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Aug 5, 2002 07:17 PM

question about mandarin oriental restaurants

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Ive heard some good things about a restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami call Cafe Sambal. I'll be in Miami this weekend and was wondering if it was worth checking out.

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  1. Sorry I know nothing about the place you've mentioned, but I can tell you that for the past 5 years or so, Tropical, on Bird Road in South Miami has been considered the best Chinese Restaurant in Dade.

    Another interesting possibility is Canton. There are 5 of them in South Miami and they specialize in two dishes - Honey Chicken and Canton Steak. Those are the only dishes to order.

    Usually, on Key Biscayne, there is a good Chinese place or two. Perhaps you can check in the yellow pages. The drive out to Key Biscayne is wonderful, but don't speed - lots of cops.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Chuck

      FYI, Chuck, the Mandarin Oriental is a hotel featuring two restaurants, Azul (Latin-Asian-Carribean fusion cuisine from perky chef and Food Network show host Michelle Bernstein), and Cafe Sambal, a more casual waterfront spot feaaturing Pan-Asian food, including sushi and curried wok lobster.

      As to the quality...I haven't been. (As he looks down, shyly.) My excuse is that when I'm in South Fla usually I'm in Broward, and often sans the wife, so elegant dining so far south doesn't work for me. But next time I have the opportunity, I think we'll check out Azul.

      1. re: Neil G

        Oh well, it sounded like Chinese? Thanks Neil for the education. And now, I do recall the newest hotel being built on South Beach. What was I thinking -

        My wife's retirement party was at their competitor, The Lowes. Nice place with your traditional hotel food. South Beach is not for me.

        1. re: Chuck

          Yeah, South Beach isn't for me, either. I'm tempted to try restaurants there because of the critical acclaim, but at least equally afraid of the hipper than thou atmosphere I expect at some of them, which generally makes me puke (not a good thing when dining out).

          1. re: Neil G

            Incidentally, as a follow-up to my last post, I would expect the Mandarin Oriental atmosphere to be less hipper-than-thou than the restaurants on the South Beach main drag, but more of a rarified, overpriced posh hotel dining atmosphere.

            I welcome any confirmation or refutation of my wholly instinctive (e.g., completely ignorant) impressions...

            1. re: Neil G

              Neil, why bother? You already know what hotel restaurant dining is all about. It never changes except in Vegas where I absolutely will go for it in a place like Mandalay Bay - love that hotel.

              For you, a lover of da Cubano cuisine, just hit the mainland and Callo Ocho. Fair prices, great Cuban food, no attitudes and glad to have you as their guest.

              There's absolutely nothing for a married guy on South Beach. I say let the young singles handle the surly waiters, fo fo foods, over rated chefs and their ridiculous prices, parking tickets, auto theft, and the City's towing fees.

              Sorry, but I do speak from years of experience on fantasy island - Been there, done that, don't want anymore of it in my lifetime.

              1. re: Chuck

                I'm sure the food at Azul bears little resemblance to Cuban, except in certain touches (probably adding black beans to Asian dishes, and I don't mean Cantonese "black bean sauce"). The appeal for me would be to check out a famous chef's handiwork. As an example, I certainly enjoyed Norman's in Coral Gables (not that I would expect as good a meal at Azul)...

                1. re: Neil G

                  I wouldnt consider Azul a hotel restaurant, it runs like an independent but with the allowance to not cut any corners in way of ordering only the top quality food. As for a comparison to Normans, van Aiken and his mangos have gone the way of Reebok pumps, into the trend abyss. Plus Norman doesnt have time anymore to hang out in his kitchen and hasnt in the past five years, give up Normans, try something new.

                  1. re: nick

                    I went to Norman's in March and had an excellent meal. If it has gone the way of the trend abyss, great -- the last thing I need when I go out is to see and be seen.

      2. re: Chuck

        Next to the Canton at NW 67th St. and 836 (the Palmetto Expwy.) is the best Italian joint in Miami.
        It's called Il Siciliano. It's in a funky little plaza
        in front of Canton, across the parking lot from a Burger King. This is definitely a place all you New Yorkers will relate to. The guy makes everything from scratch. Sauces, baking, desserts--everything. He is from Sicily, but started out in the Village in his mother's place. I stop by occasionally for a hot Italian sub on some of his dense, crusty bread. How
        anyone can say they can't find excellent food in Florida is beyond my comprehension.

        1. re: flavrmeistr

          Flavor Dude - Do you consider Central Florida (Daytona Beach area) part of Florida? If so, no, you cannot find good restaurants in this area.

          And, frankly, even in South Flroida, it takes far more effort to find the good places than it does in big metropolitan areas like Chicago, NY, LA, etc. Sorry, but on this one we disagree.

          The Italian place in the Canton shopping center sounds great. Wish I still lived off Coral Reef and 151st - The Falls area has some decent places to eat.

          Hey, did you ever order anything but Canton Steak or honey Garlic Chicken at a Canton? Just wondering....

          1. re: Chuck

            Chuck, as we belabor this point (and why not?), South Florida has an excellent dining scene. If you're comparing it with New York City, of course it's going to fall short. But is that the standard? Outside of San Francisco, I guess Chicago (I'm not up on Chicago dining), where are there more quality, variegated choices in one general geographic location? Indeed, Zagat publishes three guides with respect to South Florida -- Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach -- which is an indication that there are a lot of places to eat. Central Florida may not be a culinary hotbed, but neither is at least 95% of New York State.

      3. It's a fine place but not worth the trip out there. It's an expensive place and out of the way. The food is panAsian fusion ala China Grill with slightly less prices. Don't get me wrong everything was tasty but I think if you are looking for a great meal you don't have to spend that much and you don't have to be in such a stiff environment. The entire waitstaff was pretty stupid too.

        The most positive thing I can say is that the view is pretty amazing and it's nice to eat on the waterside like that.