Restaurants & Bars 3

Miami report(long)

iron frank | Nov 15, 2001 02:43 PM

Thanks for all of the tips. This trip to Miami was the best one yet. Even though I was in a constant struggle with painful indigestion I survived to tell of many a fine meal.

Breakfasts:
Green Street Cafe in Coconut Grove.
Caviar omelette with potatoes and toast for $6.25???I couldn't resist. It was a salty mess of lower-grade caviar and I loved it. Only in Florida. Everything else here is of average quality.

The Front Porch Cafe: We always go here because of the location on Ocean Drive but it's the slightly more interesting menu and good service that keeps us coming back. The first day there I stuck with a couple of eggwhites and delicious pumpernickle raisin toast to soothe a very upset stomach. The return visit pulled me to my old favorite the Whole Wheat, honey, and Granola banana pancakes. These are two plate smothering discs of pleasure that will fill you up like nothing you've ever eaten. Too much for most human appetites, I cleared the plate and paid for it later.

Deli Lane Cafe:
For $2.50??? You get two pancakes, potatoes or grits, toast, coffee, and a choice of side meat. Decent but not great. The quality of ingredients weren't the best but at that price. The pricier items seemed enticing so next time I'll try the whole-wheat texas french toast or fruit pancakes. I still don't think it's earned it's top rating on Citysearch.

Lunch:
Paninoteca(Lincoln Rd.) Our goto guy that always belts out an amazingly tasty sandwich. The catch of the day seems to be salmon everyday now but the muffaleta was my trophy winner. Sold by the quarter of a sandwich this was a rich slice of a layered italian sandwich. It had a variety of Italian sliced salumeria style meats and a rouille on top of a tapenade of olives. Wonderful!
Quite a consistent place. When you're feeling healthy you can even get 7 grain bread grilled paninie style. Other winner is the veal steak with manchego cheese. The panini are much better than the pizza there for sure.

Pizza Rustica(washington ave.)
Thin, rectangular slices with an unremarkable sourdough esque crust but alluring toppings. I was suprised how tasty and fresh the bbq chicken pizza slice I ordered in a moment of insanity. Normally I'd look askance at any pizza involving a poultry product but these large chunks of extremely fresh and juicy chicken were delicious. It was all covered in a thin layer of sweet and hot bbq sauce.

The potato slice I brought home had a nice olive/rosemary flavor but obvously had no body when I ate it later from the fridge. The slices are huge, sicilian size bricks without the cushion of dough usually associated with square pizza. The servers were very friendly and the prices start at 2.50 for the margherita and go up to $4.00 for the meat based toppings(steak for instance). They're all worth the price for sure as they cut each large slice into six mini-squares perfect for sharing.

We stopped in, while I wasn't hungry, to the Latin American Cafeteria in Coconut Grove(the most chowhound recomended one). I warmed up my appetite with a bowl of delicios plantain soup covered in plantain chips. It was a garlicy, peppery delight. For drinks an oversweetened lemonade was too much but the Batida de Triga was amazingly good. Basically a tall glass of liquid breakfast cereal. A sweetened puffed wheat fans dream. As a cuban sandwich novice it was hard to differentiate from the nondescript menu of the differences in each sandwich(one was named after a woman). We got two regular cubans and a medianoche. The medianoche came on sweet egg bread and was nicely grilled. Well balanced though no trace of a pickle. The cubans were OVERstuffed with ham. Almost too much so that the grillman couldn't get it grilled effectively. I ate my medianoche and half a cuban. Needless to say this seriously put the hurt on my stomach.

Snack sandwiches at David's Cafe II on Meridian were no where near as good although the chicken sandwich was very fresh and clean it bordered on bland. The service at Chalan on the Beach on Washington was almost as bad as the food. The Peruvian fare appeared to focus more on quantity than quality so my family wouldn't eat there. I got a pescado sandwich to go which took almost half an hour to make giving me some seriously false hope of greatness. It ended up being a double-sized fillet-o-fish sandwich of the lowest order. Avoid in my opinion if only for the surly staff.

Dinner:

Tap Tap. A Haitian family style place on fifth st. In a city of colorful restaurants this place outdoes them all with their Haitian Folk Art. The service is very charming even in it's inefficiency. I started with pumpkin soup which was very tasty although not quite pumpkiny enough, more rootsy. I also got the grilled spiny lobster special which is by far the most expensive thing on menu at $16.95 and it was great. I have gotten the creole style conch in the past that was also very good. The grilled chicken is massive and well sauced in a smoky sweat bath of richness. My mom got a lightly fried fish which had a good lemon pepper bite. The weakness is in the heavy accompaniments such with which each dish comes rice and beans of your choice, fried plantains, or yucca fries. I asked for a substitution of boiled plantains but they said it would take 15 minutes because it would have to be made fresh(unlike the premade fried ones)and wanted to know if i was sure that I wanted it? It was laughable as most entrees seem to take a half hour anyways. It's probably worth the "wait" as the fried ones are leaded frisbees that are barely edible. Rice and beans are better but the ridiculously creamy coleslaw that comes with every order is all that you need. Not for the starchphobic.

The next night we ate at Shoji sushi owned by the Nemo's, Big Pink Mr. Shwartz? This place is much better than Toni's sushi overall. Excellent Sushi Samba-esque combo of ceviches and sushi. My family was thrilled with the very affordably priced grilled meats on the menu that came with a variety of dipping choices. Ceviche/Sushi combo was an excellent value. I substituted a tempura conch roll for the usual spicy tuna. The roll was So spicy with a green habanero paste on top but was refrigerated by the mango and advocado inside. The scallop and grouper ceviches were generous and very well flavored. A red onion/orange mix on the scallops was particularly delicious. Desserts were from the award winning pastry chef at Nemo's. The chocolate/cherry pudding souffle with creme fraiche accompaniment was meltingly intoxicating. Four little sweetened cherrys to dip into it added a complexity that most molten chocolate cakes lack. The green tea cheesecake tasted a bit flat. I don't know why it's so trendy to cook with green tea. It's not that tasty as a food additive and is hard enough to prepare properly as a beverage. Next time I'd get the home made ginger ale with coconut ice cream float. Highly Recomended!!!

Dinner at Suva was great because it pleased my family so much! I thought the portions were a bit stingy but the server did warn us that they had changed their policy about it being served for sharing. Without the double portions to share the average entree was 25 dollars and everything was a bit too underspiced and overcooked to be worth going to as a food destination. Very enjoyable for me though because it inspired some good food talk from my non-food obsessed relatives.

For dessert the gelato at Parmalat Gelateria on Lincoln Rd is always good. The best flavors are toasted almond which tastes as naturally toasty as it should, and coconut which is engorged with scads of fresh, shredded coconut.

At the airport I highly reccomend the La Carreta. I would go out to JFK every day if they had a branch of this excellent cuban chain out there. Instead we've got bagels for $2.20 that might as well be labeled Firestones they're so flat and rubbery. The food at La Carreta was fresh looking and had more soul than any food I've ever seen on my usual airport stopovers. I got a nice corn/ham stuffed tamale which was more comforting than flavorful. Rice and beans were very gutsy and made my fellow meal-less flight mates drool. The roast turkey sandwich was nothing more than lowgrade cold cuts but the Cuban sandwich tasted better than anyother thing I've eaten in the air. Particularly after being delayed for three hours due to missing airplane parts(how comforting!). Both sandwiches suffered from way too much time away from the grill but that's my fault as I was rationing food in case of more plane troubles.

All in all a great trip for eating and definately worth all of the heartburn.

Enjoy!
Frank

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