Hit & Miss Report - Miami Visit Jan 2008
Back to NYC, and just wanted to thank the Miami posters, as well as providing a voice for outsiders, by giving you a detailed report of my recent visit. Didn't really have the time to explore too much (a 2 year old going through the terrible two's in tow), but here's the hits and misses foodwise. Other than food, one comment I just wanted to make was that having grown up in North Dade in the 60's, the small town friendliness has really drifted away there, and it's been replaced by a really unfriendly downright rude unhelpful attitude, that we saw in stores over and over again. The restaurants seemed to be the one place where the people working there were fairly friendly. I hate to generalize an entire area, but we found Aventura area to be full of some really obnoxious characters. When we were down in SoBe, the people were just so much nicer and friendlier. Just an observation, and my friend who just returned from there as well, who travels there often had the same complaint.-alot of nasty miserable people, is it the heat or the traffic?
So back to the chow:
-Anthony's Coal Oven Pizza-in Aventura--ate here twice--food is great, prices are fair, and service is friendly--house salad with gorgonzola big enough for 3, super fresh, simple but good--pizza with mushrooms and sweet peppers and pizza with brocolli rabe and sausage, both excellent, and better than any coal oven pizza in NYC, and I've had them all so that is the highest compliment I can give them. Chicken wings with rosemary, pretty good, thought they'd be a little meatier and juicier, a bit dried out, but still good flavor. Ordered a side of focaccio with rosemary that comes under the wings, but if you order it as a side of focaccio it's not dry like it is under the wings, but instead delicous with olive oil and rosemary into it...a great meal to order the focaccio and a salad. Excellent house Pinot Grigio wine by the glass, and a very strong red Zinfindel , and good Merlot by the glass....A+
-Julio's in NMB-Miami Gardens Drive--in the old Skylake Mall--and near what used to be Gold Triangle for those in the know---anyway--this place is our go to lunch place. Why? Because it's fresh, friendly service, clean, and very very friendly to our son. Whatever salad you want they will make, ---love the grilled vegetable salad, and I get added Avocado and calamata olives to it--wraps are great, and their tuna is great. Lots of great smoothies. Healthy and delicious and good portions. Wish we had a place like this in NYC, but we don't.---A
-Pilar in Aventura--Promenade Shops--everything of course is buried in Strip malls, and Pilar is no exception. Been here several times, and it doesn't get too much mention on this board, but I've yet to have a subpar meal here, in fact, what I had here ranked as one of the best scallop dishes I've had in my entire life and I've had alot of scallops. Warm atmosphere, extremely friendly and professional service,---had a super Italian Pinot Grigio wine (Pinot Grigio is my fav,) husband had an excellent Merlot--Appetizer of fried calamari--super large portion, wish they would have put the sauces seperate and not underneath because it made for a soggy messy layer on bottom, but they were tender and delicious, and very fresh tasting. Back to the scallops--EXCEPTIONAL, seared with spinach and corn, garlic--so fresh, perfectly cooked, and huge portion--husband had shrimp special with chimichurri sauce, good but not nearly in the league of the scallops--ceaser salad good, and filet mignon good, but sides uninteresting....the shrimp with linguine is good also---AMAZING KEY LIME PIE--way better than Joe's---what a surprise that was--------ice cream served to my son- and great quality at that! Anyway---for anyone looking for a nice meal in Aventura this should be top on the their list...really really excellent and best meal we had down there.. A+
-Shalom Haifa--on Miami Gardens Drive 183rd st tucked in corner of strip mall right past RR tracks--Lousy service like most Israeli restaurants, part of the charm, we think. Anyway, quality has gone WAY down--maybe they changed owners there...looked like some different people running things..anyway, paled in comparison to what we have here in NYC--and prices were not cheap either. Falafel, average and uninspired, and tahini was like watered down foam---eggplant salad --pretty good---hummus really lousy, had better out of the Sabra container...pita nothing special and not house made--Hot sauce though was fabulous...good pickled cabbage given as starter though--no olives though which used to be there also which were great--...C+
- Barrio Latino--Cuban and Latin Hybrid?---in Waterways, Aventura---had 2 really excellent lunch experiences here with their specials, but went this time at 4pm past lunch hour and food was uninspired and lacking flavor and maduras were cold....a downer---would try again, at lunch hour---disapointed didn't get a real cuban fix--but this time.....C+
