foodieinmiami

South Florida Restaurant Reviews

Goodbye, Farewell

 

Sadly, this will be my last ‘Foodie In Miami’ post, as my DH and I are packing up and moving to Brooklyn next week.

While we are sad to leave our home of the last 4+ years and all the wonderful places to eat we’ve discovered and the chefs we have come to love, it’s time to turn the page and explore new things. A whole new city awaits.

I won’t be blogging in this space any longer, but I will be continuing my photography/food/life blog, Gastography, and will be picking up the restaurant review mantle once again with Oh No! Not Another NYC Food Blog!

I will still be findable on Twitter as well, with the handle @cochrancj.

Farewell, Miami. We will miss your color, riot of styles and bumpin’ daytime dance music (especially the song we’ve come to dub ‘The Miami Song’ — you know, that one you hear coming from someone’s stereo while walking anywhere that might even eventually lead to the beach).

 

 

Caribbean Delite

Caribbean restaurant catering to the Trinidadian community in South Miami. This is the place Trinis go when they need a taste of home, and a great treat for us to visit. My DH and I have limited exposure to Caribbean food as a whole, but especially the food that distinguishes Trinidad. It was a real treat getting to experience this place in the hands of a seasoned veteran. None other than our culinary partner in crime, Kevin (@fuji27). Not only is he a fellow cuisine and photography enthusiast, he also just happens to be originally from Trinidad, with many close ties to the country. To see more about the beauty of Trinidad, check out his award-winning video, Timelapsing Through Trinidad.

What we had:

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Parata Goat with Roti — This was a nice goat curry with potato, gravy, and shots of a really clear, vibrant hot pepper sauce. The roti was roti — frickin great and slathered with ghee. Nobody said it was health food ­čÖé

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Chicken dal Porri — This was a lightly curried wrap with yellow split peas, juicy hunks of chicken and potato. Very familiar and very good.

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Aloo Pie – A fried potato hand pie, much like a Jamaican patty. A nice light potato taste. Very mild.

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Doubles — This was two flat rounds of a pillowy dough sandwiching a light chickpea and potato curry.

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Pillori — Trini hushpuppies. Deep fried light and doughy mildly curried balls with a bright tamarind sauce. I can’t decide if this was my favorite, or if it was the dal poori. I loved the crepe-thin wrap dough, but these puppies were like little lumpkins of love. And I’m a sucker for tamarind.

D├ęcor:

Very minimal. This place has a couple of tables and that’s about it. It’s a dive, but you don’t come here for the decor.

Service:

We visited with a regular customer, so I’m sure the level of familiarity directed at our table was something a little different than if we were off the street.

Overall impressions:

What strikes me is just how similar Trini food is to Indian food. Of course, there is a fair amount if historical cultural overlap, but it was very interesting to come across some old favorite tastes in a seemingly new-to-me cuisine.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders

Football Sandwich Shop

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Sub shop in Little Haiti. We’ve lived 5 blocks from here for two years, but only recently found out about it by complete chance. My DH was seated next to a friendly flight attendant on a recent flight, and he suggested it. Yay, coincidence.

What we had:

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My DH had the Zonker – A sub on a fresh white roll with salami, ham and provolone.

I had a similar sandwich, only with Swiss instead of provolone.

Both sandwiches were great. Good quality fresh bread, nice meat ratio, good quality meat, nice cheese.

In a subsequent visit we had hot subs. I had a hot salami and roast beef with thousand island dressing, which was good, but my DH’s steak & cheese really stole the show. Holy crap, that sandwich is amazing.

D├ęcor:

The building is a shade or two darker than Pepto Bismol, with bars on the windows and formica-topped cafe tables on the front porch.

Service:

Super friendly counter service, and they even run your food out.

Overall impressions:

I am angry that I’m just now discovering this place right before we move. This place is fabulous, and something I’ve been craving the whole 4 years we’ve lived here: a real sub shop for locals. It isn’t fancy, but it’s good. Both times we have eaten there, multiple cars of Miami Dade’s finest were also having lunch. Now, if you know cops, you’ll know they always have a bead on the best lunch places around. Parking lot full of squad cars = always good food for a good value.

Rating:

4.5 out of 5 salamanders

la Cigale Bistro Marseilles

Little French bistro in MiMo – located in the same little strip of shops Le Cafe used to occupy. We stopped in for a weekday lunch on a whim because our standby on that block, Devita’s, wasn’t open that day.

