Restaurant Reviews

Come-on in My Kitchen

You gotta give chef Jonathan Eismann credit. A couple of years ago his award-winning creations at Pacific Time were visionary for South Beach, offering a much-needed option to a pasta-weary populace. These days, though, his culinary philosophy has become somewhat familiar -- and it's not because he's any less skilled or intense.

It's because he's got company.
As with most trends, Miami has come late to Asia, but with the intensity of a kamikaze pilot. Sure, New World cuisine, which has officially been in existence since the mid-Eighties, factors in the Far East by way of the islands (sixteenth-century trade routes established a gastronomic give-and-take between southeastern Asia and the Caribbean, both of which are tropical regions). And local chefs such as Kerry Simon (Max's South Beach) regularly spices up his eclectic menu with Chinese- and Thai-flavored dishes.

Lately, though, influence has given way to reliance. The Strand, that Washington Avenue mainstay, has added Indochinese recipes to its summer repertoire. Nemo's Michael Schwartz, a former chef at Wolfgang Puck's Chinois in Los Angeles, has devised a menu that features oyster-miso soup and wok-charred salmon. China Grill, an offshoot of the venerated New York City restaurant, is due to open this month in Loehmann's Fashion Island mall. But the most direct challenge to Pacific Time comes from its new neighbor Lure, which owners Paolo Domeneghetti and Gwen Salem opened on Lincoln Road near Meridian Avenue.

At Lure, executive chef Scott Howard, who trained under Norman Van Aken (Norman's) before heading the kitchen at Gus' Grille in Key Largo and then Martha's Tropical Grille in Hollywood, has finally broken from his mentor's signature style to hone his own. Creating new recipes with Asian flavors would lighten up the menu, he told me before Lure opened, a move he hoped would attract a steady clientele during the traditionally slow summer season. Judging from the business Lure has been doing in its first month, Howard's predictions were right on target. And while he hasn't abandoned his training -- the selection of appetizers, salads, and entrees features the local, Latin, and Caribbean touches of a New World chef A he has fulfilled his promise. The overall flair of his food is distinctly and unremittingly Asian. Sushi chef Junter Chi, whose work is among the most innovative in South Florida, and sous/pastry chef Lorence McGrael, frame Howard's talents the way gilt does a masterpiece.

In light of the season, sushi is a refreshing way to begin a meal. A beautifully arranged marble platter was decorated Kandinsky-style with appropriate condiments (sweet eel sauce, sharp wasabi, and Sriracha, a powerful Vietnamese chili sauce mixed with vinegar and garlic. Tuna was dark as the inside of a rose and fragile as lace, an ideal tidbit. A piece of eel was soft and flaky, practically melting on the ball of vinegared rice. But shrimp and crabstick were mundane by comparison, as were the standard-issue chopsticks, wrapped in paper, that splintered when we tried to separate them. Lure could do better here.

Rolls are so out of the ordinary they're difficult to describe. Thanks to Sushi Rock Cafe, Maiko, and Sushi Hana, Miamians have been spoiled by endlessly original combinations; I didn't think some of the more inspired creations could be topped. But chef Chi puts together a "tiger eye roll" -- a cylinder of tempura-battered squid, cooked salmon, asparagus, and fish eggs drizzled with an exuberant kim chee sauce -- that be (the other is classical painter Philippe Dodard). "When you're not white, people have their preconceived categories about your culture and they want to see them forever.... We shouldn't even waste our time trying to define what the Haitian brain can produce. Why do you want to put me in a ghetto as a stereotyped mind?"

Not surprisingly Benjamin's untitled installation is the most provocative work in the show: a wooden, boxlike construction painted black and topped with a batch of speckled feathers. Benjamin cut holes in the surface of the wood, through which can be seen portions of a chest X-ray; the small image of a figure is superimposed in one corner of the X-ray film. This unsettling piece suggests both mental and physical forms of repression and confinement, while simultaneously alluding to spiritual rituals.

Other artists more obviously refer to the spirits of Haiti in paintings of Vodou gods. One is Burton Chenet, who divides his time between Miami and Port-au-Prince. Educated at New York's School of Visual Arts, Chenet decided some years ago to use only Vodou symbolism in his work. His Elematurin, included here, shows a grinning bat-man figure painted in a graphic, cartoonish style. More visually intriguing is Emmanuel Merisier's sinister Edvard Munch-like figure of Baron Samedi, set before a hectic orange sky. Marilene Phipps's marvelous, emotionally wrought realist painting Praying Hougan shows another side of spirituality. This work depicts a religious ceremony in which an elderly man sits in front of a homemade shrine that includes candles, bottles, and sundry icons; additionally, lying on the floor at the man's feet, shrouded by a white sheet, is the outline of a human corpse.

