Uvaggio and Touche: Top Chef Alums in Miami Have a Spotty Record

Categories: Review

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Image courtesy NBC/Bravo
Former Top Chef competitors and Miami chefs Carla Pellegrino and Nina Compton.
Bravo's hit reality cooking show, Top Chef, which debuted in 2006, changed the way we look at chefs and the people who prepare high-end dishes. Its judges have included culinary luminaries like Anthony Bourdain and Food & Wine magazine editor Dana Cowin. And it has thrust more chefs before a national audience than any other platform. The show's contestants compete with hopes of not only preparing the best dishes and winning the competition but also eventually opening a restaurant with jam-packed reservation books and big money.

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Basil Park: Tim Andriola's Long-Awaited Follow-Up Will Change How You Eat

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Tim Andriola, Basil Park's rotisserie chicken.
Things aren't what they seem at Basil Park, the airy 4-month-old bistro in Sunny Isles Beach. A dollop of sour cream atop some tacos has no dairy. It's made from cashews soaked overnight in water, puréed with yeast and live bacteria, and then fermented for 12 hours to create a tangy, rich blend.

The Parmesan sprinkled over crisp emerald kale chips is also cashew-based. The nuts are pulverized and then mixed with nutritional yeast to mimic the piquant cheese. A dash of sea salt finishes the disguise.

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Brickell's Bistro BE Brings Cold-Weather Comfort to a Hot Neighborhood

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Rabbit stew at Bistro BE; Barman Maxwell Parise. View our full slide show of Bistro BE here.
The rust-hued gravy enveloping tender, slightly gamey braised rabbit is a textbook winter dish. The salty bacon matchsticks and tangy, sweet prunes are intensely satisfying, especially paired with a Belgian tripel ale so deeply colored that sunlight doesn't pass through. But on a Miami summer night, as the thermometer hovers above 90 degrees, eating a bowl of stew this rich with a pair of beer-can-size potato croquettes is overpowering.

See also: Photos from Bistro BE in Brickell

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Drunken Dragon Fires Up Trendy Korean Barbecue in South Beach

Categories: Review

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Drunken Dragon chef Xavier Torres grilling at an ondol, twice-fried chicken. View our slide show of Drunken Dragon.
The waiter says he can't leave the ripping-hot, onyx-colored stone bowl on the table. There's some kind of legal/insurance issue. Someone might get burned. He has to spoon its contents into serving bowls and take the hot pot away.

See also: Photos from Drunken Dragon in South Beach

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Finka Table & Tap Takes Bold Flavors to Miami's Hinterland

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Finka owner Eileen Andrade, Cuban bibimbap.
Far beyond Miami International Airport and that tangle of Dolphin Expressway construction traffic, a rising stretch of asphalt threatens to launch you into the sawgrass abyss. Only it doesn't. The road narrows and curves south, spitting you onto SW 137th Avenue and into a maze of low-slung auburn stucco houses and jam-packed strip malls.

Head west on Coral Way and you'll arrive at a bank and a pharmacy. There, in the corner of the parking lot, stands a rust-colored brick-and-wrought-iron building with the faint twinkle of Edison light bulbs crisscrossing a glassed-in patio.

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L'echon, the Pubbelly Team's French Brasserie, Is a Glimpse of What's to Come

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Raie à la Grenobloise (skate wing) at L'echon Brasserie. View the full slideshow of photos from L'echon Brasserie.
While navigating Miami Beach's treacherous construction traffic, you zip past the Hilton Cabana. Damn! You circle the block for another pass. The red pin on your cell phone's map must be out of place. It's doesn't seem possible that a hip restaurant sits amid the dozens of hotels on Mid-Beach's chopped-up Collins Avenue. As you turn the corner and creep up the street a second time, you see it. There, on the hotel's white-stucco façade, is a cartoonish pig-head logo bathed in a halo of blood-red light.

See also: Photos of L'echon Brasserie at the Hilton Cabana in Miami Beach

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At Oolite, Kris Wessel Takes Florida's Culinary Influences on a Healthful, Delectable Jaunt

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Kris Wessel's barbecue shrimp at Oolite.
A half-dozen fat, sweet barbecued shrimp arrive bathed in a fragrant, rust-colored sauce.

One bite reveals that their tingling spice is cut by the rich smack of butter as well as lemon and floral rosemary. The plump crustaceans are perfectly cooked, with crisp exteriors and tender, briny interiors. They come with a few triangles of crumbly roti, an Indian flatbread.
You wouldn't know it, but the dish is gluten-free. Chef Kris Wessel's addictive barbecue sauce, which doesn't contain Worcestershire sauce, is often made with soy. And the roti is prepared with chickpea flour instead of traditional whole wheat.

See also: Oolite's Backyard Mango Cocktail and Wessel's BBQ Shrimp: The Perfect Summer Meal


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"A Little Forgotten": On 79th Street, New Restaurants Pave a Better Way Forward

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Clams and chorizo at Tap 79.
By the time Brazil and Croatia kicked off the World Cup, Boteco was bursting at the seams. Sweaty bodies in yellow and green jerseys were squeezed together inside the flag-draped Brazilian restaurant that thumped with samba. More were crammed on the covered patio, which opens onto Miami's sometimes-slummy NE 79th Street.

See also: Boteco: Where Brazil Fans Get Turnt Up for the World Cup

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NIU Kitchen: Catalan Tapas Spot Shows Promise for Downtown Dining

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Co-owners Karina Iglesias and Deme Lomas.
Not long after sunset, downtown Miami is so deserted the click of a changing traffic light echoes like a gunshot. Once-bustling cafeterias and shops closed hours ago. In the inky darkness, steel shutters rattle in the wind.

But then you turn a corner and a cool-yellow glow pours onto the stained sidewalk. A subtle hum becomes boisterous chatter, clinking wine glasses, and clattering dishes. As you step in front of NIU Kitchen's plate-glass façade, you're sucked off the sidewalk and into a buzzing Barcelona-style tapas restaurant. The musical gurgle of emptying bottles of ruby-red tempranillo fills your ears. The nutty scent of toasting bread invades your senses along with the intoxicating aroma of fruity olive oil. After you settle into one of NIU's 26 seats, a warmth overtakes you, mostly thanks to co-owner Karina Iglesias, who with a devilish grin tops off your glass and then adds nothing to the check.

See also: NIU Kitchen: Playful Catalan Cuisine in Downtown Miami

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At AQ in Sunny Isles Beach, Dewey LoSasso Gets Fancy and Fanciful

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Dewey LoSasso inside AQ's kitchen.
Dewey LoSasso likes to have fun.

At AQ by Acqualina, the stylish restaurant that opened in a towering, Venetian-style Sunny Isles Beach hotel-condo this past April, the mustached chef plays with dishes such as green eggs and ham. A 20-minute wait precedes a bubbling martini glass layered with sweet mascarpone cheese tinted emerald green thanks to tiny chopped chives and an egg baked until the white is solid but still jiggly. The luxurious twin slices of fatty, salty jamón ibérico round out the Seuss-inspired starter.

See also: AQ by Acqualina: Dewey LoSasso's Whimsical Food in a Five-Star Hotel

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