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There is not one miss at North 110 where chef/owner Dewey LoSasso turns out little triumphs.
By Simone Zarmati Diament
Before Dewey LoSasso opened North 110 with his wife, Dale, he was for seven years Corporate Chef for China Grill Management in charge of Tuscan Steak in Miami and New York. Dale had been a manager at Chef Allen's, wine director at Mark's South Beach and more recently at Carmen's in Coral Gables. All this accumulated experience shows at North 110, an engaging, charming, sophisticated 64-seat neighborhood restaurant in the location formerly known as Il Tulipano Centodieci.
It shows in the cozy, white tablecloth dining room redecorated with blond woods and stained glass windows, in the exquisite wine list with affordable bottles, categorized according to tastes, in the impeccable and friendly service and in the perfectly executed creations that Chef LoSasso has placed on the menu.. "I love utilizing ingredients from the Florida environment; the seafood, the fish, the tropical fruit and produce here are superb," said LoSasso. "But if I want to cook something else, I can get anything I want in the world here."
Superb fare starts with "little snacks" as appetizers are called here
There is not one miss on the menu; each dish is superb, starting with the appetizers.
The chilled gazpacho ($9) is fire truck red and thick with sweet tomato chunks bursting with flavors of fiery habanero peppers and cool truffle oil. Mushroom stuffed mushrooms ($9) is an earthy variation on one theme: mushroom caps brushed with anato and olive oil, stuffed with a ragoût of fresh mushrooms, baked, and served with a green chayote slaw.
Surprising tastes in the day's special, a warm "martini" of grilled seafood ($14), played off creamy grilled plump scallops, big gulf shrimps and Florida lobster against a distinctively smoky sundried tomato vinaigrette and a bed of wilted arugula, the bitterness of which exalted the sweetness of the seafood.
With the waiter's recommendation, we paired a glass of dessert wine with a sumptuous sautéed, slightly caramelized foie gras ($14) served over warm broccoli rabe and grilled carambola "salad" with citrus butter and truffled demi glace.
Nobody's cutting down on high quality ingredients in this kitchen.
A meal in itself, the crab cake ($16) is a 1/3 lb. patty of jumbo crab lumps simply held together by panko crumbs, pan-seared, drizzled creole-style mustard sauce and served with a extraordinarily complex and delicious slaw of onions confit, caramelized apples and roasted cubes of calabaza.
With appetizers such as these, who wants salads? Yet, how can you miss the sliced organic tomato salad ($11) with goat cheese crème brûlée over greens, oranges and peppercorn vinaigrette?
Entrées get even better.
Mr. LoSasso's signature dish is a crispy yucca-crusted snapper ($18) with black beans, a Latin take with an Asian twist: a shrimp broth with key lime, lemongrass and dried tomatoes. Grilled Mahi Mahi ($17) is a real summer treat, which reflects Mr. LoSasso's origins: he yearns for the taste of fresh New Jersey tomatoes his mother used to cook with. "The tomatoes were so juicy, that when she made tomato salad we used to sop bread in what was left." The sizeable slab of grilled fish is topped with jumbo grilled shrimp, slightly marinated in lemon grass, garlic and olive oil, and is set on a bed of warm tomato salad in a light broth, aromatic with lemongrass and herbs. A treat worthy of sopping every drop of with the freshly baked bread served at the table.
Meats are never marinated, just slightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and grilled. They don't need to when they are high quality cuts, like grilled skirt steak ($19) over a sauté of corn and pancetta and a drizzle of mushroom vinaigrette, or what Mr. LoSasso calls "whack American Food;" a 12 oz. New York strip steak ($34) served with a Thai-like spice coconut sauce, Argentine chimichurri and smoked tomato. Neither is the flavorful grilled rack of lamb ($50 for two) with a red onion-Miami Shores mango marmalade, sautéed asparagus and goat cheese.
Duck however, is another matter. A half bird portion of semi-deboned duck is slowly roasted for hours, and emerges so tender inside its crisp mahogany colored skin that it falls to moist shreds. In chef LoSasso's version of "canard à l'orange," duck is drizzled with an orange-Grand Marnier-lavender sauce and served with a sun-dried fig and Gorgonzola mesclun salad.
For pure indulgence, there are sides of asparagus sautéed in butter with oven dried fruit, toasted almonds and hot peppers ($7), smoked onion mashed potatoes ($4), or sautéed morels with cat tail shoots and wheatberries.
Desserts are simple yet full of surprises, As great desserts usually are: delicious and inventive, the napoleon listed as risotto rice pudding layered with macadamia nut filo ($7) is anything but your aunt Zelda's version of rice pudding. Arborio rice is steeped to crème fraîche creaminess and livened with lemon zest and crispy layers of caramelized phyllo.
The flourless Valrhona chocolate torte topped with almond brittle is so sinfully good that the whipped cream it comes with seems to cut through its richness.
For the calorie conscious, there is no fat, chef Lo Sasso says, in the grilled angel food cake with tropical fruit compote and coconut sorbet. Grilled marshmallow lightness, delicious, and no fat!