January 17, 2005 | Ask Gael
After Rocco, what? And should we care?

        Numbing and mysterious Brazilian tricks tumbling out of the kitchen at Caviar & Banana Brasserio have swiftly exorcised the ghost of the house that used to be Rocco’s. Colorful, stretchy rag-wrapped banquettes and a vision of Carmen Miranda cheering on loo-seekers are smart tweaks on what looks like a modest redesign budget (but probably wasn’t). I actually like oysters bearing spicy gazpacho, a swampy melt of crab and taro purée, and “carioca bread” standing in for pizza - specifically the Lagoa (shrimp, lobster, grilled cashews, and coconut essence on mozzarella). Churrascos of beef tenderloin or fat chunks of yellowfin (with grilled fruits and vegetables on escorting skewers) are a sight for jaded eyes. But Rio star chef Claude Troisgros’ signature big taro raviolo is mush to me. This scion of Michelin royalty in France hooked up in South Beach with irrepressibly fecund restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow, the Daddy Warbucks here. Excellent seared foie gras honors the chef’s heritage, but the cloyingly sweet mango below is a mistake. Indeed, too much is too sweet. Why so expensive? “Everything is meant to share,” I’m told. (Our obedient quartet divides three tuna medallions.) Give me that gilded pizza and the hulking samba burger with greasy yucca fingers and I’ll stop complaining.

12 East 22nd Street near Broadway 212 353 0500