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Miami Danny

Hidden Gems of Miami

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I'd like to start with Yako-san 17040 W. Dixie Hwy in N. Miami Beach. This is a real Japanese restaurant that features home cooking and appetizer-sized plates for the most part, so you can try a lot of very different stuff. I started with the Cobia sashimi, fried Chrysanthemums, and deep-fried Bok Choy-a must! Followed by something whose name I can't recall but there's a whole section of it-basically, fermented beans-very slimy and gooey, but it grows on you. I also had what can only be described as potato jello, very odd but appealing. I had a soba with a fish broth which was a great palate cleanser, followed by a miso black cod that was cooked perfectly. Had a few more items I can't remember, but there wasn't an off-note in the entire meal, and I remember ordering some more unusual stuff. Washed it all down with a very nice Sake that was on special-marked down from $60 to $40-they have a pretty decent selection of large and small bottles, not too cheap, but a couple of bargains. The service is great-the customers at the next table sent their food back because it was not what they thought they had ordered, and the waitress and manager were very nice about it. A bit perfunctory, but also professional and courteous, which is important, because you may need some items explained to you! They have a great blackboard of daily specials, and some stuff in Japanese that isn't always translatable. The check came in under $100 incl. tax, with the sake, and about 8 or 9 (or 10) items. (Sorry, I've lost my notes!) It's in a nondescript strip off Biscayne Blvd, but on the plus side, there's plenty of parking. A mixed crowd (you name it) adds to the charm, and the staff greets you like old friends, even if it's your first visit. You may see some chefs here late night, as they are open til 3:30 AM!

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Followed by something whose name I can't recall but there's a whole section of it-basically, fermented beans-very slimy and gooey, but it grows on you.  I also had what can only be described as potato jello, very odd but appealing.

Were the slimy beans natto?

Was the potato jello Konyakku?

I have been meaning to try this place for a few months now. Thanks for the review. I heard it is owned by the family that owns HIRO just East of there.

Rich


South Florida

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I've only been once as the traffic going up Biscayne goes at a snail's pace even after rush hour. Hopefully the construction will end soon. One thing I noticed was the diversity of fresh fish. They had pompano, which I've only seen at more chi-chi places, and at a great price. The service was good and all the food was tasty. My only drawback was that the decor looked like something jetissoned from the 80's to 2005. Other than that, it's a keeper. Can't wait for Hiro's to open on Biscayne since I'm not too much of a fan of Sushi Siam.

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I've only been once as the traffic going up Biscayne goes at a snail's pace even after rush hour.  Hopefully the construction will end soon.  One thing I noticed was the diversity of fresh fish.  They had pompano, which I've only seen at more chi-chi places, and at a great price.  The service was good and all the food was tasty.  My only drawback was that the decor looked like something jetissoned from the 80's to 2005.  Other than that, it's a keeper.  Can't wait for Hiro's to open on Biscayne since I'm not too much of a fan of Sushi Siam.

If you take the back way-NE 6th Av bear right on W.dixie, it's much faster. And you get to see some real nabes!

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Casa Toscana-Great, inexpensive Italian food in a nice atmo, in Miami, without the attitude. Chef Sandra Stefani is a veteran of DC and Miami kitchens, having cooked alongside the best. Her pasta Bolognese may be the best I've ever had. Specials every night include:Osso Bucco over Parmesan polenta-outstanding-tender yet meaty in a long, slow-cooked way, and the gnocchi are simple yet every mouthful feels new. Desserts are homemade in-house, and she has some great dessert wines and Amarones to accompany them, or just as a digestif. The wines are reasonable-but there are some more expensive bottles as well. No wine list-ask and she will hook you up! 7001 Biscayne Blvd www.casatoscanmiami.com Street traffic on Biscayne can be very interesting OR disturbing, depending on your tastes-the inside dining room is cozy, and there is a pleasant garden out back. Decent amount of parking helps. For after dinner, have a glass of wine in the garden, or there is Jamboree next door-an old line gay bar that's been there for about a hundred years-so if you see a coupla muscle guys in tight leather T's that's probably where they're going. Although in Miami, you never know!

