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Restaurant Preview: A Trio With Brio

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Three major restaurant openings are pegged for the coming month. I am all too aware that reality rarely matches hype in the restaurant biz, but this trio truly appears to hold some promise.

* On May 30th, the smartly re-designed Tides South Beach hotel will premiere its new dining establishment, LA MAREA (La Ma-ray-ah). Executive chef Pietro Rota, a native of Milan, is expected to feature fare inspired by his Mediterranean and Northern Italian heritage. Look for seasonal foods and seafood flown in daily. Imported Dover Sole, pan seared, filleted tableside, and served with lemon butter and organic vegetables, is already being touted as the signature dish. Tides Hotel, 1220 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.

*Two days later, on June 1st, the grandly ambitious CHRISTABELLE’S QUARTER will make its long-awaited debut in Coconut Grove. New Orleans’ celebrated chef Alex Patout, who ran Alex Patout’s Louisiana Restaurant for 16 years in the French Quarter, has been hailed by Food & Wine magazine as one of the “Top, Hot 25 Chefs in America,” and cited as one of the “Men Under 40 Who are Changing America” by Esquire magazine. Patout’s hybrid of Cajun and Creole cuisine will include gumbos, fresh wild catfish, crawfish and oysters shipped from Louisiana, smoked pork loin, rabbit with sauce piquant, shrimp remoulade, and dry-aged steaks.

Yet the ambiance may prove to ovewhelm even the gutsy Big Easy fare. Decorative highlights encompass an immense stained glass ceiling dome, a two-story stained glass window overlooking three stories of dining areas, ornate wrought iron railings, 40 chandeliers, 3 sixty-foot long hand-crafted mahogany antique bars, an Aveson tapestry from 1640, and a fireplace to sit around on those icy-cold Coconut Grove evenings. Oh -- also a 1200 gallon exotic fish tank in the foyer. New Orleans’s signature jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel, and Cajun music will fill the air at all times, and there will be a Jazz Brunch on weekends. 3157 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove.

*The aromas of India will waft over Ocean Drive when ISHQ (“love”) opens its doors later in the month -- and presumably when it opens its windows, too. Owners Sham and Kavita Kamlani will be offering a contemporary Indian menu of traditional fare such as chicken tikka masala and other curry dishes, and tapas-size snacks for munching along with exotic cocktails. There will be two tandoors -- one for bread, the other for chicken, lamb, shrimp, and fish -- which diners will be able to see operated in the open kitchen. Ishq is sumptuously designed with a 14-person community sharing table, carved marble slabs from India, and a bar adorned with lapis, malachite, and other semi-precious stones. Almost as ambitious a venture as Christabelle’s, the restaurant will also showcase a courtyard and sidewalk cafe. 530 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. --Lee Klein

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