See and be seen -- eating the duck.
By Victoria Pesce Elliott
South Beach's newest little black dress is Phillipe in The Gansevoort, and it doesn't hurt that this bit of culinary couture comes from Manhattan, where chef Philippe Chow made his name at the venerable Mr. Chow (no relation). He went on his own in 2005 with Philippe New York, and has since expanded to Mexico as well as Miami Beach.
The prices are straight out of Manhattan, too, with $49 sweet and sour pork and $29 lobster spring rolls (both shareable). If you can handle the sticker shock, ogling the runway-worthy waiters and patrons is worth the price of admission, as is watching the noodle-stretching floor show. (The resulting noodles -- with veal and bean sauce -- were soggy the night we tried them.)
The menu is a bit convoluted, with many dishes offered for two or three to share but also in half orders. Given the party atmosphere, you may want to go with a crew and share lots of plates. You may also want earplugs, as the place gets so loud on weekend nights that you'll be hard-pressed to hear your date. (Invite the cute one, not the smart one.)
The subtly smoky, thin-brothed wonton soup has tender meat dumplings held together with a gossamer
wrapper. A crunchy shrimp spring roll is amazingly light and greaseless, and pan-fried pork dumplings are as good as youd find in any Chinatown shop. Other starters, including soggy "crispy seaweed," failed to inspire.
Seven Spice shrimp has more coating than I like, though the baby-lobster-size prawns are of exceptional quality. A simple side of broccoli served bright green and tasty gets an unnecessary, cornstarchy sauce. A thin-cut filet mignon is also treated to a spicy, bready coating and was so undercooked when ordered medium-rare that it was nearly bloody in the center. Though highly touted by the waiters, the chicken satays have an off-putting, Creamsicle hue and baby-food consistency.
The one dish worth raving about is the spectacular Peking duck -- as good as some versions I have sampled in Beijing and hands-down the best I have had in Miami, with crisp, lacquered skin, juicy, flavorful flesh and not a hint of gaminess or grease. Our smooth-talking French waiter struggled to prep the accompanying pancakes (we would have preferred doing it ourselves). Like most of the floor staff, he was better at wooing than waiting.
The wine list includes lots of trophy bottles and enough sippable by-the-glass options to match the many subtle and spicy flavors on the table.
Don't be deterred by the forlorn-looking dessert platter. It would be a shame to leave without trying the watermelon or red-grape sorbet -- you'll think you're eating subtly sweetened frozen fruit. A signature pear cake is equally worthwhile with its rich, buttery, not-too-sweet freshness. Don't overdo it, though, if you want to fit into this seasons hottest little number. Philippe at The Ganesvoort South, 2305 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-0250; noon-4 p.m. Thurs, Mon & Sat; 1:30-4 p.m. Sun; 6 p.m.- midnight Mon, Wed & Sun; 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Thurs-Sat. Appetizers $7-$14, entrees $21-$55, sides $5-$10, desserts $8-$12
FYI: Reservations strongly recommended; opentable.com. Full bar; corkage $35 (only special bottles not on
the list allowed). Metered street parking and valet. AX, DN, MC, VS.
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Chef Ming Law makes handmade noodles at Philippe, by Philippe Chow, 2305 Collins Ave. Photo: Marice Cohn Band.