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You are composing my where-I-want-to-go list for me. Thanks! ...All these places, and Stop Miami. :smile:


Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Let's keep the list going. Just north of 79th St. on Biscayne there's a taco stand that opened a few months ago called Taco Max. As an L.A. native I've missed Mexican food since I arrived here (and no, Rancho Grande and Toro Taco do not fit the bill by a longshot). The taco shop is the type of place that would flourish given a better location. Unfortunately, they're one of the pioneers of the Blvd actually opening north of the imaginary 79th St. border. But the important thing is the food. Great variety of tacos the likes of which you don't find in Miami. Pork rind tacos (don't knock it till you tried it), sweetbreads, as well as cochinita and other more typical varieties. Most of the sodas are Mexican Jarritos, the tortillas are fresh (not made in-house, but good enough) and the staff is friendly. More locations to open soon around Miami. It's definitely a keeper and fills a void for good, cheap Mexican in MIA.

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So I already mentioned Captain Jim's in the "where else for stone crabs" forum.

There are two other really great places near my neighborhood that I find myself returning to all the time. One is Burrito's, on 125th and NE 8th Ave. I'm a native Texan and miss Tex-Mex, but this comes close to fulfilling those needs. It's Yucatan style Mexican food, cooked on a grill right in front of you, and it is GOOD. The cochinita pibil, apparently a traditional type of Yucatan pork, is fabulous, especially in the huge burrito Maya. The tamales are great (coming from someone who grew up eating tamales cooked by Mama Ruben in Texas) and the guacamole is some of the best I've ever had. I try to make my guacamole at home taste like theirs, but haven't quite gotten it right yet. They have enchiladas de mole as a special most days, which is incredible.

Another awesome place is Frankie's, on US1 and NE 80 something. It's a sub shop. They make everything, even the barbecue sauce, from scratch there. The subs are awesome. They have great phillies and one of my personal favorites is the mulberry - a sub with roasted pork (roasted there, of course) with some spinach, garlic, and provolone. And I usually have them add sauteed mushrooms.

My only complaint is that ALL THREE of these places are closed on Sundays! (But maybe that's a good thing, because it's my one consistent chance to go somewhere else.)


"God give us good taste, why bother?" Captain Jim's Sushi Chef

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Casa Toscana-Great, inexpensive Italian food in a nice atmo, in Miami, without the attitude.  Chef Sandra Stefani is a veteran of DC and Miami kitchens, having cooked alongside the best.  Her pasta Bolognese may be the best I've ever had. 

Isn't she from a little town between Florence and Lucca?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Jumbo's on 75th Street and 441/7th Avenue is a GREAT place for old school Miami fried food. Plus, they have great beets. You've never seen a chicken wing this big, I once ordered one that was 8 inches long! I've eaten there many times, but never ordered a burger, everyone around me always gets shrimp, I don't know, it's just great, and open 24hours a day, too. Nary a tourist except during WMC and Art Basel, because we tend to take a lot of starving artists there for a fix.

Peoples BBQ- 360 NW 8 Street, DON'T walk there, even if you live in the towers on 1st ave- we did a couple of times(hey, we were CRAVING) and weren't comfortable on the walk back to the studios.

BUT, still, amazing Florida style sauce, lots of amazing sides too. Chicken that falls off of the bone, really.

Delicias Del Mar- On Biscayne around 29the Street. Order the Calamari and be happy.The dried corn atop it is amazing stuff, as is the 'salsa'. I've also gone with almost no money for lunch and had cheese potatoes, you can't imagine how good and simple those can be!

La Loggia- I dunno, it's on Flagler, just walk to the library and MAM, where you should be going a lot anyway! This place has a great mix of clientele. The lunch ceowd is all business and law, the courthouse is RIGHT across the street, after all. dinner on the weeknights is the best. This place ahs a great bar, too, and you can order food at the bar. My kid loves the carpaccio, she can eat a few orders of THAT alone! Me? The gnocchi is first rate, as is most of the rest of the menu. Why this place isn't more of a destination is beyond me. for lunch I prefer to sit on the terrace, the interior is too loud and crowded for me, and I think the service is better when you aren't a part of the mob.


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You know, I end up at Sushi Siam on Lincoln Road a lot. They were great up until about 2 years ago or so. The service is up and down, the food is as well. I ask to see the uni before I order it because they always say it's fresh but a few times it's been wilted and sad. I can't trust the sushi guy to tell me if it's actually good or not. that's terrible. I guess I'm just too lazy to get in the car and drive down to Matsuri's. Besides, I remember the good days there, and I keep thinking it will happen again. Bad girl.


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Casa Toscana-Great, inexpensive Italian food in a nice atmo, in Miami, without the attitude.  Chef Sandra Stefani is a veteran of DC and Miami kitchens, having cooked alongside the best.  Her pasta Bolognese may be the best I've ever had. 