What we had:

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I had the Champagnard Panini – grilled chicken and olive tapenade on crusty bread. Simple and delicious. The chicken was actually juicy and the sandwich wasn’t greasy in the slightest.

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My DH had the Croque Monsieur – and he loved it. Just the right amount of good b├ęchamel, nice quality ham and good cheese.

The fries were also nice.

The table next to us had the onion soup, and raved about it.

Note: The sandwiches are on a separate menu from the main dishes. I imagine that they were a last minute addition to appeal to American lunch sensibilities.

D├ęcor:

Cute. Very simple and modern with splashes of Marseilles.

Service:

Friendly & charming French waiter, who if he isn’t the owner, is at least a manager. The chef was also very friendly and concerned whether we liked our meals.

Overall impressions:

I was a little worried about this place since its taken a year to open, but that worry was needless. This place is good, and if they keep the concern for customers up, I see a long future.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders

Sushi Samba – Miami Dromo

Lincoln Road outpost of the Sushi Samba chain helmed by chef Michael Bloise, formerly of American Noodle Bar.

What we had:

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Crispy Yellowtail Taquitos – A ceviche of yellowtail, avocado, shiso and (supposedly) fresh corn topped with shredded Napa cabbage & radish in a crispy wonton taco shell. Served with a shot of spicy aji panca sauce – (tasted like a mix of Korean gojuchang and soy sauce). These weren’t bad, though I have no idea where the corn was, and a taco isn’t a taquitio, even if you’re cooking “fusion”. A tiny appetizer, and waaayyy overpriced at $3 a bite, but hey, it’s Lincoln Road. It’s to be expected.

Gunkan (1-bite rolled nigiri) with Wagyu, quail egg yolk, potato paille and sea salt. This was an ok bite. Couldn’t tell if it was beef or salmon, since the piece was so thin. The quail egg was nice (raw), but I’m a well-documented sucker for eggs. I had no idea potato was in the mix until I just looked up the description.

BoBo Brazil roll – Seared wagyu beef, avocado, kaiware, shiso, red onion and chimichurri ponzu. This roll was so so. Trying to slam too many disharmonious flavors together & just missed mark. I still couldn’t taste the Wagyu. The chimichurri was also weird. I think it was solely shisho, which is waaayyy too strong an herb to pesto.

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El Topo┬« Roll – Salmon, jalape├▒o, shiso leaf and fresh melted mozzarella topped with crispy onion. This was the standout dish in an otherwise unmemorable meal. The combo sounds weird, but it works (though the jalape├▒o made no presence). You’d think the cheese would be gross, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. It just leant structure and a little wtf? to the flavor profile.

D├ęcor:

No idea, we ate outside with the streaming hordes walking past. Note: the chairs have very thin metal legs with no caps, so when the drag on the concrete, it makes a bone-rattling noise. If you’re sensitive to that sound like I am, maybe eat inside.

Service:

Omfg. Our server was just weird. Dippy, awkward, had zero idea what to do, and Lincoln Road slow, to boot. Luckily, the manager (also an odd bird) was around to bring the check.

Overall impressions:

Meh. I could have waited another 5 years to stop in. The concept is neat, but the execution wasn’t the best ever.

Rating:

3 out of 5 salamanders, mainly because of that topo roll. The rest I could have done without.

Triad Seafood

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Fresh Stone Crabs from the source in Everglades City.

What we had:

1 lb. medium claws + 2 sides. I had the macaroni salad and sweet potato fries, and my DH had the regular fries and black beans.

The sides were decent (except for the exceptionally greasy sweet potato fries), but the real story here is the crab. Yum. Stone crab is one of those things you have to eat at least once per season if you live down here. This place does them up right. You’re steps away from the boats that harvest the little buggers — can’t get much fresher than that.

D├ęcor:

It’s all outside dining in either the screened patio, picnic tables or benched hall. All waterfront.

Service:

Efficient.

Overall impressions:

A great place for a seasonal fix.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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New Southern food resto/bourbon bar off Lincoln Road helmed by Chef Jeff McInnis late of GiGi’s and Top Chef fame.

Never fear. McInnis is more than just a pretty face or reality show contestant; the man can cook. This menu pays loving homage to the South as an ideal, bringing humble fair such as grits, fried chicken & biscuits to South Beach crowds in a relaxed atmosphere.

