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South Beach Report (long)

  • Rondo Oct 16, 2008 04:48 PM
  • 9

Got back from our 6 days in SoBe the other day. Here are the highlights and lowlights. Our U.S. Scareways flight was, predictably, delayed but it gave me a chance to grab a Roast Beef sandwhich slathered w/creamy horseradish sauce at Chickie "n Pete's in the Philly airport. Was gonna go for the crab fries also but felt that would be too over the top. Scarfed the sandwich down as soon as we were airborne. It was good.
Finally got to the hotel and out to the pool by late afternoon. Wife was hungry and the poolside food at the Loews is usually pretty passable so she ordered a burger. Apparently the chef decided to celebrate the opening of the Florida Panthers season by serving hockey pucks. So much for the Nautilus Bar and Grille.
We decided to quickly dispense with our usual Lincoln Road food gridlock, where we wander up and down, staring at menus and trying to figure out what and where to eat before finding something that usually turns out subpar, This year's victim was Rosinella. I wasn't particularly famished so we split a warm white bean and tuna app which wasn't half bad. I ordered Spaghetti and meatballs and my wife ordered the Chicken Piccata. The pasta was cooked 30 seconds short of perfect, but the sauce and meatballs were good. The capers in the piccata had an odd taste, but my wife enjoyed it.
Friday morning I decided to find Mattarello. I had read so much about it on this board I didn't bother writing down the address. So I played my favorite vacation game "Torture the Concierge". Anyone believe that it took him 15 seconds to locate the place? Anyone? Needless to say, I gave up after 5 minutes and we struck out on our own to locate it. We walked right by it and by 8 th street decided we'd had enough walking so we tooled over to the Pelican on Ocean Drive for breakfast. Ordered the pancakes w/ham. Figured I'd get a nice piece of breakfast ham. Wound up with one thin slice of deli ham which they barely passed over the griddle. Pancakes weren't all that great either. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. We've never had a bad meal there till now. I won't be going back.
After texting w/my son I was finally able to locate Mattarello. Went there for a late afternoon snack. Got a prosciutto and cheese sandwich. My wife got a mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwich. Everything looked good and it really is a neat little hole in the wall place. My panini was fine, but a few hours after eating the mozzarella sandwich my wife felt a little queasy. I'd give it another shot, but that will have to wait for our next trip.
Dinner Thursday, we decided to have fish. Wound up at Grillfish. Fortunately I had some pretty low expectations which were met perfectly. Swordfish was small and a little too fishy. The sweet onion sauce? Eh. Wife's meal was equally mediocre.
Saturday's highlight was going to the Design District at night. That area is really cool! We stopped at Michaels Genuine but they were booked solid. We talked to the maitr' d for a little bit. He was really friendly and during our conversation I learned that the chef/owner is from Philadelphia. We will definitely make reservations next time. Wound up at Pacific Time and it was excellent. My wife's swordfish was much better than Grillfish (yeah, I know, you all are shocked and surprised by that statement). I had the duck breast in a plum sauce which also came w/a duck salad. I know I had an app but can't for the life of me remember what it was. That's why I should take notes on these trips. We will be going back as it was the second best meal we had.
Lowlight of the day was Bar B Q Beach. My wife said her southwestern chicken salad was good. I ordered a Carolina Piggy sandwich w/a side of collard greens. Meat was dry, having been overcooked. Sauce was good, but the collards, eh, I can think of two places in the Philly area that have better. So much for that.
Sunday was definitely the culinary highlight of the trip. Brunched at Talulah. Food was great, service was brutal. Felt bad for the waiter because he was waiting on all the tables on the inside but he forgot to take our order (they do a "hybrid" brunch, you order one item off the menu then they have a nice assortment of other dishes buffet style) and he seemed really flustered the whole time. Had eggs benedict which was topped w/a tomato marmalade which really added an extra dimension to the dish. Also the roast beef was great as was the creamy potato salad (went back for seconds on that one) and the couscous salad (ditto). The couscous was Israeli (a little bigger than your normal couscous) and had a nice garlicky zing to it. At $29 pp almost a bargain. Would like to try lunch or dinner there next time.
Made reservations for dinner at Sardinia. Sunday night at 9 p.m. the place was not even half full. We started off with a trio of vegetable dishes, roasted brussel sprouts w/guanciale (hope I got that right), a caponatina, and broccoli rabe. All three were great! The rabe especially, since it was not bitter at all, and had a little kick to it even tho I didn't see any red pepper flakes. My wife ordered a pasta w/veal meatballs. I ordered the ribeye. Whichever one of you on this board raved about the ribeye, stand up and take a bow, sir! It was unbelievably awesome!! Pefectly medium rare on the inside, charred on the outside, tasted like it had been wallowing in olive oil and rosemary before being seared in the wood burning grille, one of the best steaks I have had in a really long time. It was so good, I even let my wife share some of it and we took turns gnawing on the bone. Had cappucinos for "dessert' and they were very good as well. Too full to have any of their real desserts which was a pity. The great part about this meal was that it was at least as good and possibly better than the first time we were there a year ago. Nice to eat a restaurant that hasn't lost its touch. We walked off the meal by hoofing it back to our hotel having had our fill of insane cab rides.
Monday evening we ate at Spiga (yes, we do eat a lot of Italian food, why do you ask?). Wife had a tilapia or redfish topped w/shrimp, bathed in a prosecco cream sauce which tasted almost like a shrimp w/lobster sauce. I got her shrimp. Dipped in the sauce they were really good. I ordered my old standy, Linguine w/ white clam sauce. Excellent.
Tuesday was getaway day. Went to the Front Porch for breakfast. Good as always. Lunch was Icebox. Wife got skirt steak w/chimichurri sauce which was mighty tasty. I had a sesame chicken salad which had gorgonzola cheese, olives, and other salad stuff in it. Perfectly fine. Service was good and the waitstaff was very friendly and helpful which was a pleasant surprise.
Would have loved to try Phillippe in the Gansevoort Hotel but my wife doesn't do oriental. Ditto for Sushi Samba Dromo. Also broke w/tradition by not eating at Spris, Pizza Rustica or the empanadas at David's II. Wanted to do lunch at Setai's Grille restaurant but it's only open during the high season. Regular restaurant there looks very good but extremely expensive and a little too chi chi for our tastes. Had a few martinis at their bar, though, and got pleasantly buzzed. So to recap:
The Good: Pacific Time, Talulah, Sardinia, Front Porch, Icebox Cafe, Spiga
The Bad: Pelican, Bar B Q Beach
The Mediocre: Grillfish, Rosinella
The Jury is Still Out On: Mattarello
Next trip we are thinking of spending a week, renting a condo and a car. Imagine the possibilities.