Isn't she from a little town between Florence and Lucca?

Not really a town-it's more like a women's prison for young and hopeless girls whose only recourse to escape the patriarchical wrath was thru marionette twining, and syphillis. Nothing sadder than a syphylitic puppet. But as one who had mastered the art of the puttanesca, even she must suffer.

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Thought of Casa Toscana so I stopped there the other night for a chat with the owner, Sandra Stefani. She is in the kitchen three nights a week, cooking her own recipes-always worth the trip. Michele Bernstein has opened Michy's next door (well, on the other side of the motel), and this part of Biscayne is looking better every day. I happened to catch Michele's performance on Iron Chef vs Bobby Flay-I thought he basically mailed it in while she came up with some really well-thought-out stuff. Anyone else see it? Really stupid show, but she added some warmth to it.


Edited by Miami Danny (log)

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My wife and I have only been here for a year, so we are still in "exploration mode" but I'll weigh in with props to the southern reaches...

"Prezzemolo" pizza in the Gables (on Le Juene) is better than any pizza I have tasted while living in NY, SF and DC (and have had a fair amount of the stuff in Italy). Really really good, really authentic pizza- wonderful crusts, and fabulous toppings. Love the quattro fromagio.

We also just found Matsuri after a full year of trecking to Sushi Samba for over-priced, but okay fish. I can't believe the freshness at Matsuri- I would love to know where they get their fish. Great fried octupus legs app. too. YUM!

We also spend a good share of money at Jaguar stuffing ourselves with ceviche. Maybe a little "coco-walkey" but if you are in the 'hood I do recommend it.

Finally, Lung Gong for Chinese. It's a trek even for us and we are in the Gables, but the food is sublime. If anyone is ever up for trying some of the best Chinese you will ever put in your mouth, throw out a post- we are always looking for an excuse to go. Roasted pork with vegetables, exquisite dumplings, ground pork and scallion noodles, wonderful dim sum are just a few of the highlights.

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We went to Hiro's Yakko-San tonight and also had a great experience. Vegetable tempura, grilled pork belly, miso soup, udon, soba and red bean ice cream were all great. Sitting at the bar gave us a good view of things to order next time as well. We'll surely go back. Anybody know what the guys working the line say to people as the walk in?

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I think Miami boasts its share of ambitious restaurants where chefs push the envelope of what they can do, we dine at Duo in downtown (S Miami Ave at 14) very often and Maria Frumkin has thrived on a different idea. Her restaurant doesn’t try to dazzle diners with how fancy the food can be. Instead, she revels in the flavor and texture of ingredients, and her creations always, always cozy up to wine which to me is very important.

Make sure you don't miss dessert; Frumkin's experience working at patisseries in France (and at The French bakery in Bay Harbor) comes across in yummy dessert plates such as a soft, velvety, dulce de leche crème brulee and doughnuts of surprising intensity.

Many high-profile chefs get so wrapped up in their fancy presentations and clever ideas that wine becomes an afterthought—not so Frumkin. She and her husband offer pristine, utterly natural food that encourages a good glass of wine to come alive

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Renaisa, Indian food on the 'waterfront' of NE 78th St! It's so charming, and the food is teriffic. The view used to include hookers fishing off the bridge, but now it's just some bobbing boats being patrolled by big, silent dogs. Times have changed. When I was there last week, the service and staff were top-notch, very welcoming and friendly. The place has undergone a facelift and the owner is now managing as well.

It's a funky place, and pretty inexpensive. It's also BYOB, so that saves you some serious coin. I went around the corner to the gas station (gotta love FLA)and bought a six of Prestige. Two of us had an assortment of breads, all very flaky, and some crunchy chapatis w/raita and some chutney. We especially liked the naan topped with everything. The vegetable fritters were light and tasty, nice and aromatic and spicy, followed by a goat dish, vindaloo, I think, which was served with fluffy basmati rice. Traditionally spiced, very warm and satifying. The spiciness of the dish can be adjusted by the kitchen, so make sure you ask for your desired hotness. Two of us split it all, and we were stuffed. They also do a 'traditional oven' thing, tandoori, but I've forgotten what they call it. Extensive vegetarian selections, of course, and halal meat. Very nice 'find' (although it's been here for years), and plenty of parking, too, although we walked the few blocks from our home (just like in a REAL city!). It's half a block east of Biscayne on the south (waterfront) side. Check for 2 B4 tax and tip about $49.


