Gourmet Family in the Hizzouse: Dinner at Azul

Remember those father-son swapping movies that were so popular in the 80s? “Like Father, Like Son” with Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore? That other one with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage? And, of course, The Parent Trap. (Which wasn’t in the 80s, but was in the 60s and 00s, so it evens out). My relationship to my parents fits into that genre: I’m Dudley Moore in a younger person’s body and my parents are Kirk Cameron.

Let me explain.

Saturday night we had a reservation at Azul in Miami. This got me very excited because Azul was written about in Gourmet Magazine and Bon Apetit as one of the best restaurants in Miami, if not the country. Chef Michelle Bernstein made a name for herself with quirky eclectic dishes like her foie gras chocolate sundae. I couldn’t wait to give it a go.

My parents, on the other hand, were stoked because the MTV Video Awards were Sunday night which meant many celebrities would be in the restaurant’s vicinity. See, Azul is located in the Mandarin Oriental Miami (a gorgeous hotel) and limos and Hummers and all sorts of fancy cars were parked out front, with large hip-hop artists and lots of bling-bling emerging to my parents delight.

“Umm, mom and dad, shouldn’t we go eat dinner?” I pleaded, as they stood in the hotel lobby like eager school children, praying for a glimpse at Lindsay Lohan or Ludicrous.

“Shhh,” they said, “why you gots to be all up in our bizniss?”

Finally, after much tugging, I removed them to the restaurant with its well designed entryway:

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Once inside, we were face to face with a glass case containing the day’s fresh shellfish (sorry for the awful picture):

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The host escorted us to our table and, on the way, I was charmed by the bar with champagne holders built into the counter:

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Soon we were greeted by a droll waiter who, with sarcasm and a touch of wit, asked us if we wanted anything to drink. My mom asked about their specialty drinks. “We make a killer cosmo,” he said, “but we have an amazing array of martinis. A watermelon-tini. A blue-tini. A lychee-tini.”

“A lycheetini?” I pressed.

“It’s made with lychees,” he explained. “It’s my favorite.”

I promptly ordered it and it arrived moments later in a quirky container:

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See, the top of a martini glass rests in a bowl of ice. Kind of clever, no? And the lycheetini was delicious. One part lychee juice, one part raspberry liquer and several other parts vodka–it went down smooth and sweet.

Then we were presented our amuse bouche—a red and yellow corn chowder:

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Tasty and creamy. Corn tastes great in summer.

Soon we were ordering our food. Now, it should be noted that our first waiter (the droll waiter) said the best appetizers were the foie gras and the sweetbreads. “The sweetbreads are amazing,” he said. But then he was replaced (or joined) by a second waiter who arrived to take our order. I was going to attempt the sweetbreads (something I’d never had) but he warned me against it. “Unless you’ve had them before, I wouldn’t suggest it,” he said. But I thought they were amazing? “Get the foie gras,” suggested mom. So I did. And short ribs for an entree.

Because I don’t have a copy of the menu to get the elements of the dishes correct, suffice it to say the foie gras appetizer featured peaches and beans cooked in smoky bacon that were, indeed, delicious:

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Mom had soft-shell crab with flavors that I now forget:

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My short-rib entree was wonderful: the meat was wildly tender, no knife necessary. And it was topped with watermelon pieces, a touch I much enjoyed:

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Now for the sad tale of mom’s dish. Both waiters suggested the snapper. “Tons of flavor,” they both said. The snapper itself is stuffed with pickled ginger. Topped with mangos and coated with a spicy batter, it would be a perfect sweet-spicy mix:

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But, alas, perfect it was not. It honestly had no flavor. I tried it: flavorless. Mom had to ask if there was a sauce. The waiter brought out a sauce. It didn’t help much. Mom ate dutifully, but unhappily. The snapper gets no snaps from us.

For dessert, there was a much lauded peach napoleon:

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Pretty presentation but too sugary.

I much prefered the free cookies (petit fors? mignardelles?) that came with the check:

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There also came candied lavendar and mint that hurt my teeth it was so sugary:

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We journeyed back to the lobby where mom and dad secured us a prime people-watching table.

“Aight,” said dad, “east coast representin.”

Soon, there was a clamor. Shaquille O’Neil walked in. Mom ran up to him, with dad in tow: “Shaq, can I have a picture?”

“Not right now,” he said kindly, entering the elevator with his female companion.

“Aww don’t be a playa,” begged mom as the elevator doors closed.

“Biyotch,” agreed dad.

I sat sadly and smoked a pipe. Oh, the follies of youth.

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