Culinary cage match: Mushrooms

Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!

At the relatively new Neptune, which is actually not that new, but its menu is, owner/chef Eugeny Shpak decided about a year ago that he wanted to try something different from his longstanding Russian menu, so he’s switched to a mostly seafood menu. Dishes like steamed head-on shrimp and mussels in cream sauce have a bright freshness that’s often elusive in Miami’s better seafood joints. He’s proud of these dishes, as he should be. What knocked me over the top, however, was not seafood at all, but a clear mushroom broth made from imported Russian porcinis. The mushrooms had a tasty softness and were a little warming on a cool night; if not for the body, then definitely for the soul. And everyone knows the Russian soul runs deep.

At North One10, celebrity chef Dewey LoSasso may not be as big of a celebrity as he deserves, but he certainly seems to serve a lot of celebrities. His North Miami boite is a must-stop on the visiting-chef tour of Miami, and his way with mushrooms (along with his larger-than-life persona), has got to be the biggest reason. My favorite treatment is the three mushroom risotto, which includes porcini, shiitake and portobello, and is topped off with a bit of Alba white truffle oil. The risotto is done with a firm hand, but it is not beaten into submission as is often the case in less-capable hands.

Published: 2/09

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