-Timo--Meditar Bistro---Sunny Isles Collins Area--because of the accolades here, decided to try it and was disappointed for several reasons. First of all, it was a Sunday night, and because it was an evening of lots of football games, the place was pretty empty--we arrived for a 7:30 reservation and had lots of choices where to sit. While they do have highchairs, the place is far from baby friendly, they don't take too kindly to your kid throwing anything on their floor an inevitablity if you've got a fiesty 2 year old--my husband always picks everything up, and he never leaves a mess behind when we take my son out of chair..anyway, lots of dirty looks--wine by the glass, the pinot grigio was good at $9 a glass not any better than $6 glasses elsewhere--my husband got a sweeter Red, and it was $14 a glass, and served in a larger glass with actually even less wine in it, completely pretentious and ridiculous. Salad: Endive and artichoke--absolutely vile, bitter and gloppy with some sort of heavily creamed dressing --tiny portion--not a good beginning--how could they let this leave the kitchen or not be test tasted? Yuk!---next, pizza with sausage, fontina cheese, and porcini, --it was good, but nothing special---Black olive pappardelle pasta with goat cheese, tomatoes, and something else I can't recall at the moment, it was good, but very small portion, and not really adequate to split with someone--good for an app--our companion had the veal scallopini but prepared the way the veal tenderloin was described (with spinach, sage, gnocci)--he liked it very much, and this portion as much more generous and fit the price fine, and prepared quite well. Dessert--very good dessert and priced fine at $7----molten choc cake with banana carmelized ice cream, and something else..can't remember,,,but really really good--saving grace, but my son had enough so ran out of there after a few bites,and our companion fiinished it...--place started to fill up around 8:30pm --and my husband said at least they were playing Jimmy Smith (he's a big fan), and the Giants were on the TV (he's a big fan), so this was the best thing about the place in his opinion--I think it's an okay place--would like to know how the other main dishes are--not really any shrimp or scallop or salmon dishes---the fish they had I don't like--and they didn't really have anything that appealed to me that much on their menu--but that salad really irked me, it was just vile. Their bread was fresh though, but ordinary.Service was cold and curt and place just felt pretentious,--for the same price in NYC we've just got so many many more options ...B-
-Books and Books Cafe on Lincoln Road South Beach--was outside eating right before rain storm on Monday--cool outside atmosphere, prices very reasonable for SB, waiters extremely friendly and nice--our order got messed up, but waiter was apologetic about it...had a caesar salad with coconut shrimp, nothing special but fresh and decent portion--and panini with grilled chicken, goat cheese and grilled onions, I think? --this was good, lemonade on the house and good ice tea--we weren't served the black bean dip hummos free that we saw some other tables getting..met a very nice couple sitting next to us, and we hung out there for quite awhile waiting out the rain under the umbrellas and talking to them and both of our waiters...a nice afternoon and very very friendly people, all locals...we shared some experiences of old Miami Beach that we all remembered including the Old Thunderbird hotel, etc....B+
-Olivers, South Beach--have had many good meals here, but now I understand why the word inconsistency has been mentioned here. We had one of those meals, where everythng that I ordered either vaguely resembled what I had remembered as great, or completely was another incarnation all together. We went on a monday eve and last time we went in October, I think it was a Thurs or Fri..I really want to call them and ask them if they have 2 diff chefs and get to the bottom of it, because it really irked me. We were with family that also eat there regulary and their food was uniformly bad as well. Had linguine with gulf shrimp, pasta overcooked, and shrimp tough, fresh mozz salad with grilled tomatoes, before was about 6 thick slices grilled to perfection with mozz loving placed with basil and drizzled balsam and this time was 2 thick slabs ontop of 1/3 tomatoes mushy and watery--asked for the carrot dumplings as a side that accompany the salmon scallopini and they were NOTHING like I had in October, some kind of heavy mush that was inedible, the ones in October were airy and crispy, not doughy and heavy--absolutely vile--House Pinot Grigio still good (hard to screw that up) we didn't stay for dessert--C
-Houston's --ran in to grab a slice of key lime pie to go on a Monday eve at 10:00pm and people were waiting 20 deep to get seated, unbelievable, what is up with that? Key lime pie sucked, it used to be rich, heavy and good, but not nearly in the league of Pilar's or Joe's..but had a craving...and couldn't think where else to grab a piece on the way up from SoBe....are there any bakeries on the way? That Paul bakery is an expensive joke, and the french bakery cafe next to Anthony's is nothing special either...........check out my post on the NYC outerbouroughs board if you're coming to NY for an exceptional French Bakery that just opened in Queens...real French, not make believe! Anyway, that Houston's is an obnoxious place, ran out of there....D
