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Vital Information | Aug 31, 200302:43 AM

JeffB and a few others gave some very early peaks at this VERY Miami Beach kind of place. Took the Condiment Queen there the night, before Vettel did his review, for a special celebration. I'll report on my meal first, and for those still interested, I'll give a few observtions.

We got the tasting menu. Five courses that seemed right at first glance.

First - Tuna slices, like a carpaccio in a dark dressing with fancy micro greens and skewer of Peruvian corn. That corn was interesting if a bit starchy, but it really did not accent the other components of the dish.

Second(a) - Foie gras with cinamon bun flavored asian pear - Don't cringe, it worked.

Second(b) - As neither Ms.VI nor I am a huge foie gras fan, we asked for one of this course to be something else. Proving what as philistine I am, I much preferred this potatoe-crawfish croquette on a napping of Peruvian green sauce, heavy on the cilantro and spice.

Third - Yellowtail sashimi seviche - What I came for, just thick enough pieces of yellowtail, along with very thin slices of celery and onion, dressed memorably. These flavors stayed with me the remainder of the night.

Fourth - Chef's inspiration of sushi and sashimi - Our chef must get inspired easily, as he served us a nearly mundande helping of tuna, yellowtail, fluke, king crab and the trademark guava coated short-ribs. The trade-mark ready item, as JeffB already noted, is very worthwhile. The king crab was a special treat, but the rest of the stuff was hardly inspirational. No sashimi.

Fifth - Country club's of the world unite, we have your tuna. Crusted with too much salt and rare inside. Something that was probabably good five or ten years ago, but today seemed really insipid.

Fifth(a) - Brownie ala mode, hot! - Woops, this was not what we were supposed to get. Luckily, they did not pull the low class move of taking it away. And extra lucky for us, it was really good. I am now thoroughly convinced that I love spicy desserts, something a year ago, I highly doubted I'd ever want to try.

Fifth(b) - What we were supposed to get, a really, really nice wedge of pancake with maple cream and more ice cream. Worth the nag.

Ok, my biggest complaint was with the tasting menu. At first glance, it seemed like a good idea, in terms of price and selection, and as I said, we were celebrating, but in retrospective, it was a mistake.

Typically, or mostly, these days, the tasting menu is a bit of a price to be "in" for the night. Not only to get what is considered the best of the kitchen, but also the best of the service. Not so here. Getting the tasting menu did nothing to the service--fine as it was--and nothing to the meal.

Absolutely nothing we had was not well prepared (beyond a bit too much salt on the tuna slab), but a lot of the course were not that special either, especially the sushi-sashimi course. There was no amuse or any other perk for laying out for the tasting menu. Not necessarily something we needed, but something almost expected these days. Instead of getting the hot menu, it seemed we got the rube menu. A bunch of safe choices put together for those not willing to work through the menu.

So, I really rued what we could have put together menu wise. Most of the discussion and reviews, both here and Vettel/Trib, focus on the scene and the sushi rolls, but I think the concept, that darn word, is largely ignored. South-American style Japanase food is not some quirk of the 21st century. Nobu did not come up with the idea of slicing hot peppers with his raw fish. They influenced him, not the other way around. And the seviches and tiradito, the raw fish dressed with juices and peppers and such really appeal to me. On top of that, you can get South American style meats. I mean this is about as good as a menu can get for me.

Me, I am eager to return to make a meal of those choices, avoiding all of the inside out cockamamie creations so loved by most. I'm also going to save room for dessert. I mean Vettel raved about the things we did not get, and the things we did get were ravable.

We hit Sushi Samba on a weeknight with no reservation. We lucked into a spot at the sushi bar--front row to witness what we should have ordered and what we did not need to order. (Salmon and fresh mozzerella was a hot item, and I mean as in lots of people ordering, does that sound good? Not to me.) When we left, around 9 PM, they were quoting 2 hour waits at the sushi bar. Be aware.



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