Lionel "Yony" St. Pierre, a young self-taught artist who lives in Miami Beach, is represented by several simple, if not particularly well-executed, paintings. In fact the works' handmade metal frames, fashioned from assorted hardware, are more interesting than the paintings themselves, and best serve to indicate St. Pierre's potential as a sculptor. Edouard Duval-Carrie, the best known of these artists, takes a revisionist approach to Haitian themes. His elaborate, meticulously painted Vien Vien the Indian Sprit has a decidedly contemporary look, while his handmade frame, decorated with ceramic figures, exhibits a traditional Haitian attitude about blending the borders between artisanship and fine art.

There is a noted lack of politically themed work here, somewhat surprising given the reality of Haiti's recent past and current transitional situation. Only two artists choose to touch on political subjects. Jacques Liautaud lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where he works as an engineer. His two thematically sophisticated paintings are from an ongoing series of works with Haitian themes. Ecce homo shows "Papa Doc" Duvalier sitting in a chair in a tuxedo A the image is painted from a photograph but is slightly caricatured. Liautaud has framed the portrait with the words Homo desastrus, Homo sinistrus, Homo fornicatus, and at the top, Ecce homo. The other work, Terrible Truths, depicts a man with a tire around his neck, a reference to the Haitian practice of "necklacing," in which victims are physically confined by tires, then doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Rejin Leys, a young woman artist who lives in New York, offers Guantanamo Survival Kit, an ingenious, intricately executed foldout artist's book containing images and biting texts on both life in the U.S. camp and international politics.

Just as Haitians are given the short shrift by U.S. immigration policy, Haitian artists have received scant attention from local galleries and museums, despite Miami's large Haitian population. Representatives of that constituency, along with the usual art-scene suspects, flocked to Lincoln Road for the jubilant opening of this exhibition, demonstrating that there is certainly an audience for the Alyans Atizay Ayisyen's future projects. "Contemporary Expressions of Haitian Art" is a bit of a mixed bag, but its spirit is definitely in the right place.

moving, revelatory performance by Chaz Mena as the Man With Scar Tissue, a homeless person burned by skinheads. Mena brings remarkable humanity to this character, who could be the invisible, disenfranchised street person many of us pass daily.

Guerra, New World Rep Company's artistic director, made an inspired decision in pairing the challenging Marisol with the far more subtle Faith Healer for the company's debut. The cultural backgrounds of the dramas contrast cleverly; the unique demands of each production showcase the company's formidable range of talent; casting some of the same actors in each show highlights that range even further. New World Rep promises to be an awesome addition to South Florida's professional theater scene. or uncomplicated young flesh: "I'm older and there's a few flaws now, but do you know how many skanky cocks I had to suck to learn how to do it right?" A good point, Vogel dodging a stalker in the audience -- maybe she's a tad fabulous -- and ruinously crossing the battle lines of the sexes: "How many of the men here are afraid of my sexual sophistication?" Naturally, no hands raised, the gentle art of cocksucking being a prized talent. Unfortunately, Vogel inspiring the same lack of enthusiasm with a plaintive question: "How many of you men would go out with me on a date?" Even in the modern era, a man's got to draw the line somewhere. occasionally calls to mind the gravelly voice of Lee Hazelwood. Anyone who ever genuflected at the tabernacle of the Perfect Disaster should get up close and personal with Outrageous Cherry.

By Michael Yockel
horities were mindful of Boukman's growing popularity -- the 1980s were marked by wiretaps, arrests, and other forms of harassment against various band members -- the celebrity status of Beaubrun's family provided no small degree of protection, and the group kept a fairly low profile until Duvalier left the country in 1986. Boukman's full impact on Haitian politics wasn't realized until 1990. The song "Ke'-m Pa Sote" ("My Heart Doesn' three blocks south of the New Times office. A Best of Miami honoree (Best European Fast Food), Fatti Una Pizza's elegantly simple, authentic Neapolitan brick-oven-baked pies have long been favored by staffers here.

When you stop in, tell 'em we said chow. I mean ciao.

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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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