Review: A Pig in a Fur Coat

16 July 2015

It was a long, long day meandering from Milwaukee to Madison, taking in some of the smaller towns south of the two major cities — without crossing into Illinois. I rolled into Madison mid-afternoon happily, revisiting a town I really came to love before. If it wasn’t such a hassle to get there (thank you Scott Walker), I would visit far more often. My last visit was very memorable, including a fine dinner at the top place in the region, L’Etoile. I was skipping it this time as there’s too many other places to visit, and not enough time!

Today was a melancholic day for me as it marked something very significant for me in my past, so I wanted a good meal (and lots of booze) to drown it all out. And I found the perfect place, a charming little eatery called A Pig in a Fur Coat. Now that is classy.

I walked the 20+ minutes from near the Capitol all the way in the terrible humidity and found A Pig in a Fur Coat. I chose to sit at the bar, which I was told was just recently built as an extention. This was my view, and I was a happy boy.

bar

The night was graced with excellent cocktails, and I relaxed and tried to put my personal woes out of my head for a little while. The menu looked fantastic, and from what I heard the execution is perfect here — not like Braise in Milwaukee last night. I placed a few orders for small items and just played it by ear.

I enjoyed chatting with the staff over how the restaurant scene in Madison is developing and then the first item, recommended by the bartender, arrived — the lamb carpaccio.

1-lamb_carpaccio

Oh, these were excellent, fresh and tasted of lamb (not some neutral — or neutralised — version of “lamb” that is so often sold in the US), with a golden yolk that added to the appeal. But one of the stars on this dish were the corn shoots…so full of natural flavour. Fantastic! Now this is what Braise didn’t do, let the natural flavours shine. This is excellent. I am smiling so far.

I finished this excellent carpaccio dish and enjoyed more cocktails and chat, now with some fellow diners at the bar. Then the next item arrived, and this should easily put Braise to shame.

2-beets

Beets, just good ol’ beets. I love beets, and this was just good. I had a quick flashback to that “marrow” dish from last night and shuddered… Fabulous stuff so far. Then the next item arrived, one of the day’s special.

3b-pork

Now this is some good pork, full of flavour from a well-cooked and well-sourced pig. Excellent on the outside, juicy on the inside. Once again, simple but damn good. Let the natural flavours shine, don’t screw with it if it don’t need screwing’ with! Awesome!

I chilled out and spent a bit of time imbibing as I needed a wee break. It’s interesting hearing about the Madison dining scene, especially in the summer when both the University of Wisconsin-Madison is out; plus the media is following the trainwreck that is Governor Scott Walker’s idiotic presidential caravan. Seriously, if you can’t manage your own state government what makes you think you can run the entire country? But the place also quietly got really full and the bar was standing-room-only by now.

At this point I decided to get one last dish to see me through the evening, and this was a big one that I had targetted earlier, and it smelled divine when it arrived.

4-pork_tripe

Pork tripe, ’nuff said. Done in an Iberian fashion, with some pork belly to add richness and a healthy amount of white beans in the tasty sauce. I wish there was a little more tripe though, I like a lot of it in my dishes. But it was tasty nevertheless.

I finished up some after-dinner drinks and watched as the place slowly emptied out for now — until their late rush. I happily took my leave before then, to free up the much-envied space, thanking the staff for their excellent and friendly service, as well as the fabulous food.

When you let the natural flavours rule the day, that’s a kitchen that I truly respect. You rather take great ingredients and manipulate it so it loses its natural goodness? You can go do TV cooking and open up in Las Vegas. Madison gets some of the best products of Wisonsin’s amazing farms, and their ability to bring their flavours to the forte without overchef’ing something to death is something that’ll get me back in Madison — especially A Pig in a Fur Coat — far more often.

Excellent, not to be missed. You’ll love this place as much as I did.

A Pig in a Fur Coat
940 Williamson Street
Madison, Wisconsin

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Review: Braise

15 July 2015

I embarked on a rather long, two-part trip in the middle of July — just when everyone else is travelling… I had to be in northern Wisconsin for an event so I decided, for the first part of the trip, to spend a little time in Wisconsin. It’s been too long since I’ve been there, and I’ve always enjoyed it.

I made my way at first to Milwaukee for a quick overnight stop, and take in dinner at the well-acclaimed Braise. They are known for their connection to local producers, so I was looking forward to sampling some of the best foods Wisconsin can deliver and what this kitchen can cook up. I got there and chilled out with a drink and looked over the menu. Small plates seem to dominate, so I decided on a series of plates for tonight’s dinner.

