1 star for La Maison in Miami Beach's South of Fifth

 

French brasserie bumbles with poor service, high tabs, sloppy food.

Maison
La Maison restaurant in Miami Beach serves a tower of grilled organic vegetables.
 

By Victoria Pesce Elliott | vpevpe@gmail.com

If this were my maison, I’d run away from home.

The new La Maison in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood looks pretty. Marble everywhere. Sparkly chandeliers. Delano-esque white furniture. Starched linens. 

And some of the very worst service I’ve ever experienced. Also: The food is sloppy, the tab outrageous.

I was expecting great things. The executive chef, Michael Fulci, holds a Michelin star and two-toque award in his native France. He must have been out on my visits, because I doubt Michelin inspectors are keen on moldy berries or salads without dressing. 

Or hair gel. A big black tube of L’Oréal sat on the bar as if in a salon. 

Good to see that La Maison uses French products. And its male staffers are well groomed. Too bad they are not well trained.

At lunch they left the doors open until the air conditioning units dripped all over the floor. And they rolled their eyes like sullen teenagers when asked to wipe off our sodden chairs. At times they disappeared for long stretches, forcing us to get up to find them more than once. 

One evening, a Spanish-speaking guy stumbled while trying to explain a dish. He went inside to find an arrogant French waiter who would have made a great SNL character. 

I asked what "spinach shoots” were, thinking it might be some kind of microgreen. He commenced with wild gesticulating hands, explaining that “shoot” describes the cooking method. “À la minute,” he snooted. “Quick. In a pan. Not like in America where they cook it for so long it has no flavor.” 

For the record, the dish — flash-fried spinach with sesame seeds — was boring.

The prix-fixe lunch for $20 was not much of a deal with food that was as insipid as unwaxed dental floss. You’d be a thousand times happier next door at Estiatorio Milos for about the same price.

A tiny slab of salmon could have had a nicely browned and crisped skin but only half of it seemed to have touched the heat. The other had a gelatinous, raw, silvery sheen. A tangle of lightly dressed baby arugula was a decent complement. 

A side salad, on the other hand, had ice-cold, heirloom baby tomatoes and organic baby lettuces served dry as paper towels. When I could find a waiter, I asked for dressing and was brought a bowl of vinaigrette but no spoon. 

A chicken supreme was a bit scary with its yellow, waxy finish, although a lovely buttery sauce made it edible.

A rack of Colorado lamb chops ordered medium was plopped on the table still oozing red juices. When my date asked to have them cooked as ordered, the kitchen cut them into individual pieces and seared them black. Even a fabulous rosemary-red wine reduction couldn’t resuscitate them. 

Lobster fettuccine was an expensive disappointment. The noodles were so dry that they curled along their edges. The anemic lobster was as chewy as an eraser. 

The only outstanding dish was the mille-feuille of Provençal vegetables. A tower of grilled organic eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms was like a vertical ratatouille with a zippy basil drizzle. 

Desserts might have been good if fresher. We chose a saucer-size pistachio macaron with raspberries. A smear of gold leaf lent a nice flair but, like the place itself, not enough to justify the price or calories.

A pretty setting, excellent sauces and slicked-back hair do not a fine French brasserie make.

Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense. Follow @MiamiHeraldFood on Twitter.

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