Side Dish

The future's so bright I have to wear ... a corset. Make that a corsé. I suffered pangs of disappointment when the Michael Schwartz/5061 deal went south for two reasons. Schwartz has been one of my fave chefs since he opened Nemo and Big Pink more than a decade ago, and 5061 is close enough to my neighborhood that I can easily consider dropping in on such a place for a bound-to-be-terrific meal. But like hunger -- no offense, Schwartz -- disappointment can be assuaged. Turns out another much-appreciated chef has taken the Biscayne Boulevard spot: Douglas Rodriguez of former YUCA fame will, in November, be reappearing on the Miami dining scene. For those who moved here after Rodriguez left his Nuevo Latino mark in Coral Gables and wormed his way into the highly competitive Big Apple dining scene -- hell, he devoured it -- this original mango king has been somewhat mythical.

But almost a decade after opening first Patria and then a slew of other eateries in both New York and Philadelphia and making Nuevo Latino a household word for those gastronomes who consider restaurants their homes, he's back to remind us of his flesh-and-blood achievements. And I do mean flesh, if not necessarily blood. OLA (Of Latin America) will feature an Atkins-friendly, low-carb variety of Latin-inspired dishes. For example in addition to his signature ceviches (see The Great Ceviche Book, his latest publication, for illumination), he'll be serving a baby artichoke salad with spinach and crisp, oven-dried chorizo "chips." Other goodies include miniature Kobe beef meatballs with creamy Peruvian mushroom sauce. And even his desserts, such as vanilla bean panna cotta with cream cheese ice cream (sweetened with Splenda), will be South Beach Diet-friendly. Certainly this is a chef who not only knew Miami then, he knows us now. Hola!

Also putting out the culinary keyword, Robbin Haas has finally announced the tentative launch date for his spin on Nuevo Latino cuisine. In September Chispa, which means "spark," will debut dishes inspired by Hispanic culture, the elements of which will include Haas's signature sour orango mojo, wood-roasted shrimp, lechon asado risotto, spit-roasted suckling pig and, of course, ceviches. Truly I doubt it will be a gato fight between Rodriguez and Haas, who have already wrangled over their appellations (OLA was originally supposed to be called Chispa). Too, the venues are located in different parts of town, both with their own resident foodies to support any reasonably tasty venture. So despite cured fish cocktails, competition won't be much of a concern, thus we can all count our culinary blessings.

If you can't count, you can at least try to keep the beat at Barton G. The Restaurant. The wildly entertaining eatery recently added a new element to its lineup: Piano Nights. Throughout the summer, primo musicians will be imported to orchestrate cabaret-style shows. Judging by the first performer, singer-pianist Billy Stritch, whose curriculum vitae boasts names ranging from Liza Minelli to Kelly Clarkson, the evenings are bound to be fun, punctuated by interjections from crowds who know every word to every song, and even surprise performances from audience members who are also veterans of the cabaret scene. And here you thought summer camp was for kids.

Looks like Harald Neuweg wants us to burst out of our bikinis. Despite installing a classic Italian chef and menu at his Coral Gables restaurant Da Capo, Neuweg just can't seem to let go of his Mozart Stube roots, bless his schnitzel-oriented heart. For the remainder of the summer, he's installed a "Remember the Oktoberfest" menu. Given how long our summers are, it's more likely that the beers, brats, and marinated beef brisket salad will literally whet our appetites for the month-long celebration, if not overlap it. But hey, if Christmas can take place in July, surely Oktoberfest can follow suit. -- by Jen Karetnick


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