Mayya has made a lot of changes in its lineup recently, but the most startling is the release of executive chef Guillermo Tellez. Ever polite, the Charlie Trotter protégé says he was let go because of a "difference of opinion." Word on the street is slightly grittier. Tellez, who apparently had been asked to cut back on the quality of ingredients used in his fare, was fired the day before he left on a promotional trip to Singapore with his mentor Trotter. The trip to the World Gourmet Summit had been planned for more than two months, Tellez says, and he had a pile of press kits publicizing Mayya to hand out. Can you say recycle bin? Tellez is now contemplating two offers he's received in Miami, as well as two more possibilities to run restaurants in London and Chicago. "I'm looking for somewhere solid," he admits, "somewhere where the owner and I share the same vision." Perhaps this time Tellez also will insist on penning his John Hancock. At Mayya Tellez had never signed a written contract with boss Ephrain Veiga, instead accepting assurances that a handshake deal was good enough.
•It's finally happened: There's a little bit of South Beach in North Beach, thanks to Spice Resto-Lounge. The 71st Street eatery, run by Gerardo Cea and family of Café Prima Pasta, is eminently hip, complete with velvet ropes outside and scantily clad hostesses with portable phones clipped to their belts inside. The menu's a bit on the eclectic side, however -- part Italian, part pan-Asian. Supposedly it was "inspired by the meeting of East and West that dates back to Marco Polo, who traveled from Venice, Italy, to discover the treasures of Asia," reads the press release. Frankly I think duck with soba noodles side by side with fried mozzarella is somewhat palate-shocking. But the crowd doesn't seem to mind as long as the martinis keep flowing. No surprise there....
•Proud Papa: Michael Schwartz, chef-owner of Nemo, has added a new vintage to his wine list. Cuvee Ella, a specialty blend bottled by Jim Clendenon of Au Bon Climat, combines pinot bianco, pinot grigio, and tocai fruliano grapes, and is named after Schwartz's first child. Apparently she's a pricey little thing: The wine goes for $9 per glass, $36 per bottle. Schwartz's second daughter, six-month-old LuLu, need not be envious, however. Her vintage, a red wine, is already in the works.
•Seeding the Community: If you've ever wondered how chefs give back to the community, here it is: They raise money for it. Norman's recently raised more than $160,000 from a wine auction/dinner. Proceeds go to providing furniture for the Camillus House/Somerville Apartment Complex, a 47-unit building benefiting needy, single-parent families. Part of the money also will help design the urban garden that is intended to "provide a beautiful and nurturing oasis for parents to bond with their children," as the literature for the event indicates. I'm all for the cause. But kids and fresh-grown veggies? They might enjoy tending the product, but I doubt they'll eat it....
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•Followups: After reading my article "Not So Hot Spots," Tap-Tap writes in to pledge consistency. General manager Gary Sanon-Jules says the Haitian eatery closed down at the beginning of the year owing to changes in management. After taking stock of the restaurant's weaknesses, plus remodeling and staff changes including a new executive chef, Sanon-Jules is confident we'll be "surprised by just how consistent we've become." Well, I hate surprises, but I do so love its counterpart, reliability. As for Caroline's, it too will survive. Just don't call it Caroline's. Chef-owner Abraham Quesada, erstwhile boyfriend/partner of Caroline Segui, has bought her shares and will be renaming the place "Q's" after his nickname, Chef Q. You can expect the quality of the fare to remain the same, since Quesada was the inaugural chef here. I'm not so sure about A Taste of Ethiopia. Readers who have gone to the restaurant have been startled at the lack of, well, Ethiopian food. One complainant notes the only items on the menu were Jamaican patties, and the eatery had a mere one table. He wants to know if the place is a front. I can't answer that, but it could be that the owners' road to free publicity has been paved with false promises.
Kvetch: Take care when you valet park at Islands Café. The subversive key jockeys might not change your radio station but they're likely to leave promotional flyers, advertising events at the Bay Harbor Inn & Suites, on your dashboard. Now that's what I call unfair advantage.
Send your tasty tidbits to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Or e-mail Kavetchnik@aol.com