What we had:

We came for lunch on a Sunday, about an hour after they opened for the day. The restaurant was busy, but not overly so.

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I had the chicken biscuit: two southern-style biscuits with fried chicken tenders and pepper jelly.

This dish was fantastic. The biscuits are the stuff dreams are made of (especially for this quasi-Southern girl); flaky, tender, buttery, golden & delicious. The chicken was also something special — juicy, a little spicy, crispy and perfect.

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My DH got the burger. To put it mildly, this was not a good dish. So-so meat, house sauce not to his particular taste, and a bun that disintegrated the second bite in. I didn’t taste the burger, but he was so unhappy with it he gave up after three bites.

Luckily, just as he was giving up, the waiter appeared to check on us and was more than happy to take the offending dish away. Our server was all about making us happy, and brought us another order of chicken biscuits to make up for it. We were also alerted that the burger will not be on the menu for long. The burger was comped.

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We also had a side of waffle fries with bacon salt. The fries were pretty great, though I never seemed to get a bacon salty bite. My DH did, and he was all about them.

D├ęcor:

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Weathered woods, chalkboards, exposed Edison bulbs and farm fresh flower accents make for a relaxed and open atmosphere.

Service:

Everyone was Southern hospitality friendly, from the hostess to the floor managers, our assisting server and primary server.

Overall impressions:

Even though the semi-hokey Southern sayings had me worried about the authenticity of this place before it even opened, I am happy to report that Southern ex-pats now have a place they can grab a biscuit to quell the homesickness. I am also happy to report that they are steering clear of anything calling itself Carolina-style BBQ. Yay.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders but may creep higher. We will be back for dinner, and will be sticking strictly to Southern dishes (shrimp & grits and pimento cheese here I come and fingers crossed for greens)!

Update: the original review was done in October, shortly after opening. We’ve been back for brunch and Yardbird is now firmly in the 5 category. Spectacular* chicken n’ waffles, and ham & eggs. And the biscuits….. the biscuits!!

* DH’s note: the ratio of waffle to chicken is off. It needs more waffle or less chicken. Everything together in 1 bite is spectacular. The chicken on its own is on the bland side.

Make reservations in advance… this place is always packed!

Lung Gong

Chinese restaurant that caters to the Chinese population in South Miami. We visited with our what’s good to eat down south/ authentic cuisine expert & photography cohort Kevin (@fuji27). This is somewhere he visits often and a must stop for out of town visitors.

What we had:

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Hot & Sour Soup – this was fabulous, and if not my favorite example of this often underseasoned dish, at least top 3.

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Beef Lo Mein – nice and satisfying, with beef that is way more tender than it has a right to be. This dish was just on the edge of familiar comfort for me – reminded me of beef bourginon. The noodles were nice, too. Yum.

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Ma Pao Tofu – this was the surprise smash hit of the evening. My tofu hating DH absolutely loved it. Spicy, flavorful, and well textured, this dish really knocked it out if the park.

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Chinese Broccoli with garlic – kai-lan is kind of a tradition when we hit a Chinese joint with Kevin. We both love it, and he knows how I like to have a green vegetable with dinner, so we always order a side. This was great (and maybe even a hair better than Kon Chau).

D├ęcor:

Not fancy, but it gets the job done.

Service:

Efficient and friendly (we were with a regular).

Overall impressions:

If you’re tired of heavily sauced and too salty American-style Chinese food and happen to be down south, this is the place to go. Not the best for dim sum (Kon Chau holds that distinction), this is a great lunch or dinner spot.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen

During a trip tooling around the Keys on a lazy Saturday afternoon, we drove past this restaurant located at Mile Marker 99.4 in Islamorada toward the end of breakfast time, and it was packed. On the way back home, we decided to give it a go and it was still packed. A good sign.

What we had:

My DH had what was possibly the best Philly cheesesteak either of us has ever tasted. He was drawn in by the promise of house cooked prime rib, and he was pleasantly surprised. The fries served alongside were something special as well – puffy, almost hollow, deep fried rounds with fluffy potatoey innards.

I had the grilled Hogfish platter with black beans and rice. This was a nice piece of delicate-yet-meaty white fish, though by the end of the generous portion I was wishing for a touch more seasoning (or even a kiss of butter). The rice & beans were home made and tastily seasoned as well.

We also split a slice of key lime pie. It’s touted as world famous (it was featured in Cosmo), and it was a good representation of real, authentic key lime pie – sweet, tart, creamy, good and not bright green.

