Restaurant Reviews

You Say You Want a Resolution?

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. My husband will tell you it's because I have no willpower and can't live up to whatever silly vow I make. But the truth is I think they're a waste of time. Almost all of them have to do with improving the health of our minds and bodies, so we deny ourselves our favorite pastimes, such as eating sweets or fried foods, and torture ourselves with exercise. And that's supposed to make us feel better about ourselves.

So this year I've decided to break my no-resolution rule, in hopes of reversing the equation. In other words, I want to start doing more of what I adore, less of what I despise. So, on my way to becoming a fat, big-spending alcoholic, in 1996 I vow:

To get drunk on rum cake at Norma's on the Beach (646 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 532-2809). It should take about one piece of that potent delicacy, endowed with the golden Appleton spirit.

To stuff myself on the stuffed pastas -- notably the tender ricotta-filled cannelloni -- at Cafe Ragazzi (9500 Harding Ave.; 866-4495). The only danger here is the size of the 40-seat place. Squeezing in is fine. It's squeezing out that may be a problem.

To triple my intake of chocolate, starting with the triple chocolate wildebeest cake at zanZbar (602 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 767-3377). Makes an animal out of the most sedate chocolate lover. Grrr.

To banish live musical acts during the dining hour. The only music I like accompanying my meal is the kind I make myself with a knife and fork.

To bring my own laminated chopsticks to Two Sisters (in the Hyatt Regency, 50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables; 441-1234), where Pacific Rim meets Spain and I can test my dexterity by picking up slippery black beans one at a time. According to Chinese tradition, 100 beans in a row means I'm marry-able. According to Latin tradition, 100 beans in a row means I'm going to have a stomachache. Good thing counting beans isn't a Jewish custom, or I'd still be single.

To undertake a "Walk of Death" down Ocean Drive, stopping at each and every cafe for something to eat or drink -- all in one night.

To go on a heavy date with herring in sour cream at Food by Trolls (9707 S. Dixie Hwy., South Miami; 668-9395). Because after I demolish the portion of cured fish rimmed with sharp red onions, a troll is the only companion I'll have.

To return every single PR call about new restaurants -- in 1997.
To separate the meat from the bone at Crystal Cafe (726 41st St., Miami Beach; 673-8266), where the osso buco is as big a life-changing experience as puberty.

To answer "yes" to the inevitable question I get -- usually more than once -- at weddings, funerals, dinner parties, and family gatherings: "You're not going to review this, are you?" and then laugh at the host's look of panic.

To bistro-ize myself at Le Bouchon du Grove (3430 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove; 448-6060), where the tarte tatin is a tasty treatment of the apple, and the friendly French service is a tasty treatment of the customer.

To don my tightest, flashiest gear and smoke a big-as-a-log cigar on the patio at Nemo (100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 532-4550). Then order wahoo for dinner, if only because it's such a speedy sucker, and so appropriate here -- a fast fish for a fast crowd.

To get the raw deal at Yozo's Sushi Hana (in the Four Ambassadors Hotel, 801 S. Bayshore Dr.; 358-0511) on a boat, elaborately garnished and fresh as flowers.

To stop cringing at sponge-painted walls and accept the fact that the trend ain't over yet.

To chug the home-brewed beers and ales at the Abbey Brewing Co. (1115 Sixteenth St., Miami Beach; 538-8110) until they all taste the same. Weave my way to South Pointe Seafood House (1 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 673-1708) and do likewise. Then stumble around, acting like everyone else on Washington Avenue after midnight.

To consume more "curly curls" -- deep-fried carrot strips doused in garlic butter and Parmesan cheese -- at K.C. Cagney (11230 SW 137th Ave.; 386-1555), the undisputed king of cholesterol- and calorie-laden crunch that not even the health-conscious Nineties can depose of.

To sample every kind of bread Biga (1710 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 538-3335) bakes. Then go on the updated Atkins protein diet and lose all that carbo-loaded weight.

To get stoned on crabs. This year I'll also try not to slice myself on those sharp little shards. I have enough lacerations from my five felines, who often confuse me with their dinner. And while I'm at it, I vow to stop acquiring cats. Really. You can hold me to that.

To fish at Lure (805 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 538-5873) for basil-mango cheesecake. I'm hooked.

To sup in a grand manner. At the Grand Cafe (in the Grand Bay Hotel, 2669 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove), the soft-shell crabs served over springy buckwheat linguine, snow peas, and carrots in oyster sauce are an obvious choice, being that chef Pascal Oudin, one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 1995, is the pearl of this operation.

To cease wearing the fake nose and eyeglasses as part of my disguise. The latex makes me break out.

To celebrate Oktoberfest all year round with the nine-percent-alcohol beer at Treffpunkt Biergarten (18090 Collins Ave.; 933-3942), which I'll quaff while watching soccer highlights in German on the dining room's large-screen TV.

To have guaco loco races at San Loco (235 Fourteenth St., Miami Beach; 538-3009). 'Nuff said.

To mangia the Maine lobster fra diavolo at L'Aurora (18250 Collins Ave.; 936-8166). Served over homemade tagliatelle, this dish is as hot in temperature as it is in spice.

To avoid the appetite-killing oyster altogether. Food poisoning is not an aphrodisiac.

To zip up to Zapata's Place (11099 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami; 899-8997) for the mighty carne a la tampiquena, a butterflied flank steak rolled around sauteed peppers, onions, tomatoes, onions, and ham, then wrapped in bacon and grilled.

To borrow a dog -- purebred, of course -- so it can wind itself around my chair, then sit choking and panting after the local stray cats while I dine in a leisurely fashion on Lincoln Road.

To satisfy Homeric hungers at Fresco Mediterranean Cafe (in the Eden Roc, 4525 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 674-5570), even though chef Stefano LaCava, who prepared the Greek spice-rubbed chicken I liked so much, has since been expelled from the Garden of Eden Roc.

To fight for my right to sit at Cafe Primola (13200 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami; 899-1081).

To rub elbows with Kerry Simon's maple-syrup-glazed ribeye steak A garnished with buttermilk-battered onion rings A at Max's South Beach (764 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 532-0070).

To rekindle the flame for New World cuisine. Pacific Rim be damned.
To go pho dinner at Mekong (18073 S. Dixie Hwy.; 238-3500). These Vietnamese noodle soups, traditional for breakfast, eat like an evening meal.

To restore my feta in Greek cuisine. Mylos (1111 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 461-0403) serves it bubbling over six gigantic shrimp and spiced with tomatoes, garlic, and scallions.

To finally reveal the names of my all-time favorite restaurants in Miami, regardless of location, ethnicity, and cost of a meal. Maybe I'll get to that next week.

To leave the StairMaster my husband bought me for Chanukah in the box.


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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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