Edited by Miami Danny (log)

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S and S Diner is a throwback-sitting across from a cemetary, on a seedy stretch of NE 2nd Ave, you step back in time for a real diner lunch. While construction cranes hover everywhere like enormous birds of prey, this corner landmark goes about its business with a staff and kitchen that seems to have been frozen in time, although which time is long forgotten. Soon it too will succumb, as a developer has bought the property-plans for the new development include S&S, but we shall see. Plenty of free parking in the back, and as you walk past the open door to the kitchen, the aroma that seeps out the screen door is a familiar one-gravy. Once inside, the horseshoe counter, with about 15 seats, surrounds an afternoon telanovela, starring 'Tina Turner' and 'Shakira', two waitresses that make their running commentaries an alternative entertainment to the TV. The crowd is decidedly mixed-in every way. Rich, poor, suits, artists, young, old, black, white, etc, etc. But the food is the same every day: comforting. You like meatloaf, they got meatloaf-I don't ordinarily order meatloaf, but it looked so good and I needed something to pour that gravy over. The liver and onions were fresh-creamy and well-textured, not cooked to death. Also, the salad is fresh and crunchy, dressed with S&S's homemade salad dressing, which is made with BEEF STOCK-YEAH!

However, the king of the menu is the 'shank'-done perfectly, served in its stewed cooking juices over nicely done yellow rice, plus two sides-two nites later I had an upscale version of this which was 'Osso Bucco' over saffron risotto with a big slab of butter and parm on top-very delicious, but certainly not any more deeply satisfying than S&S's version. Diner prices help-that shank was like $6.99, icluding mashed potatoes and a salad. Throw in some strong black coffee served in a thick ceramic mug, and you are ready to go back out and move some earth. You will be eating a late dinner tonight!

Open 'til 6PM-NE 2nd Ave at 20th St


Edited by Miami Danny (log)

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Since Christmas is around the corner, I've re-posted this missive from 2 Christmases ago-I was here last week, and the Chef/Owner, Alex, was as ebullient as ever, presiding over an eclectic Monday evening bar scene.

There is nothing like a Christmas Eve goose dinner, and nowhere better to celebrate Christmas than in sunny Miami FLA. All thoughts of the North Pole drift away on the warm ocean breezes, and the palm trees sway along Biscayne Bay, where some sailboats are sliding under the raised drawbridge. They say that people in Miami don’t mind waiting in traffic for the boats to glide under the drawbridges, because everyone imagines that someday that will be them sailing by.

In a small restaurant just off the water, if you look around and listen to the languages being spoken, you might be surprised, since this is Miami, NOT to hear Spanish, but German and Turkish. It’s as if Miami were a small German town near the water; and the aromas from the kitchen and the big black beers on the bar complete the illusion. It doesn’t hurt that the owner and chef, Alex Richter, is a hearty man, big and bald, and charmingly gap-toothed, a la Schwarzenegger, who stands behind the bar in his packed, yet comfortable, place, and chats amiably with friends and neighbors who sit at or near the bar. “Tesekur Ederim,” he waves to an older babushka-wearing woman, who is visiting from Turkey. Her daughter, Tuva, is the waitress here, and, as Mr. Richter waves his thanks, she explains that she hasn’t seen her mother in five years. A nice Christmas reunion.

My wife and I happen to be lucky enough to live around the corner from The Royal Bavarian Schnitzel Haus, but it is the kind of place you must seek out, whatever the location. You are not going to leave the ‘Haus hungry, or thirsty, and you will remember your visit as warm and toasty, even if the weather outside is not ‘frightful!’ The special Christmas Eve menu included a “Portion of fresh crisp oven roasted Goose”, and we are lucky to get the last ‘portion’. It is a huge leg attached to a piece of breast (goose breasts don’t have an awful lot of meat), and it is the kind of thing that, even though it is as big as your forearm, you know that at some point you will have to pick it up and eat directly from the bone. When I do this halfway through the meal, the leg almost snaps off the breast (I swear my hands are15 inches apart holding this thing), and I envision it flying through the air and smacking a gentleman at the bar across the face. He must have seen it coming, too, because he flinched and ducked when the bones snapped. But let me start at the beginning, and of course that means the sausage.

It is inconceivable not to start your meal with sausage, and Chef Richter makes his own. The ‘Original “Munich Weisswurst” with sweet Mustard’, is an unusually subtle, pale sausage, whose deep flavor is countered by its smooth texture. A tiny, tiny, dab of sweet mustard is almost more than this juicy wurst needs to disappear, and it is pleasantly light on the stomach. This is followed by a salad of winter greens dressed with warm goat cheese, which is a crunchy palate-cleanser. But the animal awaits.

