Generation Chef speaks up: Kris Wessel, chef-proprietor of Liaison in South Beach, objects to my use of the word “fusion” to describe his restaurant. “Liaison's menu and my style of cooking stem from the strong French influence in New Orleans and a Southern freshness found both in Louisiana and Florida. French techniques applied to products from the entire Southeast are a natural progression on the plate, not fusion.” Now that's an easy label to handle: Naturally Progressive cuisine. Wessel also wants us to know there's only one investor in his project: “For the record I have poured everything I own into this dream and my only partner is my best friend, [with whom] I grew up in New Orleans.”
Tony Sindaco, chef-proprietor of Sunfish Grill in Pompano Beach (that's Broward, folks), comments about the big money new chefs need to get started. After working for years in Miami-Dade and Broward/Palm Beach kitchens, including Chef Allen's, he opened his 40-seat joint for about $45,000. Too bad he didn't do it in Miami. Same goes for Randy Zweiban, former executive chef of Norman's, who also now runs his own spot -- in Chicago, reports Michael Bennett, a local chef (formerly of Epicure and Southside Café) who currently works at the Left Bank (also in Broward, folks). One chef who did earn his stripes in Miami and is about to give back to the community? Pascal Oudin, late of Sweet Donna's, where he was a consulting chef, and Grand Bay Cafeacute;, where he solidified his reputation as a tropically influenced chef. He's about to open his first-ever restaurant on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables, in the space that was Thoa's on Ponce for about two seasons. The name? Pascal's on Ponce, which should make it easy to cut costs, since he'll only have to replace half the sign.
•Andre's Diner is movin' on up -- the street, that is. Biscayne Boulevard, to be exact. About twenty blocks will separate the old Andre's location from the new. To go along with the move, the 35-seatery, known for its Italian and French dishes that belied the “diner” appellation, will become much grander (read: less like a diner) in its luxe space, which was formerly the lauded but relatively short-lived Palm Grill. It remains to be seen whether the homey feel of Andre's Diner will be maintained or fall victim to impersonality. Meanwhile the Palm Grill people have been scouting places in Coral Gables and are looking for a fall opening.
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•Looks as though the North Miami Beach branch of Su-Shin has not survived the sailfish fallout. Busted a couple of months ago for buying sailfish illegally from the backs of trucks and passing it off to customers as tuna, Su-Shin has closed the location for good. The eatery is now for sale.
•Miamians don't usually make the trek up to Broward to dine, but certain restaurants drew us regardless of distance: Cafe Arugula, a New World veteran of twelve years located in Lighthouse Point; the Pan-Asian eatery East City Grill, the first offshoot of Darrel & Oliver's Café Maxx, on the former Fort Lauderdale strip; and ZanZBar, an intriguing South African joint on Las Olas. Unfortunately all three of these places have closed their doors. Cafe Arugula chef-proprietor Dick Cingolani cites two years of roadwork as the killer of his business, while the proprietors of the other two rightly blame their landlords -- the locations of both East City Grill and ZanZBar are set for demolition. Clearly these closures are blows to the Broward scene, and as far as Miami is concerned, now there's even less reason to cross the county line.
•Kvetch: Is the impending eatery Touch of South Beach the worst possible name for a restaurant located on Lincoln Road? With an appellation like that, the restaurant, situated in the former South Beach Brasserie spot, has "tourist" written all over it. I could understand it if the place were located off the Beach -- which is not to say I'd like it -- but the last thing South Beach needs is a touch of South Beach. What it needs is a touch of class.
Send your tasty tidbits to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Or e-mail Kavetchnik@aol.com