Stumbled upon La Bonne Crepe

July 31, 2011

A while back, a friend and I had driven to Fort Lauderdale one Sunday on the hunt for Himmarshee Bar & Grille’s Sunday Brunch. After trekking the bumper car race that is I95, we get to Himmarshee only to find out it was closed, even though their website said they were open from 11:30am – 4pm. My friend and I ended up driving aimlessly, feverishly and desperately down Las Olas Blvd looking for food like vultures in the desert. We were out of our element and our Yelp iPhone app was useless. We decided to just park the car and walk around until we found a decent place to eat or until we became cannibals and ate a chunky passerby. We finally stumbled upon Café la Bonne Crepe. There were several patrons sitting outside and the menu had gruyere cheese and béchamel sauce written all over the place (JACKPOT!). We quickly decided to go with this place and got a table.

The décor inside of the restaurant was eclectic, to say the least. No real rhyme or reason to some of the pieces of art that were inside of the restaurant, other than maybe Good Will was having a BOGO sale. The staff was friendly and attentive. The menu has several different options. They offer dozens of crepe variations, sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. My friend decided to have their Turkey and Gruyere sandwich, which comes with fresh roasted turkey with imported gruyere cheese & arugula, garnished with caramelized onion mayonnaise served on a baguette. The turkey in this sandwich definitely isn’t your usual Oscar Meyer cold cut; this thing had thick cuts of fresh Turkey breast. The caramelized onion mayo took this regular ol’ sandwich and sky rocketed into outer space. The mayo gave the sandwich a great kick, but did not in any overpower the flavor of the gruyere, arugula or turkey. I fell in love with the mayo, if only I could figure out a way to duplicate it at home. The sandwich also came with a side of homemade potato salad. that was really flavorful and went well with the sandwich.

I went with one of their crepes. I decided to go with their fresh chicken crepe that came with béchamel sauce and gruyere cheese. The presentation alone was impressive. The crepe is delicately cooked on only one side and then folded in a tall and elegant manner, definitely nothing like the crepes you get at the mall. The béchamel sauce was over flowing like lava onto the dish and had a great subtle flavor to it that played perfectly with the sharp taste of the gruyere cheese. The chicken, however, was quite under seasoned and could have used some salt and pepper to add taste.

My friend and I decided to play nice and share our food with one another. So we both got half a crepe and half a sandwich, see kids sharing IS caring! This place was a great find and a neat little café in Fort Lauderdale that’ll definitely fix any crepe craving. Definitely a place to check out if you’re in the Las Olas/Fort Lauderdale area.

Restaurant Details:
La Bonne Crepe
815 E Las Olas Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

(954) 761-1515
La Bonne Crepe on Urbanspoon

Lulu's in the Grove Lures Me In

July 17, 2011

A friend had recently recommended Lulu’s in the Grove so I decided to check it out. The restaurant is located directly across the street from Greenstreet Café and is actually owned by the same owner. The outside of the restaurant seems cozy, with big red couches strewed around the corner with citronella tiki lights to ward off pesky mosquitoes. I decided to go inside because the heat that day was only bearable by Canadian tourists and hairless cats.  The space inside the actual restaurant is very small and the majority of the sitting space lies outside on the side walk. The inside of the restaurant looks very industrial with exposed pipes in the ceiling and the color scheme sticking to black, white and red. There are also collages throughout some of the walls with pictures and newspaper cut outs that draw your attention.  

I decided to sit at the bar where I met the bartender, Megan, who was very funny and jovial. Their menu offers a big selection of small plates/appetizers so I decided to try one of those out. The one that popped out at me was the shichimi corn. The shichimi corn is simply put, skewered corn (fancy way of saying corn on the cob) with butter garlic shichimi. Thankfully, the corn came out in small manageable pieces that didn’t require me rolling up my sleeves.  The corn was well grilled and the shichimi gave the corn a slight and subtle heat, but it didn’t take away from the flavor of the corn. The corn's flavor definitely shined through but was only tweaked by the slight seasoning and spice from the shichimi. It was really good and it left me curious to see what else they had to offer. 

