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Lemoncello Cake at Miami Café

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Restaurant attached to a nightclub? That's always a gamble. Very little has been written about Miami Café, which is connected to the late-night spot and gay bar Amsterdam, so curiosity (and its convenient downtown location) really drove this dining decision. This is the kind of place that only seems cool after a few drinks when the evening is in full swing, but it's quiet on weekdays during dinner service -- real quiet. The atmosphere is loud, however, with bright neon colors giving it a Miami vibe. There's also a massive hot pink elephant head staring down from behind the bar.

See also: - Pie Social 2012: The Winners - A Humbling (Pie) Experience: Judging the Third Annual Pie Social

If you're in the mood for savory food, skip the salads and do yourself a favor by ordering the crab and artichoke pizza topped with scallions and lemon juice. There are other pizzas to choose from too, including Caribbean jerked chicken, Cuban pulled pork, and margherita. The dessert menu, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. When asked about it, the server said they no longer carry sorbet. That leaves two options for dessert: flourless chocolate cake (after Francesca Bianco's version, it's tough to order anyone else's) and lemoncello cake.

One word comes to mind when thinking back on this dessert: uninspired. That's not to say that it tastes bad. In fact the first bite was pretty good, but after the initial taste, it became a one-note wonder very quickly. There's no dimension to the flavor profile, so there's nothing to really savor. Even the frosting was really average. Nothing stood out about it, good or bad, except that it (thankfully) wasn't sickeningly sweet. The lemon frosting tasted almost exactly like the lemon cake itself, so all that can be said about this in the end is that it's a very lemony dessert. Since those just so happen to be my favorite, I was still happy to be eating it, but the real downfalls of this cake were illuminated a few days later at the Pie Social.

The People's Choice award at this year's Pie Social went to Slade Grove for an outstanding lemoncello custard pie. Its flavor profile incorporated more than just lemoncello, which is what made it worthy of winning a prize. The basic custard pie, a delicious filling alone, rested in a salted milk crust. Then it was topped with a generous helping of Grand Marnier whipped cream and finished with lemon and orange zest curls. The additional citrus notes upgraded this pie from a standard lemon. In contrast, Miami Café's lemoncello cake is lemon cake with lemon frosting -- just a little too simple.

The cake is so simple that it seems store-bought, or at least homemade with little to no imagination and an easy recipe (although I wouldn't go so far as to say it resembles a box mix). Would I eat it again? Yeah, I'm not going to lie and say otherwise. If you happen to be dancing nearby and work up an appetite for dessert, this is a safe choice that probably won't disappoint you (especially if it's going to soak up several martinis). But should you go out of your way to order it? No way. Maybe someone in the kitchen at Miami Café can put in a call to Slade Grove Creative Gourmet and arrange to serve his lemoncello pie instead.

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