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Aug 31, 2008 07:31 AM

Aventura area dining

We were just down in Aventura again for a few days, and feel compelled to have some chowhounders confirm my feelings about the 3 meals we had. Because of their terrific summer deal, we stayed at the Fairmont Turnberry. So, of course, had to go to Bourbon Steak. I must preface my remarks by stating that we are from New York, so the prices did not phase us, and were not checking bags, so could not bring a bottle of wine from our cellar with us even if there was no corkage charge. I will say that the food was quite good, but the total experience was horrendous. Our total bill, with wine, including their 18% gratuity added (which is less than I would give for excellent service, more than I would give for what we got) was around $500. We thought that the service was really sub-par, starting with the fact that the waiter came over every minute or 2 to ask if he could take our order. We were there on Wednesday night, and when we were first showed to our table, we saw that there was a very large table of adults next to our, and what looked like a table that had not been cleared yet next to that. We looked around and saw that there were a lot of large groups, so decided to stay where we were. It turned out that the vacant table was the children that came with the large party, so we had to listen to screeching 5 year old girls, in addition to the fact that the restaurant was very noisy when full. My feeling about restaurants of this caliber is that it is not just about the food, but about the total dining experience, and this one just did not do it for us.
Thursday night we went to a restaurant we found through Zagat, which gave it a 26 for food and a 12 for atmosphere, Hiro's. The menu had a large variety of more authentic Japanese offerings than the standard teriyaki and tempura dishes, and we thoroughly enjoyed everything we ordered. Service was great, cold sake was excellent, and for a fraction of the price we had a very enjoyable meal.
Friday night we went to our long-time favorite, Chef Allen's. As always, we were not disappointed. The food was excellent, the wine that was recommended was great, and newly renovated restaurant was lovely, tables well spaces, smaller spaces less noisy, service was great, friendly without being too intrusive. They gave us 2 sample appetizers, and we ordered the chocolate souffle, so after I had the excellent shrimp and grits, I could only eat less than half of my whole grilled yellowtail snapper. That is possibly my only negative thought, but I can certainly live with that.

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  1. Always appreciate getting reports back from visitors. As for confirmation ->

    Bourbon Steak - I've only been once and had no real service issues. I suspect your waiter was trying to get your order in so it could get in queue in front of the gigantic tables you noticed. I'm not sure what you would have the restaurant do about a party of screeching 5 year olds - throw them out? I didn't really take in the full layout but the only private room I noticed was a glassed-in room in the wine cellar - probably also not the best place for a table of children either. It is a moderately noisy place but certainly no more so than any number of places I've been in any number of cities. After all, it is at least nominally a "steakhouse" and I wouldn't have expected a precious, hushed dining experience. Adding gratuity is very common in South Florida. Lots of European tourists that visit here do not realize that gratuity is not included. Theoretically you're always free to adjust it in the final bill.

    Hiro's - I assume you went to Hiro's Yakko San (there is another Hiro's Sushi - same owner, different place). Yakko San gets much love here on CH and is practically a weekly visit for me.

    Chef Allen - I haven't been in a long time, understand they've recently remodeled the place and revamped the menu.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      quick note...hiro sold hiro's sushi on 163 a couple years ago. he and his wife, may, own yakko-san and the various Sushi Express restaurants throughout the city.

      1. re: luvtoeatwell

        The less said about Sushi Express the better. Different universe from Yakko-San. I didn't know they'd sold the Hiro's on 163rd St. Causeway.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            I don't mind hiro's sushi, but if you have another takeout sushi option in that area, I'm eager to hear it.

        1. re: Frodnesor

          What are some other Japanese places I should be looking at? I tried Hiro's Yakko San a couple days ago on a business trip and found the quality of the food and the preparation to be below average. I'll be back in Miami next week and would like to hear some of your other suggestions.

          I'm from the Pacific Northwest so we have lots of selection for Japanese in Seattle and Vancouver, so I'm not sure how Miami compares to that.