-PASHA--Made a trip up to DelRay to check it out, an art Festival there, but we couldn't stay for dinner and got there late, was going to try DaDa, and got back late and just ran over to Pasha in the near Publix stripmall on Biscayne back in NMB --had never eaten there before--needed something quick and outside with my son's mood...falafel was actually pretty fluffy and good, and the chicken kebab wasn't completely bad, but it was cold, which I couldn't understand,,we got there about a half hour before they close..we complained but they didn't offer us a replacement, and it was late so we ate it anyway cold...again, not very nice people working there...wouldn't go out of my way to ever eat there again, but okay for lunch if you're in the area, and nothing better...would've gone to Scorch around there, but my son fell in the restauarant onto their hard floor on his head to I really didn't want to replay the hysteria in my head....maybe next trip...B
-Oishi Thai--having to stick in the immediate Aventura area alot, and meet someone there, we decided to give this place a try--it's next door to Pasha in the new Publix strip mall on Biscayne towards North Miami--It was actually quite good--really really good Chicken satay, good quality chicken and not overly peanut butter tasting sauce, and authentic cucumber mixture (we are used to Srip in Queens NY, the best Thai place, in NY--unbeatable and authentic spicy food)----Volcano shrimp--shrimp were overcooked and only 5 on a dish that was $23 seemed outrageous, and steamed veggies underneath were nothing special, but sauce was very good....Squid with basil --(a variation we created from the menu)--huge portion and quite good---tried a vegetable roll with cucumber and avocado and scallion, small, ordinary, but fresh, but pricey at $6, 3-5 elsewhere----really nice atmosphere, and extremely nice and friendly service, and very clean...good house pinot grigio also..and very good vanilla ice cream they brought my son....good place, would return--- A-
-Whole Foods in Aventura --lots of nasty people there --shopping and working there, their prepared foods don't look nearly as nice as they used to years ago--and the place looks dirty--
-Fresh Market just outside Williams Island has some very lovely produce
-Walgreens next to Pier 1 in Aventura---home to the nastiest cashiers I've ever encountered--geesh!!! off topic, but I just couldn't resist---I did buy a candy bar there...
-Starbucks in Fresh Market strip plaza---NICE people working there, and good freshly brewed coffee---
SOME OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:
Heard that Itzik's Cafe further up on West Dixie would have been a better option than Shalom Haifa these days..anyone been?
--Never made it to Mo's as the line was out the door the two times that we tried, because I like their greek salad and eggplant salad---and the characters there are a trip
-also heard that Roasters and Toasters is good on Miami Garden's Drive owned by Corky's--but we didn't make it there either...
-Heard about some good bakery somewhere in North Miami couldn't remember where it was--
-my husband bemoaned not going to Sang's --he loves their razor clams in Black bean sauce and sizzling scallops--
-I bemoaned not getting back to Yakko San, but it just didn't work out...
-where does one go and have coffee and dessert in NMB,,,no cafes anywhere?? Except for that french bakery next to Anthony's? or Paul's further up??? Where else can you go?
Thanks for the help...look for me on the NYC outerboroughs board if you venture up this way, and I'll be glad to help you out...
"better than any coal oven pizza in NYC, and I've had them all so that is the highest compliment I can give them"
"High praise indeed" I assume based on your statement that you are including Grimaldi's as well? Based on that assumption, do you mind elaborating on what exactly made Anthony's better? I happen to have tried Anthony's for the first time recently and as an old Queens kid was also impressed by their pie BTW.
Also thanks for detailed info, Pilar's sounds especially interesting.
Grimaldi's, Lombardi's, Salvatore's, Patsy's, Nick's, John's, Totonno's, Una Pizza Napoletana---and so on, and Anthony's was better. Better because it had the perfect amount of ingredients and didn't slide off, could be held and eaten without being bended together--the sauce was perfectly seasoned--and the ingredients fresh, and flavors all mingled together, not just thrown on top never jiving with pie. Crust wasn't overly burnt, and it was moist and not chewy or mealy tasting. Good weight distribution, good mingling of flavors, fresh and abundant ingredients....and it also retained its heat, something that the more thinner coal oven pizza's never do...
