Side Dish

When is an opening not an opening? When it's Aura. I went to the Lincoln Road restaurant to dine there the day after it had officially opened and guess what: It was closed. Now the Morris Lapidus/Deborah Desilets-designed eatery is having a second "official grand opening" to, as they put it, "celebrate a lifetime of modernism." Like the last spectacle -- er, I mean, party -- where a belly dancer shimmied and clanged her way into everyone's bad graces, this one too promises live entertainment. I can only speculate: bearded ladies? Drag strippers? Guinness Book of World Record holders?

•So many Y2K party options. So little time. What to do, what to do? Easy, says The Strand. Meditate. Over gourmet breakfast. January 1. With a rabbi. And a bishop. Not to mention pillows, blankets, and the big ol' sun, rising despite computer glitches. "Welcome the millennium with prayer and meditation, and rejoice in a future filled with happiness, health, and harmony." All you have to do to achieve such absolute peace? Shell out the $150 bucks per person.

•Long-time Miamians treasure Douglas Rodriguez. Depite his defection to the big, wormy Apple to open his signature restaurant, Patria, the founding chef of Yuca coined New Latin cuisine and made an indelible imprint on our food scene. Turns out he's slightly more erasable up north. After a disagreement with his partners, top toque Rodriguez walked out of his treasured joint. He's been replaced by his sous chef. Meanwhile Rodriguez plans to open a new eatery sometime in April. We can only hope he's had enough of the fruit that the serpent offers and returns to the true Eden to do so.

Kvetch: I've stayed out of the Thai Toni controversy simply because I thought I had nothing new to add. Clearly Toni Takarada's actions -- telling Charles Thompson, an African-American diner, that black people don't tip well -- are indefensible. And after catching his unrepentant performance on the Leeza show, where he was required to appear as part of his "sensitivity training," I believe more than ever that he simply doesn't understand why the ripples are still spreading from the racist pebble he cast. Either that or he's being deliberately obtuse about the whole affair. Still I pity Takarada at the same time. He says his business is down by 30 percent, and he obviously feels vilified. But just so you don't think you're alone, Toni, I want you to know there are others in South Florida for whom ignorance is bliss. For instance Stephen Hanes from Pembroke Pines, who published a letter to the editor about me last week, thinks that me "and [my] yenta brethren are ... arrogant at best, naive at worst." In fact he wants me to " please feel embarrassed. We are embarrassed for you." Leeza, we've got another live one.


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