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After more than 20 years at The Forge in Miami Beach, Chef Kal Abdalla is now chef/owner of Prezzo Restaurant & Martini Bar in Aventura. While keeping the brick oven pizzas and the restaurant’s signature fried calamari, the menu has changed from Italian to international, with pastas and appetizers such as Big Eye Tuna Tartare wrapped in a paper-thin cucumber shell, with mandarin orange slices, jalapenos, pine nuts, cilantro and crispy wonton chips. For entrees there is filet mignon and New York Strip, fresh Maine Lobster, Sea Bass, Prince Edward Island Mussels and Seafood Risotto infused with white truffle oil, as well as caramelized roasted duck and duck salad with warm raspberry vinaigrette, escargot baked in puff pastry shell with exotic mushrooms and garlic butter. Desserts range from flourless chocolate cake to soufflés, crème brulée and more. The indoor/outdoor restaurant expands into a bar, a piano bar with live jazz vocalists, and a patio where diners can smoke cigars and hookah (water pipe), with a choice of 35 flavors of “shisha” tobacco, from Mango and Pineapple to Jasmine and Rose. Prezzo Restaurant & Martini Bar is open for lunch from 11:30 am to 3 pm., and dinner from 4 pm to midnight. Happy Hour from 4 pm to 7 pm. Sunset dining from 4 – 5:30 p.m. offers a three-course dinner for $14.99. 18831 Biscayne Boulevard, Aventura, 305.931-5775


Toscano Grille has risen from the ashes of what was Le Festival and is slated to open late November. The restaurant is family-run by the owners; three brothers who have a combined wealth of Italian culinary experience: Executive Chef Ricardo Davila, comes from Café Abbracci, Corporate Chef Jose Davila, comes from Amalfi Ristorante, and CEO and president Alcides Davila oversees operations. The 209-seat restaurant has been totally revamped to include a Chef’s table, a lounge and a bar, as well as a VIP room for parties of up to 40 people. Also new is the original oak-fired brick oven where regional Italian dishes from Tuscany will be prepared. The concept of “Open Menu ” to accommodate the business lunch and dinner crowds is based on classic Tuscan dishes: “Offering home-style brick-oven-flavored cooking, with the option of ordering anything the customer is in the mood for, is an open invitation for doing business in a comfortable family-run environment. Maintaining a consistent high quality and moderate pricing will be the hallmarks of Toscano Grille,” said Alcides Davila. The menu displays a selection of home made filled pastas, such as Agnolotti with spinach, ricotta and pinenuts ($15.95) and Tortellini filled with Fontina cheese and veal juice – all homemade and flavored with herbs grown in the restaurant’s own gardens. For appetizers there are salads, fish and meat carpaccios, followed by entrees of gnocchi del giorno ($13.95) creamy risottos ($16 to $19)) and oak-fired brick oven dishes including fresh fish and seafood ($16 for lunch, $22 to 27 for dinner), rack of lamb ($29.95), classic chicken dishes as well as Veal Scaloppine six ways ($22), grilled tenderloin topped with foie gras and an 24oz Bistecca alla Fiorentina ($36.95). The menu is coupled with an extensive wine list. Toscano Grille is open daily for lunch and dinner. 2120 Salzedo Street, Coral Gables, 305-448-5111. For more information:

After one year at the Savoy Hotel, once la Voile Rouge and home of Michelle Bernstein’s The Strand, Ola Miami is relocating as of November 1st to The Sanctuary Hotel, 1745 James Ave, Miami Beach, where Sugo stood. Executive chef Jose Luis Flores, who is also chef at Ola Steak & Tapas in Coral Gables, plans to keep the menu while adding more ceviches and smaller plates served family-style. The new indoor/outdoor 80-seat restaurant, including the bar and lounge area, offers roof top dining for private parties with a view of the South Beach skyline. OLA Miami 305.695.9125

The talented Venezuelann-born Alfredo Patino , former chef de cuisine at the award-winning Bizcaya Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove, is opening Bin no. 18, his own European market and wine bar concept, centrally located near the Performing Arts Center. Slated to open mid-November 2006, Bin no. 18 combines a hang-out for snacks and coffee – with real baristas at the counter, a venue for the works of local artists, a wine shop and a tasting bar, a market and deli (with artisan cheeses and charcuterie displays, eat-in and take-away salads, sandwiches, boxed Picnics and prepared foods), an Internet café and a music haven all under one roof. “At Bin no. 18 we will offer the best and most carefully selected gourmet items as well as boutique wines from emerging producers and selected artisan beers,” said Mr. Patino. Wine and specialty food tastings will be conducted daily, and as an opera lover himself, he will offer special cheese and charcuterie boards with Champagne and selected wines after every Opera night. Bin no. 18 will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and till after the show on Opera nights at the nearby Performing Arts Centers. 275 NE 18th St., 800 Biscayne Blvd., 786-356-8710.