I chilled out and tried to relax, but my back was killing me from a busy day (not helped by the flight very early in the morning). Then the first snack item arrived.

1-lamb_bun

This was a lamb bun, a special of the day (they do a pork one too). Sadly it was a bit meh for me, as the bun tasted odd, nowhere near the Asian street style they were trying to replicate. The condiments also worked against the meat, like they wanted to do too much. Over-cheffed? Anyway, let’s see what dish two brings. But when it showed up I was confused…

2-bone_marrow

This is bone marrow? Problem is what they did to it. It’s basically coagulated into something that’s really not pleasant to eat. The lump on the right of the picture was especially unpleasant, reminded me of day-old crisco that’s been left out. Why didn’t they just bring out nice, roasted marrow — instead of trying to turn it into a some coagulation that just tasted like it was gonna lodge itself in my aorta like a huge fat embolus?

I was starting to feel this dinner isn’t going my way. I’m not sure what this kitchen was thinking to be honest…all this great produce, but messed around for absolutely no reason. It’s like someone who decided they need to overdo something. Why can’t I just have the fresh ingredients in their glory? Then dish number three came and I was now sure…

3-chanterelles

I love chanterelles to death, I can eat them all day…but not really on this place. The liquid was far too acidic and just ate into the mushrooms; the knödel-wannabe (supposedly made of polenta) tasted more of matzoh. I really am souring, no pun intended, on this place… I couldn’t wait to finish the last dish and get out of here…

4-humba

And this is “humba” supposedly, a dish that I love eating. Regional Filipino cuisine is awesome if done well…but this was, just well, trying too hard. The rice cake was getting soggy and the sauce was rich but fought the other ingredients. The meat itself was lacking, and really fell in the spirit of doing Filipino cuisine. Frankly the daikon on top was probably the best feature and it soaked up the sauce far better than the rice cake.

I got a coffee and headed out, extremely disappointed. Once again, the restaurant I prioritised during trip planning turned out to be the weak link, such as Farmhouse in Kansas City. Great sourcing is vital for excellent restaurants, but when they are not executed well, you may as well be eating stuff you get at the low-quality volume grocery stores. I know Braise is trying to be experimental, but this falls flat on so many levels and ways.

Off to Madison, where I KNOW the food — especially the cooking — is excellent. Should have gone there a day early…

And once again, I should NEVER look at the James Beard list. They frequently lead folks astray…

Braise
1101 South 2nd Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

More Ribs and Tips….and a Turkey Leg!

25-30 June 2015

As during previous trips within the US, I have spent a bit time sampling the barbeque from various parts of the country. Again, I usually use ribs as my gauge on how good the barbeque is, instead of other meats like brisket (of which 90%+ of the time is disappointing). And I love ribs, so this is such a fun thing to do. The previous trips saw some very fine items, from fabulous ribs at Roper’s Ribs in St Louis to the succulent ribs at Biemer’s BBQ in Lawrence, Kansas. This trip brought me from the Mid-South to South Florida, and I happily hit the rib joints everywhere.

The first stop was immediately after arriving in Memphis. Right from the airport I headed to the suburb of Germantown and dropped into Germantown Commissary to get some ribs to go. People rave about this place, and if you rave about ribs in Memphis, it’s gotta be good. I drove quickly to my hotel not far away and opened up my dinner.

germantown commissary 25 june

It looked good but it didn’t taste very good. The speed that they processed this take-out makes me think it was just re-heated quickly. The meat lacked flavour; the smoking was not smooth, and the meat had that re-heated aspect about it. Wow, what a letdown to start this trek…

The next day I made my way to Little Rock and after a busy morning and early afternoon, I stopped in the middle of town at the local place most popular for their ribs, Sims Bar-B-Que. It was a pretty rough area, with the storefronts graced by metal bars. The doors were entry-exit on different sides (to deter crime), CCTV everywhere (including one employee monitoring it) and they forced everyone to remove even sunglasses inside (as it can be construed a disguise). Wow. But I grabbed some food to go and after a bit of a wait I headed out of there and off to my hotel nearby. I opened up my lunch and smiled…

sims bbq tips 26 june

Instead of full ribs I just grabbed a box of rib tips. I love these things, if done right I can eat them forever. Now these were fabulous, cooked perfectly, with excellent flavour. Just fabulous stuff, with the smoke fully in these morsels with just a tiny bit of sauce on the bottom. Fabulous. I’d risk my safety to come back to Sims again. Nice! Was the best food of the day (considering the odd meal I had at South on Main that night, which I chose not to review…).

