It's Friday night in Sunny Isles Beach, and at the top of the glass stairs leading to the Ferris pop-up at Sole on the Ocean, I am greeted by a lovely young woman dressed in an elaborate Brazilian samba costume.
What's so unanticipated about this dancer is the fact that Ferris serves Greek and Lebanese cuisine. Then again, the restaurant is run by chef Ralph Pagano, who, although best known for his Italian cuisine, also owns a successful taco joint in South Beach. In other words, anything can happen in Pagano's world -- and usually does.
The samba dancer was the evening's entertainment, accompanied by a DJ and drummer. As my guest and I settled down in the lounge area with a hookah, the beats began. Soon just about everyone in the restaurant was on their feet, forming a circle around the dancer, who swayed her hips to the music.
For some reason, the Brazilian tunes work with the meal, most likely because a beautiful woman dancing to a hypnotic beat transcends all cultures. But don't let all of this hookah and hype take anything away from the food, which is plentiful and delicious.
Upon arrival, you're presented with a plate of olives and pickled vegetables. Chef Pagano says this is a traditional Lebanese greeting (one that should be adopted by everyone immediately).
Hummus ($7), presented with warm, freshly baked pita, was nutty and creamy. Baba ghannouj ($7) was a smoky foil to the hummus. Other mezze include tzatziki, labneh, and muhammara ($7 each).
The main focus, however, is the shish kebab. Presented tableside on large wooden blocks and still smoldering from the grill, the kebabs are then arranged on platters and served with almond rice and a whipped garlic dip.
Chicken ($19) and lamb ($21) are tender and flavorful, but the real winner is the mahi ($21). It's difficult to prevent pieces of this meaty fish from drying out during cooking, but Pagano's deft hand delivers a succulent, juicy fish that seafood lovers will crave.
All in all, Ferris is probably not the best choice for a quiet conversation with your meal (by the time we left at around 11 p.m., the samba queen was dancing on a large communal table for a group of diners). But if you're in the mood for dinner with a side of showmanship, Ferris makes for a savory evening.
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