Changing Rooms

Most-asked question of the past two weeks: Why did Michael Schwartz leave the executive chef position at Atlantic in the Beach House Bal Harbour only four months into the job? Easiest answer: Personality conflict. "We just weren't a match," Schwartz says. "I went into it thinking about the future opportunities I might have with the [Rubell] family, and after a few months I realized I didn't want that to be my future." So what is the forecast for the well-loved chef? Right now he's working as a consultant and waiting for his most important dish at the moment -- his third child -- to be fully cooked, out of the oven, and into his hands.

Seen but not heard: executive chef Rob Boone, during the debut media dinner at Metro Kitchen & Bar, the remake of Astor Place. He was so flustered by the spontaneous applause of his guests when he appeared in the dining room that he left with a blush at a half-jog. Equivalent bravos go to Astor owner Karim Masri and his team, who actually succeeded in reinventing the venue's image. Thanks to a trim, smart menu and a smaller, more enclosed dining space, to which one descends a staircase, the place has a very New York, basement-restaurant kind of vibe -- and I don't mean that in a Big Apple-bashing way, either.

Heard at the scene: the waiter at the opening of Elia, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant where The Abbey's Rebecca Purro is at the helm, in the Shops at Bal Harbour. He held his tray high above the throng, bringing it down to eye-hand level only in front of the prettiest women in the room. Which means my husband didn't have much of a chance of scoring a shrimp wrapped in kataifi, since neither he nor his companion that night were in drag. Still, he reports, this might be the place that finally succeeds in this somewhat jinxed location, which was formerly Max's Place and the Black Rose, to name but two. On paper the pedigree looks good, too -- designed by the folks who made the Century a visually striking local hangout, Elia is owned by prominent Greek restaurateur Athanasios Barlos and managed by Juan Rochaix, who was the proprietor of the well-loved Las Puertas in Coral Gables. And Purro, who has no short history of her own, will be helped out by Barlos's buddies, Sergio Mei of the Four Seasons in Milan and Bernard Le Prince of Fouquet's in France, who will act as consulting chefs. It could be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, but stranger stove-fellows have made more of a muck with less.

Neither heard nor seen -- yet: Could it be? Has executive chef Jean S. Bailly reappeared at Citronelle, the brand-new eatery located in the north end of what is fast becoming the burgeoning Biscayne Boulevard Dining District (BiBo DiDi)? Last time I encountered this chef's bold-'n'-spicy style, which was influenced by his celeb chef mentor Matthew Kenny, was at the Au-Bar eatery in Lighthouse Point. There, he was the best -- actually, the only -- thing going for the place. At Citronelle, where the French Mediterranean-North African dishes include braised duck leg penne with haricot verts and chickpeas and spice-rubbed pork chop with roasted pumpkin purée and grilled leeks, his talents are at least matched by the small but well-chosen wine list. Au Bon Climat for everyone!

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick

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