The next day I skipped the BBQ heading for Oxford as I just ran out of time, so I did not revisit my ribs quest until the day after when I booked the hell out of that disgusting motel in Oxford. No matter how good that dinner at City Grocery was, that motel just ruined the night for me… I had a busy morning and dropped into a small BBQ shack in a rough part of Memphis called A&R Bar-B-Que. I took some food to go as it was pretty grimey inside, and I headed to my hotel. Damn, room wasn’t ready, so I sat in my rental car and had my lunch.

A&R tips 28 june

Luckily I ordered tips again, which made it easier in the car. These were good, with a spicy sauce on top. Meat was not as good as the fabulous stuff from Sims, but it really wokred well with the hot sauce, which made this quite interesting. But they didn’t chop this one up as well, so it was not as simple to eat as the ones from Little Rock. Nevertheless very good.

I ran a few more errands that sad afternoon (Chris Squire RIP) before I had a surprisingly good dinner at Robata. I got quite trashed at the hotel bar that night due to the Chris Squire thing really hitting me, but I had to fly out early in the morning so was just trashed but not smashed… I went to my room and remember I had something else from A&R…

A&R turkey 28 june

Yep, one of their specials, the smoked turkey leg. I apologise for the photo (and the unnecessarily wrinkly skin) as this thing was sitting wrapped in foil since late morning. But it was delicious, the smoke was very deep and made the leg very tasty. With a touch of hot sauce this was heavenly. Definitely need to eat this hot one day, but even cool it was fantastic! It probably saved me from having the hangover from hell the next morning dealing with that hellish thing called Allegiant Air…

Now in South Florida, I missed the opportunity to have lunch the first day thanks to that aforementioned crap “airline” called Allegiant Air. But a fabulous night at NAOE made it up. The next day was very busy as I headed far north, as far as Jupiter before heading on back. I made two stops then back in Fort Lauderdale, the first was to visit the grave of one of my bass heroes, the tragic Jaco Pastorius

jaco

This has so much more meaning after the Chris Squire news the other day… Then I made a second stop at one of the top BBQ places in the region, Tom Jenkins’ Bar-B-Q. It smelled so good from even blocks away… I got my order after a bit of a wait (reassuring, after that Germantown Commissary “quick” turnaround). I hopped back in my car and booked it back to Miami to my hotel and popped my lunch open…

tom jenkins 30 june

These ribs may look dry, but they are anything but. It was extremely flavourful, no need any sauce. Excellent meat, fabulous flavour. Totally worth running to Fort Lauderdale for these.

So on this trip I’ve had some poor ribs (Germantown Commissary) and some excellent ribs (Tom Jenkins’), as well as some amazing rib tips (Sims) and some excellent rib tips (A&R) — as well as the smokey and awesome turkey leg (A&R). This just reaffirms my love for BBQ of all sorts, of different meats and methods. I can’t wait for another trip just to have more variety of BBQ!

Germantown Commissary
2290 South Germantown Road
Germantown, Tennessee

Sims Bar-B-Que
2415 Broadway
Little Rock, Arkansas

A&R Bar-B-Que
1802 Elvis Presley Boulevard
Memphis, Tennessee

Tom Jenkins’ Bar-B-Q
1236 South Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Review: Blackbrick

1 July 2015

One of the big problems of Miami, in my opinion, is the transport hell that it is. The amount of toll roads is ridiculous, especially for those not familiar with the area. Then there are parking nightmares, especially off onto the barrier island. There are plenty of good restaurants there, from South Beach north, but frankly it’s not worth the trouble most of the time. So I stayed on the mainland for the entire trip (except the Brickell Key drop-in the other night for that fabulous NAOE dinner). At least with NAOE I could walk and use the free Metro Mover, but elsewhere? Forget it.

So looking for places in downtown not too far from my hotel, as I have a very early flight out of Fort Lauderdale in the morning, I ended up at Blackbrick. You may think why am I at a Chinese place in South Florida of all places, but it’s one of the highest rated places in the area, and the menu looked interesting, so I gave it a go.