Up next, I went with the Truffled Mac and Cheese. The dish came out boiling hot with some of the cheese still sizzling around the edge; this was of course a very good sign. The parmesan cheese over the top was light browned and once you dug in, a cloud of steam poofed out from the dish. The béchamel and cheese sauce had bits of truffle and once you bit into the pasta you got a tiny hint of truffle oil. It was just enough to uplift the flavor but definitely not enough to overpower the pasta and cheese. The flavor was nothing short of magical and as I inhaled it, Megan came over and said, “It’s good huh? I don’t know how I haven’t gained 10 lbs on that stuff.” The truth is I don’t know either. If I worked here, I’d be hoarding the mac and cheese in a back room like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Once I was done, I debated on dessert and decided against it. I was really full and I knew I had to somehow manage to walk back to my car.

I was really pleased with Lulu’s not just because the food was great, but also because of the welcoming service I received. This is a great little addition to the grove and one the grove desperately needed. The side walk café appeal is great for people watching in the grove, but if you’re interested in indoor seating be sure to call ahead since there is limited seating.

Restaurant Details:
Lulu’s in the Grove
3105 Commodore Plaza
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
(305) 447-5858

Lulu on Urbanspoon

SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill, the Dylan of Midtown

July 6, 2011

Sugarcane exploded onto the scene in early 2010 to rave reviews and appreciation from the ever growing Midtown scene. Last year’s recipient of Miami New Times Best New Restaurant, Sugarcane is the really cool kid in school that isn’t trying to be. Much like Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210 (circa 1992), this restaurant oozes swag and cool even when it’s not trying to. The restaurant boasts three different kitchens all offering tapas sized dishes mostly under $13.00 a piece. I’ve recently become a big fan of their Happy Hour specials, especially since this place is located perfectly on my way home from hell, I mean work.

On my most recent visit, I marched straight to the bar and grabbed myself a stool. The bartenders are all way too attractive for their own good, but are friendly none the less. Not too many people ever talk about the bar and eccentric drink selections at Sugarcane, their concoctions are definitely on the funky side. They have a knack for pairing obscure ingredients and making them work, for example their Spice of Love drinks which combines jalapeños, passion fruit puree and Svedka vodka. This time around, I settled on their Blackberry Toast; which is a mix of muddled blackberries, rosemary infused secret sauce and Jim Beam Kentucky Bourbon. The rosemary and blackberries were really refreshing and just what I needed after the day I had; plus you can never really go wrong with Jim Beam.

Then I decided to get a couple of things to eat, to start off I had their Kobe beef slider. This little sucker comes with a fried quail egg on top and caramelized onions. The meat is cooked to order, but I always go with medium. The slider was really juicy and the caramelized onions melted like butter. If only they offered a slightly larger portion, so I could enjoy it in more than 3 bites. None the less, it was great. 

Next up, I went with their bacon wrapped dates, one of their most popular dishes. I've never been a fan of dates, but if you stuff anything with manchego cheese and then wrap it in bacon, I'll eat it.  Although they look small, these three dates are actually kind of filling and meant to be shared. The dates bring sweetness to the dish that is perfectly cut in half by the Dijon mustard vinaigrette that is drizzled on the plate and over the small greens salad that accompanies the dates. 

Up next, I decided to try one of their new menu items, their watermelon gazpacho. At first glance this dish looks very unique, almost like my Sunday morning hangover. Once you get past the appearance of this pink soup and blend in the crème fraiche, you’re left with a completely refreshing bowl of cool, creamy summer. There are tiny bits of lump crab that go surprisingly well with the bits of watermelon. The soup is chilled perfectly and is very creamy. Something to definitely try before the season is over and it is removed from their menu.

As usual, this restaurant doesn’t disappoint. From the eclectic warmth in their interior design to the eccentric menu and drinks, this place is great for any adult occasion. From a hot date to Hump day happy hour, it’s a great gem in the Midtown area.  Just be weary, although the dishes cost around $10-$13 a piece, your tab will easily jump as you keep trying new dishes and drinks.

