15 Steps: Superior Seafood and Seasonal Cuisine in a Confused Space

Categories: Review

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Pan roasted halibut with a coriander seed pop.

On a recent Sunday, two guests stand in front of a muted TV set near the entry of 15 Steps inside the Eden Roc hotel. They're laughing at America's Funniest Home Videos.

Rich amber lighting and plush leather seating fill the center of this first-floor restaurant. An out-of-place communal picnic table sits near an open kitchen. And a row of small tables off to the side is paired with one conventional chair and one enormously high-backed white leather throne.

In this mecca of mismatches, the strong Lapidus old-fashioned, named for the hotel's famed architect, Morris Lapidus, is served with bourbon, amarena cherry syrup, and chocolate mole bitters. It costs exactly as much -- $16 -- as a Squeeze Me, made with Stoli Blueberry, mint, and "handcrafted lemonade." The evening I was there, Tropicana lemonade was poured from a carton.

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Verde at PAMM: Art Enthusiast or Not, You Will Be Lured by the New Café

Categories: Review

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billwisserphoto.com
Verde's salmon crudo with beets, citrus and picked kumquats.
At Pérez Art Museum Miami, it's not important to appreciate or know anything about art.

A dozen menacing bronze animal heads startle visitors emerging from the parking garage onto the museum's raised patio. A dragon readies to bellow a vaporizing fireball onto unsuspecting passersby. A bear snarls, lips pulled back, revealing a seemingly endless row of razor-sharp teeth. It's irrelevant to most people that the massive installation was created by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

A short walk takes far longer than expected. Visitors with necks craned gawk at towering cylindrical gardens hanging from the ceiling collide with one another in slow motion.

The patio opens into a large space, framed in green and gray, offering sweeping water views. Puffy clouds slink across the sky above Biscayne Bay, and cars zip along the MacArthur Causeway and disappear into a blue abyss.

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Nothing but the Best in the Roads Almost Lives Up to Its Name

Categories: Review

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Flank steak a la plancha with a bacon-flavored bordelaise sauce.
Yann Rio has a pretty weighty resumé. He's cooked his way through the celestial spheres of Guide Michelin at Paris' Hotel Crillon, Le Pré Catelan, and Apicius, as well as the famed Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu.

But his new place, Nothing but the Best, is located in an obscure corner of the Roads. Here, he eschews the fat, calories, and cholesterol of traditional French cuisine in favor of a lighter, olive oil- and vegetable-oriented Mediterranean approach. That means clean, bright, vibrant flavors enhanced, not masked, by judicious use of butter or cream.

See also: Nothing but the Best: French Fusion Cuisine in the Roads

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Shaddai Fine Lebanese Cuisine: A Culinary Oasis in a Pinecrest Strip Mall

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Lamb kabob.
Tucked away in the corner of a Pinecrest strip mall is the urban culinary oasis Shaddai Fine Lebanese Cuisine. You'll find three floor lamps of varying heights and colors, three wooden camel statues, and a wall adorned with three swords. Nearby are three booths. Are these trios symbolic of the Holy Trinity? Perhaps.

The Bethlehem-born owner, Anton Sammour, known as Chef Tony, has been cooking Lebanese food since he was 8 years old. His wife, Elizabeth, who works the front of the house, is from Guatemala. You might remember the couple from Arabian Nights in Doral, which closed a few years ago. After that, Tony spent two years and a lot of money trying to open a new Arabian Nights on Miracle Mile. It didn't work out. Last June, he suffered a stroke and lost feeling in his hand. Elizabeth had a dream in which the Lord spoke to her and said, "Tony will be OK. Good luck is coming, and you have to name the new restaurant Shaddai," which translates to "God almighty."

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Hooters: Go for the Wings, Stay for the Double-D Entendres

Categories: Review

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Photos by Carina Ost
Finger-licking wings
Stepping foot into a man cave can feel intimidating. This is not a place where one can be watered down. Sports play on large flat-screens, wood paneling covers the walls, and beer pitchers contain floating ice-filled Ziploc bags. This is Hooters, and it is as bold as the orange short shorts riding up the waitress' bums.

Once your senses adjust to this world, or perhaps relive the wonder of the original in Clearwater circa 1984, it will be as comforting as mother's milk. This place has heart and soul, along with the more predominant body parts: T and A.

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Semilla Eatery & Bar: A Strong Seedling With Room to Grow

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
New York strip steak.
The first thing you experience when entering Semilla Eatery & Bar is the sweet aroma emanating from a wall of potted herbs. They're a welcome respite from the construction craziness on Alton Road.