It was hellish finding parking even at an early hour…they really need a pay lot for an area with so many restaurants (and no Metro or Metro mover). Miami in mid-summer is not for a long walk or else you’ll need a shower at all the restaurants… But I eventually found a space and got to Blackbrick, a small and unpretentious place with a semi-open kitchen. I sat down and ordered a cocktail and relaxed…

Not too busy yet, but I think this will be packed later, so I ordered a large number of dishes and just chilled and waited for the cascade of food. In the meantime, with my cocktail I enjoyed some of these snacks, basically faux cracklins — a vegetarian version laced with a kitchen-concocted non-MSG seasoning. It was actually pretty damn addictive…

0-fake rinds

I emptied the bowl and switched to wine when the first item appeared, the shrimp egg rolls.

1-shrimp rolls

These were huge, and extremely hot. So I actually let it “breathe” a little after the first bite. It was good, filled with goodies inside, but also on the oily side as you can imagine. As it cooled off my second item arrived, the tofu skin with pork.

2-tofu skin pork

These are similar, but far less oily and very tasty; most places don’t fry these up, but they did, and it worked pretty well. There was no need for sauce for either of the rolls, as they are solid with flavour. The cascade continued with the lamb dumplings.

3-cumin lamb dumplings

These were also on the oily side, but very tasty, with a good amount of cumin flavour. It really grew on me as I kept at it, switching between them and bites off the various rolls. Then the first steam item arrived, the very traditional shumai.

4-pork shu mai

Simple and good, as if anyone can really screw this thing up. Tasty. This was followed by a more exotic steamed dumpling dish…

5-duck dumpling

These were excellent, with a excellent duck shred inside. I enjoyed the flavour very much on this. Again, no dip needed.

By now the restaurant was very busy and service was starting to get real slow as there was just 2 servers/bartenders for the whole place. They probably need more help, even middle of the week. I thought about having a little more but my parking meter is about up and I don’t want to fight the humidity just to add money to the machine, put the tag in the car, and back, so I grabbed a snack to go and headed out.

But it was good tonight, albeit at times too oily. But I’m surprised a place like this does so well here, with more exotic tastes that really has a more West Coast audience. But that’s excellent. Along with NAOE, I’m glad to see the South Florida palate expanding — and not just bad NYC/Vegas knock-offs that are lounges or clubs first and restaurant second. Blackbrick is a good find, recommended.

Maybe there’s some hope for Miami after all.

Blackbrick
3451 NE 1st Avenue
Miami, Florida

Review: Ortanique

1 July 2015

I had recovered from the wee dodgy dinner at La Rosa the night before…ugh, perhaps it’s time to switch island groups for my lunch. I had a busy morning, including quite a bit of walking around in the sun and running errands fighting local traffic (whilst avoiding the stupid toll roads that permeate this town). I then made my way to lunch.

Today’s lunch was at Ortanique, a Caribbean-influenced eatery in the heart of Coral Gables. I had to be in the area anyway, so this worked out perfectly. It was already blazing hot and having parked about 4 blocks away I was wee sweaty once I got to the restaurant. I cooled off with a lot of water and a nice cocktail…

I perused the lunch menu and it looked fabulous. I ordered and chilled, enjoying the quiet atmosphere of this early lunch hour. Soon my starter arrived, the “Caicos” style conch and corn fritters.

conch fritters

Mmm, these were delicious, I love conch. These were fried up perfectly with some sweet kernels of golden corn and other goodies. One of these perfect snacks I can eat all day! Excellent! I relaxed with some wine, enjoying this meal. Those were so good… Then my main came and…oh my…

WI bouillabaisse

This was HUGE for lunch, what they called the West Indian style bouillabaisse. This was a jumbo plate of scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp, grouper and salmon. It was like everything on this dish…wow. They tasted excellent, with just enough flavour from the broth. Not overwhelming, worked perfectly with the dollop of rice. An excellent, if not wee large lunch dish!

I headed out in the blazing sun very happy. Aside from Cuban, the other cuisine I love to do in South Florida is Caribbean; not just specifically Jamaican or Puerto Rican, but a more varied style too. And Ortanique did a great job of it, albeit in a bit of a toned-down hodge-podge approach. Very much recommended, especially if you are hungry for seafood!

Ortanique
278 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, Florida

Review: La Rosa

30 June 2015

No trip to South Florida would be right without some fine Cuban cuisine. I had planned to have much more of it during my short trip to Miami, but thanks to Allegiant Air’s disastrous delays I lost a lot of time. So instead of doing a few lunches, I decided to drop by the venerable La Rosa for dinner.