          1. re: HungWeiLo

            Yakko San is really best of breed for Miami (at least for izakaya style eating) which, perhaps for reasons of proximity and population, doesn't generally compare favorably to the west coast for Asian cuisine. It is by no means elegant, but I always find the food and variety to be satisfying (and I'm there nearly weekly). Su Shin Izakaya in Coral Gables is similar (and also, unlike Yakko San, has a full sushi menu) but I find the quality a notch below Yakko San though still generally good. Matsuri, near the Gables, is considered among the tops for sushi, though on my last visit (which was the first in some time) I was underwhelmed.

            My favorite sushi place is a little Japanese market w/ a small sushi bar on the 79th Street Causeway called Sushi Deli.

        2. Even when prices don't phase a person, value is always appreciated, so I appreciate your comments on the relative value.

          I think I was at Bourbon Steak on the same night as you: Aug. 27th. The restaurant was busier because of the Miami Spice restaurant promotion, and that may also account for the automatically added gratuity (but that's just a guess). Bourbon Steak does have a corkage fee, $25 (not free, as indicated), but that is a reasonable charge. Michy's is an astounding $40 by comparison.

          3 Replies
          1. re: non sequitur

            I think they always add that gratuity there because of the high percentage of foreign clientele. It is printed on the main menu, not just on the Miami Spice. Yes, you were there the same night as us, and I hope you have a more enjoyable experience.
            Frodnesor, I was not expecting that they could do anything about the children, but was just stating a fact. Their response when I mentioned it on the way out is that there is nothing they can do because it is a resort. I told them that we traveled a lot when our sons were young, and we either took them to the casual dining options earlier, then went to this type of restuarant without them, or fed them room service for dinner before we went out. We used to alternate family restaurant options with others where it was not appropriate to bring younger children who just cannot sit for 2+ hours, no matter how well behaved they are.

            1. re: robinsilver

              it seems to me that this is a lose lose situation, because it could very well be the other family writing a negative review about the restaurant ,had the establishment do something about the unruly children. it sounds to me that your experience would have been completley diffirent had you been seated in a diffirent area in the room. as you mentioned above the blame really falls on the parents ,for not being able to control their kids

              1. re: nikostoumbaios

                That was a small part of it, but the room was very noisy, and the service was really sub-par for that type of restaurant. The waiter sounded French, and had a real attitude. If you want to have an attitude, know who you are dealing with first.

          2. I don't get the appeal of Chef Allen's. The service is wonderful, yes, but the food is so heavy it's like a soporific.

            My hub and I had the crab cakes and shrimp and grits as appetizers. I found the cakes to be crab-less, heavy on breadcrumbs and low on taste. The shrimp and grits were tasty but heavier than concrete. The main courses we tried, the lobster pasta and snapper were both average.

            I will say that the chocolate souffle was killer. For close to $20 though, I would expect nothing less.

            It seems to me that Allen's is stuck in a 1980 - something pastel purgatory. I know they did a revamp recently but think they need to rethink their concept once again. (The place is now being billed as a seafood bistro or something like that.) It seemed like the place was trying to be New Orleans-esqe.

            I wanted to like it, really I did. I know it's a mainstay for many but once is enough for me.

            1. Bummer about that whole Bourbon Steak experience.

              My experience was the exact antithesis of your experience... The food was incredible and there was no craziness around us... The wine prices were a bit steep (so we brought our own bottle) and I was also angered by the included gratuity. I asked about it- they said it was "policy" to ensure servers get their tip. I think if you are a crappy server you should not get a good tip, thus in order to support yourself you will have to seek a job elsewhere (ideally out of the service industry). Tipping bad waiters well only prolongs the inevitable. Que sera, sera, though.

              Anyway... I am learning that horrific experiences (though so blatantly offensive at the time) are often not a reflection of the average experience in a restaurant... Whether it is a bad group of customers, a drug-afflicted waiter or a waffle-house sous chef standing in for the head chef, all of these things seem transitory. I hope you give it another try.... if not, I must share my happiness at being better able to get a reservation for myself! :) :) :)