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HOLLYWOOD (CBSMiami) – CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo joined celebrity chef Michael Schulson at Monkitail, his new modern Japanese hotspot inside the Diplomat Beach Hotel in Hollywood.

“This is what a hearts of palm looks like. It’s the inside of a palm tree. If you smell it, it smells sweet.” said Schulson, offering up the hearts of palm stalk to Petrillo. “Everyone is always looking for a salad and that kale thing, so 2000! If we talk about kale again, I’m gonna kill somebody!”

Schulson has nine restaurants to his name in all styles of food. Monkitail is a contemporary take on the classic Japanese izakaya, featuring shareable small plates and sushi. His love of food began when he was hanging around his grandfather, who was a kosher butcher.

“It was really interesting. My brother used to make fun of me when I would go in kitchen and cook and he’d say, ‘Why aren’t you out playing sports? You’re such a loser.’ It turned out all right for me.  I’m the one laughing at my brother now,” said Schulson.

The look of Monkitail is warm and inviting. Guests will not feel as they are in a hotel restaurant and that’s his goal. It seats about 220 all in. An elegant center dining room, a hipster sushi bar and a karaoke room for after dining fun.

“I’d say the key to the success of a restaurant is the ability to transport people. If you think about food. 10 years ago, you would go to movie and dinner. Now you just go to dinner so we are the show now,” he said.

Petrillo’s tasting began with the signature Monkitail cocktail. It starts with a blow torch. Clove and cinnamon are burned and then cupped to create a smoky feeling for their upgraded Manhattan.

Next, that Hearts of Palm Salad.

“I can tell you what I’m not missing – and that’s the lettuce,” said Petrillo after tasting.

“You’re not missing the kale either,” Schulson said laughing.

“It’s really simple dressing, really nice,” said Petrillo. “It’s light clean refreshing perfect for warm weather.”

The edamame dumplings are delicate and elegant.

“It has a little truffle. Do you taste the truffle?” asked said Schulson.

“Yes, there’s truffle. That’s a delicacy. I have never had anything like that before,” said Petrillo.

The big eye tuna roll has tuna tempura shrimp with nori, avocado, and wasabi.

“You can taste that sweet, salty and spicy. So many flavors all together in one. It’s special, and the avocado gives it a softness on top,” said Petrillo.

The duck scrapple bao bun is a sight to see. It has duck confit and pickled cucumber.

“There’s a sweet, not too sweet and a heat as well. It’s really nice,” said Petrillo.

At Monkitail the magic is everywhere but most definitely on the plate.

Monkitail is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner.

For more info: www.monkitail.com.

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