La Rosa is an unpretentious, old school place that brings in old-timers, exiles celebrating, and many tourists. Yeah, it’s a bit of a trap, but it’s got a large and varied menu, which is why I decided on it. It was a bit of a traffic nightmare getting there trying to avoid the plethora of ridiculous toll roads all over Miami, and of course parking was made far more difficult by several police officers that decided to block nearly the whole parking lot to give one guy a citation…

In any case I entered and it was a loud atmosphere. Oddly, not many were watching the Copa America semi-finals which was on the TV (I was), but were either chatting loudly about inane stuff (tourists) and celebrating various events (locals). I ordered my dinner from a waiter that seemed to have been there forever. My wine arrived and I tried to relax and watch some footie, despite the idiotic things said on the table nearby that was borderline racist against hispanics (why would you say things like this in a Cuban restaurant, Mr Tourist from California?!)…

Everyone turned towards my table when my starter arrived, which was a special of the day — the flaming chorizo and prawns.

chorizo-2

Nice resentation, and you can really smell the liquor here. But it was pretty bland, and the sausage didn’t cook very well… Too much of a show, too little proper execution. I waited for my main. I was a little ticked that they ran out of all the good daily specials I wanted to try, but settled with this.

Picadillo a la criolla

Wow, this is huge, a heaping plate of picadillo a la criolla. Based on ground beef, this was a hearty dish that needed something to soak up the grease. Of course, the waiter brought out the wrong sides, but it worked okay; I had ordered some rice but they brought plantains. No biggie, I love plantains and was gonna get some for dessert, so they saved me the trouble. But this was a heavy dish. Nothing special, very typical, sadly. I wish I had the chance to try the day’s specials like the trotter stew…

Oh well. I headed out and made the long drive back to my hotel downtown. Not sure if it was related, but my stomach really rebelled from this dinner. I suspect it was the under-cooked starter… Sigh…

La Rosa
4041 NW 7th Street
Miami, Florida

Review: NAOE

29 June 2015

I headed out of Memphis to go to South Florida, as I had some unpleasant personal event to attend. Little did I know when I woke up that early morning, with a raging hangover, that the hangover would be one of the more pleasurable things that day…

I got to Memphis Airport just before 8am for my flight to Fort Lauderdale. Then that wonderfully crappy unsafe airline called Allegiant Air delays the 9.50am flight to 10:25 then 11.25am. Then 1.25pm. By now I was fuming (alongside many others), as there were no staff at the gate. Then 1.45pm. Then 3pm. Then 3.30pm. I ended up spending the entire damn day in Memphis Airport thanks to this incompetent airline.

allegiant_crap

Delay reasons include “late arriving aircraft” thanks to one breaking down in Orlando. Then the captain was utterly speechless when he found out people couldn’t board the flight because the ground staff had GONE HOME already. He said “in 15 years of flying I have never seen anything like this…” No apologies from the Allegiant twitter “feed” nor any compensation for a 6+ hour delay. We wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without help of the local Fox television news crew!

I somehow survived and got to Fort Lauderdale and drove quickly down to Miami, and it was already nearly 8pm. Luckily I made my reservation 2 weeks ago for NAOE at 9pm for some reason, but that means I need to get going. BTW, walking to a restaurant in middle of summer in Miami is not a great idea. I walked from the Metro Mover across the bridge onto Brickell Key very quickly as I was nearly late…

I got into NAOE and they offered me anything from cold towels to ice water, and immediately I relaxed. Wow, this place reminds me a lot of a cross between a top Japanese kaiseki place with a dash of Miami chic. I was led to the back to the 6-seat counter and thought, damn, finally something is going right on this crazy day…

I took the recommendation over the sake and relaxed… It’s late, but I don’t care, it’s finally good. The small room is dominated by the open kitchen and counter, with a small team back of the house supporting Chef Kevin Cory at work. The sake is from Nakamura Brewery, which is the sake producer of his family back in Japan, doing some excellent organic stuff. I chilled chatting with the very able FoH staff, especially the manager Wendy (who was also speaking to other diners in Portuguese), when the opener arrived. Wow…

01a-bento box

This is a bento box of treats that Chef Cory is known for, and this was a pretty special set. There is a lot of variety here, and I broke it down into sections.

01b-steamed_fukko

The top left quadrant focuses on the fukko, a younger sea bass, steamed and presented with lotus roots, gingko nuts and a thickened dashi. Very nice, the dashi really brings out the flavour of the fish. A lot of flavour in this small quadrant.