Sourcing goose in Miami is not the easiest thing to do, and Chef Richter gets his from up north. In fact, as he told me, his meaty and plump geese come from Pennsylvania, and are provided by none other than the Amish! I had previously been unaware of a ‘Miami-Amish connection’. Obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and order. The chef sends a letter to a neighbor of the family who raise the geese. The neighbor contacts the farmer, and he let’s the Chef know when the geese are ready. When Chef Richter had a Mother’s Day special of goose, the spring birds were a little skinny, so he is very happy with the plump winter birds he received for Christmas.

The goose is roasted and served with red cabbage, reduced pan juices, and a potato dumpling the size of a lacrosse ball. All of the flavors are complementary, and, again, everything is substantial, but unexpectedly light. Even the dumpling, which is savory and flavorful, and the cabbage, red and semi-crunchy, have distinct flavors and textures. The goose is perfect, smelling of the oven and the farm; the leg moist and wild, with the meat attached to the bone the most succulent of all, demanding the aforementioned liftoff. It is not easy to gnaw on a goose leg in a crowded restaurant without losing your dignity, but it was essential, and worth it, my face smeared with goose fat, the King of Fat. Luckily, you are provided with a large and thick cloth napkin. All of this was washed down with a black German beer in a huge stein.

The other entrée on the special menu was a baked seafood-stuffed salmon fillet, served with fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes. While not heavenly like the goose, it was nice to have something to eat while I waited for my wife to pass the plate with the bird back to me.

There was a dessert and traditional Bavarian Gluehwein, a hot, spiced wine served in a festive mug, but by this time we had had our fill, and the desserts were graciously wrapped to go. The festive atmosphere and warm-hearted welcome stayed with us, and reminded us of our own Christmas party the night before, where we served traditional Venezuelan treats like pan de jamon and hallacas, and drank the Puerto Rican Christmas drink Coquito. World’s apart, but just around the corner

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Peoples BBQ- 360 NW 8 Street, DON'T walk there, even if you live in the towers on 1st ave- we did a couple of times(hey, we were CRAVING) and weren't comfortable on the walk back to the studios.

BUT, still, amazing Florida style sauce, lots of amazing sides too. Chicken that falls off of the bone, really.

People's is terrific. I second your advice not to walk there. I try not to go even at night after the one time I thought I was going to get mugged on the walk around the building to the parking lot in back. One small quibble though -- wouldn't you say their yellow, mustard-based sauce is South Carolina style? I didn't even know Florida had a style but maybe it's something distinct in the rest of Florida, as opposed to South Florida, where I've found almost no barbecue places other than People's worth trying.

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My hidden gem contribution is INDIA HOUSE on Oakland Park Blvd, a block or 2 east of I-95 (563 W. Oakland pk). It is zagat rated, and my family drives up from Miami every 2nd weekend for the lunch buffet, which is a rediculous bargain. I understand from my frequent visits that their lease may be up in the near future (landlord looking to double rent), so I don't know where they'll move, but I hope its further South.

For BBQ, I think Tom Jenkins (on US1 in Ft. Lauderdale) is generally regarded as the tri-county favorite. I recommend everything but, surprisingly, the ribs (which others rave about, but which I found dry and chewy - not fall off the bone). Collard greens, chopped pork and beef are all excellent.

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India House is good and I agree that the value is outstanding. You should check out Udipi Cafe off of University Drive and Sunrise Blvd. For South FL it's a unique Indian place. It's all vegetarian and South Indian cuisine. They have a great selection on the lunch buffet. I am not much of a buffet diner but find Indian buffets to be the exception.

http://www.southflorida.com/dining/105595,0,134879.venue

My hidden gem contribution is INDIA HOUSE on Oakland Park Blvd, a block or 2 east of I-95 (563 W. Oakland pk).  It is zagat rated, and my family drives up from Miami every 2nd weekend for the lunch buffet, which is a rediculous bargain.  I understand from my frequent visits that their lease may be up in the near future (landlord looking to double rent), so I don't know where they'll move, but I hope its further South.

For BBQ, I think Tom Jenkins (on US1 in Ft. Lauderdale) is generally regarded as the tri-county favorite.  I recommend everything but, surprisingly, the ribs (which others rave about, but which I found dry and chewy - not fall off the bone).  Collard greens, chopped pork and beef are all excellent.


South Florida

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