Aroz Con Pollo Made to Order?
Report back from Ft Lauderdale and Miami.
I called Islas Canarias late afternoon. They said they didn't have any arroz con pollo left, nor were they going to be taking any more orders for it that day.
We wound up at La Careta on Bird Rd.
I have been going to La Careta on Bird Rd. for many years now, but had not been back in a long time. it s a real 'goldmine', always packed says my sister-in-law, and it indeed was hopping on a Thursday evening.
I know that La Careta has expanded into a mediocre empire, and the last time I was at one in Dadeland, it was horrible. It bore no relation to the Cuban food I grew up with. It was completely South-Americanized.
But La Careta on Bird Rd. does not suffer from the same problem at all. So there is good news and bad news.
First the good news: all the flavors are correct, from the arroz con pollo to the vaca frita, everything tastes as it should.
Now the bad news: Everything is served room temperature. Very nice flavors, but lacks the wow factor that comes from the sizzle of the vaca frita or steam coming off the stews or warmth from the roasts.
I went on a morning run for some pasteles. These are part of the glory that is Miami eating, pretty much unknown in the rest of the country. Tender and flaky pastries are kept warm and gooey in heated cases. I stopped by Pinocho Bakery on Flagler for pasteles de carne and at Portofino on 27th Ave. for pasteles de guyaba y queso. Both soooo gorgeous. Pinocho Bakery looks cleaner and overall better for those who care about that sort of thing.
Eats in Ft Lauderdale included ice cream at the fabuluous Jaxson's, which serves the world's best ice cream soda. This is a five-star Chowhound delight., and an old standby for me.
We also hit the nearby Jimmie's Chocolate Cafe for lunch. Cafe is open very limited hours, I think Wed thru Fri only? This is vacation fantasy food: calories don't count on vacation. I would say that sticking to sandwiches are the way to go here. Had a very nice NY strip steak sandwich loaded with tri-color peppers and a creamy brie sauce. Sauce was restrained. Excellent. A more expensive dish of shrimp with red beans and chorizo was well-crafted but lacked oomph. Chorizo was unexciting. Elaborate chocolate desserts here fulfill the fantasy quotient, though nothing was all that thrilling. Some of the chocolates in their shop are quite exotic, uniquely Floridian, and the dark chocolate is very delicious and of high quality. Sitting in the garden was very pleasant on a spring afternoon.
Also hit Grano de Mostaza near the executive airport for Venezulan empanadas, papa relleno, and tequenones ( breakfast and lunch only), but nothing exciting until I added the very thick green hot sauce or garlic sauce.
For some reason, arroz con pollo is not a dish that miami restaurants can do justice to. A really good one would use arroz valenciano and a few other tricks. A dish made best at home. A favorite dish at a humble restaurant would be vaca frita at Havana Harry's followed by a cinco leches.
4612 S Le Jeune Rd, Coral Gables, FL 33146
Maybe I'm wrong, but I would be astounded if there is any restaurant that makes a single serving of arroz con pollo to order, consider it takes minimum 45 minutes between sautéeing off the chicken and cooking the rice, on top of which it's generally better anyway made in a large batch.
If you want a rice dish made to order, you'd be better off going someplace that specializes in paellas.
In North Miami (125th & US-1) Little Havana Restaurant is as humble and lovable as UnderDog.
"favorite single dish at a very humble place to eat"
For other top ten Latin dishes that fit your criteria -
Check out JimmyZ (mofongo weekends) and LA Cafe on Alton Road, Chalan on Washington, Las Olas on 6th - South Beach.
Little Havana Restaurant
12727 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181
When I used to live in Miami, there were lots of places you could go. Admittedly quite a few years ago! The stuff made to order back then was sensational. Where I live now, in Arlington, VA, we had a Cuban restaurant (long gone), that made it to order and it was equally stupendous.
I now see from the online menu that Islas Canarias boasts that their arroza con pollo is 'confeccionado a la orden', so maybe I will go there. The real holes-in-the-wall do not have an online menu or web site at all. Back in the day, there was no such thing as the internet, so sniffing out the best on foot was the only way to go.
Islas Canarias Restaurant
285 NW 27th Ave Ste 1, Miami, FL 33125
I'll take back what I said. Was just at Las Vegas Cuban restaurant in Coral Gables and the menu had arroz con pollo, minimum for 2 people, with 1 hour wait. So they're either making it to order or putting on a pretty elaborate ruse (sorry, did not try it).
Las Vegas Restaurant
112 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134