You'll also be relieved to hear "Wrecking Ball" sung by someone other than Miley Cyrus and see the large metal horseshoe bar, showcasing an open kitchen with chefs wearing checkered fedoras while working the centralized teppanyaki station.

Executive chef and owner Frederic Joulin was French President Jacques Chirac's private chef for two years and worked with three-Michelin-star chef Guy Savoy in Paris. Joulin knows tough customers and conditions. Yet asked about the construction outside, he utters, "Horrible, horrible," in a heavy French accent.

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Fish Fish: Old-School Fried Goodness in North Miami

Categories: Review

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billwisserphoto.com
Fried fish at Fish Fish
The singer sways his hips and croons an indistinguishable tune. In almost all circumstances, he'd be considered unusual: a thin man with a floppy fishing hat, blue shirt, and pleated khakis pulled too high on his waist. He looks like Gilligan in a cruise ship's karaoke bar. Gyrating in the back of Fish Fish's dining room on a Saturday night, though, he just makes sense.

This North Miami spot, which occupies the same strip mall as a bank, a dry cleaner, and a pizza place, is beyond quirky. Take the Baja fish tacos. Tucked into warm tortillas, grilled strips of grouper are perfectly cooked and covered in the expected pico de gallo. But then there are some oddities -- grated cheddar cheese and a "Baja" sauce that tastes suspiciously like ranch.

You can scoff all you want at the pairing. Fish Fish doesn't mind. It makes no excuses for its antiquated ways. Instead, the seafood restaurant relishes in what others might consider square.

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Lure Fishbar Excels at the Simple Things

Categories: Review

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billwisserphoto.com
Grilled whole daurade
Find a yellowtail jalapeño roll at your neighborhood sushi joint and compare it to the one served at Lure Fishbar. They look similar enough: Coiled nori and rice are crammed with wasabi-spiked fish and then topped with jalapeño. But inside the grand Loews Miami Beach Hotel, the yellowtail tastes different -- its mellow flavor is enhanced by a texture that's smooth and buttery on the tongue.

Beneath the chili pepper, this quality might go unnoticed. If you pause, though, you distinguish its charm. Like everything else at Lure, it is shockingly fresh.

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Bocce Bar Is Midtown's New Italian Darling

Categories: Review

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billwisserphoto.com
Bocce Bar's orecchiette
Timon Balloo doesn't want to dazzle you. At Bocce Bar, he cooks things simply -- braising duck legs in stock before plunging them into a pan with orecchiette, squash, and Parmesan. They are finished in a sauce that's thick enough to coat a wooden spoon and tastes of sage and thyme. They are unencumbered by trickery. This is the kind of recipe you'd tear from a favorite magazine, a dish you'd serve at a fancy dinner party at home.

Balloo's approach to Italian cuisine is understated, not rustic. Yes, he went to Italy twice and watched grandmothers cook in Florence, Pisa, and Sicily. But at this midtown Miami restaurant, he extols the effortlessness of the cuisine. He finishes raw tuna with a sprig of lavender. He garnishes octopus with red sorrel. It's familiar and good-looking, so you might ogle your pasta before reaching for your fork.

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Kitchen Hop Takes Off at Mary Brickell Village

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Photos by Kareem Shaker
A new concept put together by Zevents called Kitchen Hop kicked off its first event last Saturday in Mary Brickell Village. For just $35, guests enjoyed a dish from seven restaurants -- Dolores, Brother Jimmy's, Tapas Benidorm, Toscana Divino, Oceanaire, Balans, and Taverna Opa -- from 2 to 4 p.m.. Baru and Blue Martini opened their doors at 4 and offered guests a free cocktail.

"We tried to put together an event that would benefit everyone involved," organizer Javi Zayas said. "Restaurants get to expose some of their dishes and possibly gain new fans. The sponsors get positive promotion from a family-oriented event and the guests get a great deal on quality food."

The event gained a lot of attention, securing sponsors such as Modelo and Three Olives vodka and selling 1,200 tickets before the first plate was served. Short Order attended the festivities to see what all the hype was about.

The plates were small to make room for seven selections per person. The lines tended to get long in a few places but moved quickly. Most of the restaurants were on point with their selections, though a few were ill-prepared for the surge and left diners hovering with empty plates. Going from place to place was fun for most people we spoke with, though some were disappointed they were served only one dish per customer in each restaurant.

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