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Bali Hai Preview with Chefs Oscar del Rivero and Sean Brasel

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This Sunday, April 5, will mark the 15th annual Bali Ha'i event, an outdoor soiree of culinary delights from restaurants around Miami to celebrate the Kampong.

On Thursday, I set out to get advance tastes of one fish dish and one meat dish, from two talented and charming chefs, Oscar del Rivero of Jaguar and Sean Brasel of Meat Market who will appear at Bali Hai.

A quick drive down Main Highway, and I met Mexican-born del Rivero, who graciously walked me through the three ceviches he's bringing from his menu -- Peruano, Black Market and Oriental.  Each has a distinct character and flavor profile.

Peruano is the restaurant's most popular, made with cubed tilapia,

salt, garlic, lime juice, strips of pre-washed red onion (to mellow its

raw bite,) roccoto chili and "giant" kernel corn; it's a classic and

straightforward representation of what one would find in Peru, where

ceviche was born.  Because it only needs at least 15 minutes to

marinate, del Rivero explains that the dish will be prepped and chilled

right before he leaves for The Kampong on Sunday.

The

Oriental is a fusion ceviche featuring sushi-grade tuna without any

marinade and topped with a roasted jalapeño, citrus and cilantro sauce.

I'd be happy to slurp down an entire bowl, thank you very much.

But

my favorite is the Black Market, a delectable mixed seafood ceviche

including shrimp and calamari enveloped in a subtly sweet aji amarillo

(yellow) puree that is at once light and full-bodied.  Just sit me at

the bar, with some canchitas (salted, roasted corn kernels) and a Pisco

Sour or ice cold Aguila lager from Jaguar's solid LATAM beer selection,

and I'll call it a day!

But no!  I have a meat stop to make on South Beach with Chef Brasel.

As soon as I arrive, Brasel whisks me back to the kitchen and offers an apron as I follow him back behind the line to get to the bottom of his Tropical Brisket.  Yes, you read correctly.  Brisket and the Tropics in harmony on a plate, er, cast iron dish.

Who would ever think to put anything but caramelized onions on a brisket of beef?  Brasel!  The Colorado native is perhaps risk-taker out of the kitchen, too, with a love for motorcycles and snowboarding.   The dish screams innovation from start to finish.

In advance, he cryovacs the fatty top cut with a marinade of chilies, sugar, salt and ginger for three days and then puts the package into a 180 degree water bath, in a temperature-constant immersion circulator for 12-13 hours.

When the dish is being made to order, a mixture of cubed mango, shitake mushroom and blanched sweet potato is combined with gently sweated red onion over the gas range.  The slow-cooked brisket is then added and all the elements simmer together before plating in a sumptuous coconut curry sauce made with veal and chicken stocks, curry, coconut milk and garlic.  Brasel takes the traditional to new levels at his post-modern steakhouse, and it works brilliantly.

For more information on Bali Ha'i or to purchase tickets while supplies last, please visit or call 305-442-7169. Ticket prices for the main event on Sunday, April 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. are the same as last year, at $125 per person.  The VIP Preview Party from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. will honor 2008 "People's Choice" chefs Clay Conley (Azul,) Dewey Losasso (North One 10,) and Jonathan Eismann (Pacific Time) and features cocktails and a complimentary gift, as well as entry to the main event, for $200 per person.

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