First Bites

Pied a Terre's Rotating Chef Series Masks New Hire Mystery

Pied a Terre at the Cadet Hotel has been left without an executive chef since the quick departure of Andrew Balick this past summer, who recently re-appeared at DiLido Beach Club at SoBe's Ritz-Carlton. Since then, owner, Dr. Vilma Biaggi has been curating a line-up of visiting chefs to helm the kitchen until a new hire can be solidified.

Inside scoop is that the announcement is imminent, and manager Patrick Calvarese (a most charming Frenchman who worked the room at Azul prior to moving over to Pied a Terre) said that it will be a "big shock" to see who they've gone after for the position. We shall see.

In the meantime, we were invited to sample the menu offerings of eighth-generation chef Jean-Luc Taulere, who fuses traditional French with a tropical twist. He began his career here in Florida, but moved his family to Costa Rica in 2004, where he opened Mar y Sol restaurant in Playa Flamingo. It's an unusual combo, resulting in items like a coconut broth based bouillabaisse ($19) loaded with mussels, crab, shrimp and scallops, as well as more classic offerings like a pan seared foie gras ($21) with duck confit ravioli, which was served simply, thank goodness, without the "peanut butter and jelly" effect that so many chefs seem to embrace when it comes to foie.

Next month, England's celebrity Indian chef, Varun Shivdasani, takes over the kitchen, so look for an even more unusual French fusion menu. He's known as the head of food and nutrition in the The Biggest

Loser, which makes losing weight a comical farce for all to watch. No word on whether or not calorie intake will be a factor in his chosen selections for Pied a Terre.

Lobster ravioli were topped with truffle shavings (always appreciated) and a slightly sweet vanilla foam. A quick sear delivered just a hint of texture around the edges, and with the fleshy lobster inside, it equaled an intensely satisfying bite.

A dijon-crusted veal chop ($45) served with a side of stewed whole morels and a generous slice of "pommes anna," was perfectly pink all the way through. The mustard was just a bit overwhelming for the delicate veal, but overall, a well composed plate.

The guinea hen ($38) was a favorite; breast and thigh are packed solid with duck meat and a little extraneous fat for a heightened salty flavor that we loved. An herb polenta and conventional ratatouille rounded out the offering nicely.

The meal was amazing and it's an intimate, ideal place to celebrate a special occasion, but the place is tiny, so shhhh ... please don't tell too many of your out-of-town guests. Let's try to keep it for foodie locals.

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Lesley Elliott
Contact: Lesley Elliott