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  1. Great post! Wonderful writing style! Fun to read. Can't wait for next year. (I agree about Sardinia).

    1. Glad you liked the ribeye. I have not tried the paninis at marterello yet but the pizza is far superior and the same style as rustica (they only have plain though). Their foccacia is equally great. The large cannolis are also great (I thought they called them lobster rolls when I ordered them in ny as they don't look like cannolis....)

      1. BTW you made a comment that sardinia was half empty when you were there. I talked to one of the cooks there once and they said that the best time to order the wood burning stuff is when they are not crowded as when you have a lot of dishes going on at once it is impossible to get the temperature perfect on everything. So my tip for sardinia is if it is crowded go with pastas and cold cuts. If it is not, go for the ribeye, branzino or grilled meat or fish specials.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tpigeon

          Thanks for the tip, tp. I'll try to remember to make the same reservation next time we are down.
          BlindMind, you are absolutely correct. It was pretty much culinary hell till Saturday. I think the fact that we didn't rent a car this time had a lot to do with our restaurant choices. There were many places we wanted to try but didn't want to walk or cab to it. One of the places on my list that we didn't get to was Puerto Sagua. kaszeta, thanks for letting me know about the Cuban sandwich. Definitely on the "hit" list for next time.

          1. re: Rondo

            And I did the Front Porch Cafe this morning, and both of our breakfasts were phenomenal (I had the green eggs (Pesto scrambled eggs), my partner had the granola pancakes). Definitely a good find there as well.

        2. Glad you enjoyed the trip. You really didnt get going until Saturday. In my humble opinion, the places you visited prior to that are tourist traps with mediocre food at best. Im glad someone agrees with me that Rosinella is average. Not bad, but not good either. I also am in the minority when I say that Spris pizza is better than Rustica...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Blind Mind

            I like spris more than rustica too. Spris has a brie cheese pizza that is pretty awesome btw. I know it sounds wierd...

            1. re: tpigeon

              My fave is the Carbonara which has prosciutto and an egg sunny side up. Just had one today. Awesome.

          2. I went to Mattarello today, and really, really enjoyed my sandwiches. And no gastro-intestinal distress.

            Had a much better than average Cuban Sandwich at Puerto Sagua. Otherwise, the rest of my South Beach wanderings were pretty average, although Spiga looked intriguing enough to try next time I'm here.

            Thanks for the pointer on Mattarello, I would've never even known to look for that place (and, even knowing vaguely where it was, walked by it twice without noticing)