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Johnny V, Duo, Afterglo Gone; Bouley’s Evolution: Uh-Oh

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When the summer of ‘07 gets discussed years from now, it may very well be recalled as being the season that set the Miami dining scene back a decade.

In January of 2003, the Spanish deconstructionist restaurant La Broche opened on Brickell Avenue, signaling that our town was ready to join other American cities in celebration of 21st century gastronomy. We weren’t, though, and La Broche evaporated faster than bacon-and-egg foam. When I wrote "What’s The Matter With Miami" (November 14th, 2005), things were still looking grim. Then came Michy’s, North One 10, Mosaico, Salerno, Restaurant Brana, Quattro, Sardinia, Ideas, Afterglo, Duo, Johnny V’s return, La Goulue, Michael’s Genuine, and Table 8. Most significantly, when David Bouley, one of America’s premier chefs, chose Miami to host his first establishment outside of New York, it was clear that our city had finally gained some semblance of national respect. The influx of heralded chefs such as Armstrong (Table 8), Delouvrier (Goulue), and Bouley could only serve to lure other culinary talents to our sunny strip of paradise.

Brana closed. Mosaico and Salerno closed. In recent weeks Norman’s, Pacific Time, and Cafeteria have closed. Afterglo has closed (it jumped the shark after Michael Schwartz left and they put hamburgers on the menu). Duo has an eviction notice on its door (great neighborhood restaurant, but they should have charged neighborhood prices; Oceannaire’s huge pull had to have hurt, too). And this past Saturday, Johnny V’s comeback at the Astor ended -- although, if we are to believe the hotel’s front desk clerk, it will reopen “sometime next season, maybe around November.” I wouldn’t bet on it.

Some say that Johnny struggled because his food was yesterday’s news, but I believe it was distinctive and innovative enough to succeed; it was poor execution, presumably while Mr. V was at his other place, that helped sink the restaurant. It also didn’t help that his return coincided with the opening of many of the aforementioned hot spots. If anyone doubts that Vinczencz still has a knack for putting out great cuisine, they should try dining at his Las Olas outpost.

On a not-so-sad-but-troubling-just-the-same note: Matsuri, our favorite sushi joint, will be closing from July 7th until some time in September. Don’t fret -- it’s just for renovation, which it sorely needs.

And now for the really bad news: Rumor has it that Bouley’s Evolution is in trouble. They have closed the main dining room “for the summer”, all seating now taking place in the L’Etoile lounge up front. This can’t be a good omen. Plus, I’ve heard talk that Bouley is attempting to extricate his name from the restaurant. Coupled with other recent big name chef desertions, Bouley’s exit would suggest that Miami’s quest to become a serious American dining city, after having taken a huge step forward, has now taken two very large steps back. --Lee Klein

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