Thanks for the report. Any praise for local pizza from a NYer is high praise indeed; I'm also a fan of Anthony's.
I went to an Israeli place in that strip around Miami Gardens Dr. which was decent but I can't recall the name now. I don't think it was Itzik's though. There are plenty of choices around that neighborhood.
Sorry to hear about your experience at Timo - I'm probably responsible for that recommendation. We've brought kids there on multiple occasions and never had any dirty looks, though they're a bit older and don't throw their food (much) any more. Indeed I've never seen any attitude from the staff there.
As for the food - the menu changes often there and so it's something of a moving target to try to recommend dishes. Also as a result, sometimes there are some "misses" on the menu. Here's a somewhat older post where I listed some recommended dishes ->
As for the wine by the glass - I think it's neither pretentious nor ridiculous to serve wine in appropriate stemware. Reds are supposed to be served in a glass with a bigger, wider bowl, and I vastly prefer getting my wine in a proper glass poured to a proper height (which means relatively low in the glass) rather than getting it in a narrow white wine glass that's been filled to the brim.
In any event, I'm sorry you had a disappointing meal there.
oops, sorry about my ignorance about the wine, guess I should know better--my best friend writes a very popular blog about wines all in Haiku descriptions, called the red wine haiku--here's the link---you might enjoy it...
Good to know about Timo and their menu----the servers weren't overtly rude, they were just sort of curt and you could tell they were annoyed by seeing a 2 year old being irritable in a high chair...he's going through a rebellous phase, but he's used to restaurants and generally behaves quite well...and we are definitely aware if he's disturbing other patrons and we take him immediately outside, but he just a bit cranky, and dropped a few of his cards he was playing with on the floor and not next to anyone else's table---anyway, I can understand they don't want crying toddlers in there, I just think they can be nicer about it...like I said, the pasta was good but small portion, oh yeah, there was eggplant in there, just remembered--for $20 it should be bigger--if it was bigger than you could split a pizza and a pasta and it wouldn't be unreasonable--what other mains have you had there?
-Maybe the Israeli place you ate at was The Astoria Deli?
I remember taking our son on a trip when he was 13 months old - all he would eat was blueberries, everything else he would just sit in his high chair with a devilish smile and fling it at his mother and me. For a week. We had some interesting meals.
I'm having trouble recalling entrees at Timo because we often will just order several of the smaller plates. Their short ribs are excellent. I had a grouper w/ white beans that was very nice. Skirt steak is pretty good (my son's favorite), I've had a veal dish topped with sweetbreads that was very nice. I recall having a whole yellowtail stuffed w/ sliced potatoes, tomatoes and herbs that was good. The branzino w/ a lemon confit is always on the menu and must be good (not my thang). Their 4 course tasting menu (usually an app, pasta, entree and dessert) is a copious amount of food for a pretty good price (under $60) and we'll sometimes do that to split and add a couple other appetizers.
I think Astoria Deli is right.
I'm excited to hear about Julio's...I've been meaning to try it.
I've had similar experiences at Timo. Strangely, I always enjoy the meal if I order beef but never enjoy their fish dishes.
As for Pilar, I've had the scallop entree and the salmon and was underwhelmed. I thought the chef was heavy handed with the salt and not particularly skilled with seasoning. The dessert we ordered on one of the visits, a banana chocolate confection, came out stale. I have to say, service was good. I have no doubt you had a good experience but I am bemoaning a lack of consistency.
On that front, I find most ( I did say most, not all) restaurants in Miami share two things in common: they are inconsistent in their food preparation and appalling on the service side. I dream that the Greater Miami Convention Center and Visitor's Bureau will one day create a service campaign geared toward our hotels and restaurants. I am embarrassed when I take my out of towners to dinner at The Setai, Talula, etc., and the server seems to be out to lunch.
Okay...my rant is over now.
re: Miami Danny
re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
Great under $20 wine, maybe $18 at Total. They had it when I was there today. Rob Stuart, the winemaker, was at Erath in the '90's, I believe, whatever that means. The wine was a huge seller at Stop, esp. as no one else had it at the time. In fact, I don't think I've seen it any other restaurant since, either. Not sure why. Pretty fruity, and with some earth underneath. Breathes very well, too.