public transportation is primitive, a closed lane on the highway is more than enough reason not to make a trip. No matter what awaits on the destination end.

The first answer is "yes, finally": Talula has indeed launched and is currently serving dinner. The second: Judging by the media dinner -- an event where chefs generally want to shine but are too exhausted from opening efforts to do more than take adequate measures -- the place is going to be terrific. Chef-proprietors Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Frank Randazzo appeared to be pretty wiped out, given the pace at which they were working to achieve the necessary permits and design elements (the banquette on which I was sitting had arrived only hours before). Not to mention continuing renovations on the overgrown courtyard, which had resembled a rain forest far more than it did an outside dining venue. And third: Yes, they are relieved and excited to have their long-awaited joint venture available to the public. So stop asking me and go sample the foie gras with chile syrup (a favorite of mine from Frank's Gaucho Room days), the crisp-skin snapper, or the tenderloin with sweet potato-wild mushroom risotto for yourselves.

The summer may be an inducement for some restaurants to close -- for instance, rumors about KISS hauling out the booze and telling would-be diners that they're "booked" for the next several months currently abound -- and others to run short hours. But it also looks like long-awaited departures will be overwhelmed by cause for celebrations, like the fourth anniversary of Ortanique on the Mile and the tenth of Pacific Time. Kris Wessel, chef-proprietor of defunct but much-beloved Liaison, has resurfaced at Elia in the Shops at Bal Harbour, where his exotic New Mediterranean menu will include items such as squash blossoms stuffed with blue crabmeat and chèvre and served with Moroccan tomato jam.

Harrison's, the new dinner club in the former Bar None/411 space that opened the lounge area this past weekend, has reportedly hired a very influential chef whose revelation will be a culinary bomb of the shock and awe type (you read it here first).

The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove will be lauding the virtues of the Italian olive harvest during its "Olive Oil and Tomato Festival," which will run from August 13 to 24. Restaurant chef Willis Loughhead says, "I am sourcing olive oil from everywhere.... The dishes are [expletive deleted] fabulous and way cool." Can't get a more enthusiastic recommendation than that. Forget the summer diet and remember the big name I'll be pimping for in the fall: Jenny Craig.


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