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N’awlins South Beach Style

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Ahnvee, a Cajun-Creole restaurant and “laid-back lounge” will open at 621 Washington Avenue (the old “Strand” location) in late-2008/early 2009. Executive chef Tom Azar, most recently having served the same function at Emeril’s Miami Beach, will be putting out skillet cornbread with honey butter glaze; fried alligator; crawfish-and-rice croquettes, and house-made andouille sausage with quail egg and sweet potato biscuit. And that’s just for starters.

The classics will all be on hand: gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, shrimp Creole, catfish with dirty rice, collard greens, hush puppies, Hoppin’ John...and eclectic stuff like pulled pork empanadas, and a duck entree with seared foie gras and dried cherry demi-glace. To which I say: Why?

Design highlights encompass SoBe-style over-the-top elements, including gothic wrought iron railing, seven-foot-high banquettes, Swarovski crystal pendant lights, two-tiered crystal chandeliers, flat screen TVs and a “live aquarium floor...two-feet from the ground, lit from within and teeming with a kaleidoscope of live fish.” Plus gold-flecked stone floors, a bar, live music stage, and private dining room/cognac lounge.

Prices are what I suppose goes for “moderate” these days: soups and salads will run $7 to $12, entrees $20-$42, desserts $7 to $9. So it all sounds pretty nifty, but...wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, somebody opened a humble little N’awlins joint with affordable, authentic home-cooked fare? Or any sort of regular, reasonable restaurant, sans glitz, serving honest food that would be affordable to indulge in on a regular basis? Seems every non-chain Miami restaurant debut -- be it Philippe for Chinese, Mint Leaf for Indian, sleek sushi bars, swank steak houses -- gets geared towards the high-end (Red Light being a notable exception).

Ahnvee, incidentally, is Creole for “a food craving”.

-- Lee Klein

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