Side Dish

So have you caught the new Miami Herald "Weekend" section, er, Street? The debut issue of Street coincidentally features the same dining review as "Weekend," titled "Nexxt has great atmosphere and, er, leisurely service," and concludes that "The verdict in this court is that, hmm, maybe Nexxt drew some inspiration from the Cheesecake Factory, because the food here isn't much better." Looks like the only inspiration the Herald drew from its alternative competition (hey, that's us!) is the stimulating use of, say, an interjection. Such catchy little wordplay makes any review good enough to read, well, twice.

•In other Herald-ed news, beware the good review: Following a glowing report of the Indian Diner in Coral Gables, a NT staffer went for dinner. The place was so packed proprietors had to turn folks away, but that wasn't the biggest crime. Not only did the appetizer arrive in the middle of her meal, the main course was served without bread or rice: The restaurant had run out.

•The latest dance craze looks to be the South Beach Shuffle. Willis Loughhead departed Palm Grill in North Miami for Tantra on the Beach. As the "corporate chef," he'll be seducing diners with his new menu, which debuts November 15 and includes the "Tantra love apple," a sliced Homestead tomato stuffed with goat cheese and served with watercress, basil oil, and pomegranate seeds. He's also hired a pastry chef so the restaurant can stop buying its desserts from Epicure. Meanwhile former Epicure chef Michael Bennett is serving modern global cuisine at Southside Cafe, which replaced Café Kolibri, and Justin Murphy, previously chef at Nemo and the erstwhile Fish (now Fish 54), is working at Palm Grill, installing a menu of New American and French-influenced specialties. Quondam Tantra chef Michelle Bernstein is now heating up the kitchen at The Strand with her new menu, featuring items like a whole boneless squab stuffed with duck meat and duck pâté. Bernstein, who made more than 5000 hors d'ouvres for the grand-opening party but is pretty sure that "only my mother got to taste them," was recently visited by former employer/mentor and neocompetitor Mark Militello, whose Mark's on South Beach restaurant will debut December 1. Shameless as ever, Militello attempted to steal Bernstein's pastry chef Kevin Kopsick, who used to work at Norman's, and also baked at Robbin Haas's Baleen for "about five minutes," he says, where Bernstein's ex, Jeffrey Nimer, is top toque.

Red Square chef Frank Copestick is one of ten national chefs to be tapped by TBS Superstation and Ernest & Julio Gallo Vineyards for their second annual Dinner & A Movie Super Chef Cookoff. Each chef is required to develop a main-course recipe for the film Sister Act and the cooks compete against one another at a tasting event at the Supper Club in Manhattan on November 17. Some suggestions for Copestick: Corvina Novena, a ceviche that's been marinated for nine days; Mother's Superior Meat loaf; and No-Nunsense Roast Chicken.

The decline and fall of South Beach finally will be complete on November 18 when T.G.I. Friday's opens at the corner of Fifth Street and Ocean Drive. Owners James Consentino and Nat Siegel, who also operate fifteen other TGI Friday's and nineteen Papa John's pizza joints, spent six million dollars revamping the 7000-square-foot space. About half that cash went toward their promise to keep the hipness of the locale in mind by replacing the standard wood floors with terrazzo, the Tiffany chandeliers with Italian light fixtures, and the red-and-white tablecloths with solid mahogany and inlaid tile tabletops.

Kvetch: Addressed to "All News Media," the invitation to the reopening party for La Casona, the SW Eighth Street place that was recently renovated, tells me to "expect lots of important people to attend (politicians and actors) [who] cannot be named for security reasons." The invite also urges me to "please be there on time, since only a limited amount of space will be available." Can't even describe how very welcome I feel now.

Send your tasty tidbits to Jen Karetnick at 2800 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL, 33137. Or e-mail [email protected]

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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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