01c-shuto-konnyaku-kisu

The top right quadrant is the busiest by far, with so much in the little square. First of all, the one that stands out the most is the cup of shuto in the back. Shuto is the pickled innards of bonito, a very awesome delicacy that goes super well with sake. Then there’s some fried konnyaku, or devil’s tongue, a type of yam I’ve not had since Japan, on top of a fried kisu — a lovely little fish. Also a serving of the yamaimo mountain yam with miso, and of course the small bit of corn. Wow, that’s a lot in this square, fabulous stuff.

01d-sashimi_rice_miso

The bottom goes from the sashimi selection, of fukko (the same bass as earlier) as well as mirugai (giant clam), then a nice bamboo rice, as well as a miso soup focusing on the butternut squash. A fabulous start, almost a little overwhelming!

I enjoyed a bit more sake and relaxed before the next dish showed up, and it was beautiful — made me feel like in Japan again.

02-iwashi

This is a broiled iwashi, a Japanese sardine that I really love in this style. Although bony, it’s a fine eat, from end to end. Lots of very delicious meat on this fish, though I had forgotten how hard it was to eat this with chopsticks! Excellent!

What a great start, from the food to the excellent service. The sake was very enjoyable, as was chatting with various members of the staff. Enjoyed more of that excellent sake as we shift into the sushi portion of the meal. It began with some Scottish salmon…

03-sake

Then a Kumamoto oyster from California…

04-kunamoto_oyster

Then a little twist…

05-maine_lobster-ankimo-iidako

This is a serving of some excellent Maine lobster, alongside iidako (octopus) and a nice slice of ankimo (monkfish liver). Fabulous dish, loved the flavours on all three components. Let the natural flavours shine, and this is why I like this chef. If it don’t need a lot of messin’ with, don’t mess with it too much! Then back to sushi with some yari ika (squid spear)…

06-yari_ika

Then hotate (scallop) from Boston…

07-hotate

Then a rarer piece, the akamutsu — a red bluefish also called the black throat sea perch. Very nice!

08-akamutsu

Then finally, a wonderful piece of saba (mackerel) from Japan, deep and full of flavour. I love mackerel!

09-saba

I was enjoying more sake when the next item came out, and I immediately thanked chef as it is one of my favourite snacks…

10-karasumi

A few pieces of karasumi grilled. I love these things, whether in this format or as bottarga over my pasta. I can eat this stuff all day, and drink all the sake after each tasting. Mmm! Lovely! Then another special treat came next.

11-uni-konoko

The uni from Hokkaido was excellent, but I was focused on the other item — which I saw the sushi chef work on earlier. This is a rare treat indeed, the konoko — or preserved sea cucumber roe. Oh my, this is fantastic, even in Japan I don’t see this often. What a great combination!

I finished my bottle of sake and floated for the end of the meal, knowing there’s a little more left from the savoury side. And it was an eel fest.

12-shiroyaki

The first of the two eel tasting was unagi done in the shiroyaki fashing, broiled with simple sea salt, served as a piece of sushi.

13-kabayaki

The next was in the kabayaki format, with sauce. I like this way of showcasing eel, brought back memories of that smoky but amazing night at Kabuto in Tokyo back in January…

We were done with the savouries, and I had switched to an “ice” sake that was served as ice pieces…odd, very strong taste. I should have taken a pix of it! But we were presented with a series of dessert courses…

14-desserts

The first was a locally-grown red dragon fruit, which is excellent, more tart (and flavourful) than the usual white ones. Lovely to see it grown locally! Then the middle was some matcha green tea with a piece of yokan made from jackfruit. Honestly I’m not a big fan of yokan, so… And finally, the excellent kasutera cakes (delicious! Gotta thank Portugal for this influence!) and the fabulous ice cream. Chef wanted me to guess, and I missed, but it was shoyu (soy sauce) ice cream. Excellent. I remember having it in Japan a few times (like at Taku), and it was excellent!

This was such a nice dining experience — I emphasise experience — that I almost forgot about the hell Allegiant Air put me through earlier. I’d take that torture to eat here. Fabulous food, excellent service, wonderful atmosphere. The friendliest folks too, from front to back of the house. Enjoyed chatting late into the night with the crew, including Chef, and I didn’t get out of there until after 2am.

I have to say this was a total surprise for me, and a wonderful one at that. I loved how they do this place, bringing so much of the true spirit of Japan to Miami of all places. Even in LA or NYC this place would be a spectacular hit, but Chef chose to challenge this city instead. I wish him and his team a lot of luck, and it’s definitely a place worth a detour to enjoy a wonderful night!

Very, very highly recommended!

NAOE
661 Brickell Key Drive
Brickell Key
Miami, Florida