By: JEN KARETNICK
Tableside presentations at Miami’s top restaurants are all the rage.
Picture this. Whole ducks set on fire before being doused, then carved. Liquid chocolate poured over diners’ hands. From Hutong Miami and Tanka’s “flaming ducks” to Elcielo’s immersive “chocotherapy,” one thing is clear. Miami’s restaurants are competing in glitzy tableside presentation games.
Steady hands are required at the Miami outpost of MR CHOW, although not by the customers. Here, the carving of the Beijing duck is performed by Chef Matt Chan. Meanwhile, the sous chef hand pulls hundreds of noodles from a small pile of dough in mere seconds. The restaurant also offers tableside sole filleting, among other things.
Likewise, at Dirty French Steakhouse, the 20-ounce Dover sole is seared a la plancha, then deboned and filleted. Ditto, the “World Famous Prime Rib,” which is sliced for guests per preference before being deboned and served with freshly grated horseradish on top. For dessert, the “Pineapple Pain Perdu” is flambéed with spiced brown butter, a sprig of rosemary, and bourbon.
At chef Brad Kilgore’s new restaurant MaryGold’s Florida Brasserie, the “Baked Florida,” a tropical fruit semifreddo is spiked with pineapple rum, is set on fire in one of two ways; by a torch or by a server spooning flames from a pot.
At Klaw Miami, composure is required by the servers who shell the Norwegian king crab legs right in front of the guests. Fortunately, they don’t have to wrestle them out of the water. Instead, they merely have to slice the steamed shells off with scissors. Risky, nevertheless.
Chef Giancarlo “Wendy” Cacciatori sends his “Pasta al Pomodoro” in a copper pot at the recently redesigned Pelican Café in South Beach’s Pelican Hotel. Presented tableside, the artisanal paccheri pasta is “chef’s kiss” good.
A few blocks northward at Bagatelle in South Beach, the lobster fettuccine comes out of the kitchen in a copper pot. The lobster is then shelled, and the pasta is rolled onto plates. But that’s only one of at least 20 dishes that are staged this way. Whether it’s tuna tartare doused with a tangy dressing or a whole fish being deboned and filleted, a significant portion of the menu is an interactive experience that happens before your very eyes.
Willing to do some of the work? You can learn how to do a tableside presentation at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, during its Champagne Sabrage Masterclass every third Thursday of the month. Before the evening ends, you’ll get the chance to saber off the top, should you have the courage.