Christabelle’s Quarter, the long-awaited three-story New Orleans-style restaurant, is slated to open this fall in Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove. To recreate the Big Easy style of French Louisiana architecture in South Florida, owner John El-Masry and architect Carlos Perez da Costa have built an stained glass ceiling dome, and two story stained glass windows, ornate wrought iron railings inside and out, and a grand staircase leading to the upper decks.
New Orleans’s Chef Alex Patout of the award winning Alex Patout’s Louisiana Restaurant which closed its doors after 16 years in the French Quarter as a result of Hurricane Katrina, is bringing more than a taste of the Bayous: New Orleans Jazz clarinetist Tim Loughlin will host New Orleans musicians for evening performances of jazz, rhythm & blues, gospel and Cajun music and weekend jazz brunches in the New Orleans tradition. The manager is Michael McCarthy, formerly of Ortanique and Jada. Chef Patout has showcased his family heritage in a cookbook Patout’s Cajun Home Cooking (Random House). He comes from two centuries of multiethnic French, Spanish and African Creole cooking and classic Cajun cuisine dating back to 1828, when his family first arrived from France and settled in Louisiana, including a grandmother, Yvonne Patou, whose Cajun cooking made her famous in 1913, at the Old Frederic Hotel of New Iberia, Louisiana.
Christabelle’s Quarter’s Cajun and Creole menu includes oysters, fresh from New Orleans, and dishes like Fresh wild catfish, Louisiana crawfish and plump Louisiana oysters alongside Cajun classics like Rabbit sauce piquant and Smothered roasted duck. There are Creole favorites such as Crabmeat imperial and shrimp remoulade, Louisiana crab cakes; Soft shelled crabs; Shrimp & crabmeat stuffed eggplant. Aside from a variety of soups and gumbos, one can order from a wide selection of fresh seafood grilled, fried, broiled or sautéed and topped with jumbo lump crabmeat, crabmeat, shrimp & mushrooms or crawfish tails; along with classic Louisiana sauces of fresh dill beurre blanc, béarnaise, and etoufee, crab fat with vanilla bean, creole or cajun cream with tasso.Smoked pork with Southern sauce. The meat menu lists Filet mignon and veal chops among other cuts in different preparations; and the wine list will feature a vast variety of selections and vintages at reasonable prices.
Christabelle’s Quarter’s event catering chef is Alex’s wife Marcia Patout who rules over the too floor with a private elevator and a chic terrace with a view for large or small groups luncheons, dinner parties and meetings.
Christabelle's Quarter is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and dinner, 5:30 p.m. until midnight daily with late night menus available from 11 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., nightly. Jazz Brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove. 786-517-Jazz (5299) or 786-517-Blues (2583).


Cesar Sotomayor thinks big. The 32 year-old president of Arrso Restaurant Company - his family’s restaurants in Madrid and South America, with partner Elliot Monter --has converted 42,000 square feet into a $20 million “sanctuary of art, cuisine and entertainment.” Indeed he spared no luxury at Karu &Y; at 71 NW 14th Street, in downtown Miami, just behind the Miami Performing Arts Center: cascading waterfall and a bridge leading to a reflecting pool at the entrance; inside African wenge wood, colored marble, a Blue Icicle chandelier designed by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, an exotic bejeweled Venini glass installation (made in Venice, Italy) in the private dining room Mas Allá; fourteen wall to wall temperature-controlled wine coolers with a selection of at least 2500 bottles from rare vintages to boutique wines from all wine producing regions of the globe,” according to sommelier Dwayne Savoie, and a special venue slated to open later this year: Tottem and Tottem Gardens, a Zen parkland intended to host from 800 to 1000 people at concerts, fashion shows, special events and film/television productions.
Y Ultragounge with a drinks and tapas bar offering fig roll ups stuffed with cured ham and smoky Idiazabal cheese, key lime poached lobster and baby pork chops glazed with guava barbeque sauce ($9 available until 5:00 a.m.), is ultra modern with low banquettes, a sleek outdoor patio with private cabanas, and a chic stressed look where guests can relax before or after dinner at the 126-seat Karu, the upscale alta cocina restaurant which is the domain of chef Alberto Cabrera -- formerly of Baleen, Norman’s and the legendary but short-lived La Broche -- and restaurant manager Albert Omahen.
The menu’s roots are Spanish with the exciting cuisine of the Americas, from the amuses bouches which start every meal at Karu to the after-dinner sweet mignardises. While the private dining roon Mas Allá, will offer a nightly 5 to 12 courses tasting menu paired with wines, the a la carte menu starts with appetizers ($16 to $26) such as octopus carpaccio with lemon sorbet, duck crisps, caper salt; Japanese fluke tiradito with sweet potato ice cream sandwiches, aji amarillo powder and cancha corn chips; pan-seared foie gras with pan de Gloria,canistal fruit, chocolate candy and px reduction; and a Spanish clam bake siliqua patula, a rich mix of imported clams, mussels, and langoustines with white corn candy.
Adventurous and complex entrees ($30 to $46) range from tender Wagyu sirloin served with Karu’s fried rice - seared cuttlefish, tomato compote, quail egg, soy infused puffed rice, enoki mushrooms -- to fresh hog snapper served with butter poached langoustines and fava bean agnolotti.
Equally elaborate desserts range from hazelnut biscuit filled with carrot mousse, golden raisin puree and beurre noisette ice cream, to a new style beignet filled with chocolate, roasted wild strawberries and lemon granite.
Karu is open for dinner Sundays and Tuesday through Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight; Fridays and Saturdays until 1:00 a.m. (closed Mondays); Y Ultralounge is open Thursday through Saturday, from 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Karu &Y; and Tottem are located at 71 NW 14th Street, Downtown Miami. 305-403-7850

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