D├ęcor:

Kitschy like pretty much everywhere in the Keys, but pleasantly so. License plate decor.

Service:

The staff was very friendly, despite being incredibly busy. This restaurant is opening a second location across street soon and it is sorely needed. Our server said they have to turn customers away at times, sometimes by the bus load, and they hate to disappoint. Not only a tourist destination for people who have read anout it or heard the buzz, this place is popular among locals (and former locals) as well.

Overall impressions:

A great find. The menu has something for everyone, and based upon what we had, I would hazard to guess that the majority of it won’t disappoint.

No pics because I was busy eating & chatting.

Rating:

4 out of 5 salamanders

Tudor House

Tudor House is a recent addition to the South Beach dining scene helmed by newly-minted Iron Chef America Geoffrey Zakarian and executive chef Jamie Derosa. Tudor House is located in the ground floor of the Dream Hotel (once the Tudor House Hotel), and serves “casual” (casual for Zakarian) American fare – breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, room service and beach bites to go.

What We Had

Pretzel bread with port and red wine mustard – this was the ‘table bite’ and one of the best things we ate all evening. The mustard was awesome, and the bites were perfectly dense.

French Onion Dip with House Made Chips – This rendition is the polar opposite of Michael’s Genuine – refined, melted onions with vinegar and maybe a dollop of butter. The dip was great (though Michael’s Genuine is still our favorite there), but the chips were greasier than we would have liked.


English Pea Soup with Lime Marshmallows – This dish was good but strangely clunky – a velvety base of peas, cream, chicken stock and white pepper came topped with almost as-cool-as-they-sound lime marshmallows and pea tendrils, as well as with unappealing thyme sticks & peppercorn chunks. Minus the clunky sticks & pepper bombs, this dish was good. The lime marshmallows didn’t have the bright zesty pop I had expected, lending more of a subtle flavor and semi-textural component.


White Corn Angnolotti with Burgundy Black Truffles – This dish was small in serving size, clocking a half dozen very al dente pasta pillows with delicate cheese filling, a sweet on the verge of salty cream sauce, shaved asparagus, truffle shavings, basil leaves and pecorino. Despite the small serving size and almost too salty sauce, I liked this dish. I’m a sucker for truffle, and while I would have liked more truffle hit (the pecorino, basil and sauce drowned the truffle punch out), it was still a good dish.


Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Gingered Slaw – Crazy good chicken skin, juicy chicken meat and a great dilled ranch – this was a great dish. The slaw was bright and crisp, acting as a nice palate cleanser.

Where my pasta dish was on the diminutive side, this dish was huge. I had half a meal; this was a meal and a half, with 3 pieces of chicken (2 dark and 1 white).


Moscow Mule – Russian standard vodka with ginger beer & lime juice. This was a nice cocktail, and large. Not to mention, it was served in a really cool copper mug.

We also had some after dinner dessert amuse bouches, including a white chocolate lollipop, the best flan I’ve ever eaten (seriously. I had zero idea flan could be this good), and a milk chocolate/cocoa nib truffle that was knock-your-socks-off.

Decor

We ate our meal in the huge but cozy outdoor dining space. The outdoor dining space is like a very large lanai, with modern teak seating, glass tables and romantic lighting. A nice spot for a meal and screened from the street by large planter boxes.

Service

Great service. We were the first table in for dinner service (6:00 p.m.), so the restaurant wasn’t terribly busy when we arrived. Our server was personable, warm, and enthusiastic about what he was serving. A great first impression.

Overall Impressions

As far as Food Network Personality chef restaurants go, this one fares better than average. The restaurant is still new, so I’m sure they are still ‘working the bugs out’ as it were, but the meal wasn’t bad. Not as top notch as we had hoped based on the type of food fresh in our minds from The Next Iron Chef (we followed closely, rooting for Zakarian to win), but it wasn’t bad. We will definitely have to visit again. Way better than fellow Iron Cheffer Bobby Flay’s MESA.

Rating

My DH wants to rate Tudor House 3.5 for value for money – namely for the portion size of my pasta vs. its price. I argue that even though the pasta was pricey, it had white truffle shavings, wasn’t as expensive as Scarpetta’s non-truffled spaghetti (although volume-wise, it was smaller). I think Tudor House warrants a 3.75 or even a 4 (mainly because the chicken was excellent and the rest of the meal had so much promise).