Restaurant Details
3250 NE 1st ave
Miami, FL
786 369 0353

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill on Urbanspoon

Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill serving up more than just fish sticks!

July 3, 2011

My friend was in the mood for seafood so we started doing out research and settled on Casablanca. Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill is actually this year’s winner for ‘Best Seafood on the Miami River’ in the Miami New Times Best Of list. The front of the restaurant is on what looks like a side street right surrounded by warehouses with complimentary valet parking. The restaurant is actually right on the Miami river and offers outdoor seating facing the river where you can see boats passing by and even coming to dock directly at the restaurant. We decided to sit outside and enjoy the most of the scenery the restaurant had to offer. There are dozens of waiters whizzing by and the majority of them greeted us even though they weren’t our waiter.  Our waiter was funny and very helpful in suggesting dishes once we told him this was our first time at the restaurant.

When it came to our food, we decided to get a couple of appetizers before getting I went with the Beef Tostones Napoleon, leave it to me to order beef at a seafood restaurant. The tostones are garlic scented green plantains with shredded beef sofrito topped with coleslaw and drizzled with avocado aioli. These were amazing! The shredded beef was so flavorful, similar to a really good ‘ropa vieja.’ The tostones were insanely enormous; I’ve never seen tostones 5 inches in diameter, they were thin and perfectly cooked. The coleslaw and aioli gave the dish a nice refreshing finish. The only thing you should know is, this is a dish that is meant to be shared. Although it looks small, it’s actually very filling and of course, I tried to tackle this bad boy on my own.

So when it came time to order our entrées I knew I didn’t have a lot of room to get a giant meal. I decided to settle on something a bit smaller and went with their Ahi Tuna Tartar. The dish comes with pickled ginger, soy spiced sesame ahi tuna with California avocado served over warm wonton crisps. The tuna was cut into 1 centimeter sized cubes and tasted really fresh. The quality of the tuna was really good and the fish almost dissolved in your mouth. The only small draw back on this dish was the wonton ‘crisps;’ they weren’t very crisp and were actually almost chewy like Doritos that have been laying out all day. Another thing I noticed was the avocados promised in the menu with this dish seemed to be missing, turns out the drizzled sauce over the tuna was an avocado based sauce. I should mention, the avocado sauce drizzled over the soy and sesame spice tuna tasted really wonderful and refreshing.

My friend had tackled their Puerto Sagua Seafood Zarzuela which is a monstrous plate filled with the chef ’s selection of the finest seafood flambéed with Cognac and simmered in a flavorful tomato saffron broth. Her dish had every kind of fish and crustacean you can imagine including mussels, scallops, shrimp and much more. I stole a piece of scallop to try and it was phenomenal, leaving me feeling jealous and wanting more. The Cognac flambé with the tomato saffron broth gave the seafood a totally different spin but still maintaining its flavor and integrity. I apologize for not snapping a picture of my friend's dish, I was too busy slipping into a food coma.

If you’re ever looking for good local seafood, this is definitely a place to check out. The view and scenery of the boats passing along the Miami River and the friendly staff make this an inviting and fun place to eat. However, if you’re looking for a more intimate and serious experience, you can always sit inside the restaurant. The seafood itself is as fresh as it gets and as you walk into the restaurant, they boast their fresh catch of the day on ice near the kitchen. There are also weekday specials such as all you can eat free shrimp on Mondays, buy one get one free on the catch of the day every Tuesday, all you can eat oysters on Wednesdays, lobster deals on Thursdays, and Stone Crab Fridays.

Restaurant Details:
Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill

404 NW N River Dr
MiamiFL 33128
(305) 371-4107

Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

No frills, just good food at Jimmy's Eastside Diner!

July 1, 2011

If there is one thing I really like is good ol’ diner food. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of real-deal diner options in hip and trendy Miami. Jimmy’s Eastside Diner is a great little diner tucked away in north east Miami on Biscayne Blvd. The minute you walk in you realize the place is bright and welcoming. The host’s desk is surrounded by news paper clippings and local ads and the waitresses are buzzing about with orders and dishes. On the weekends you can expect to wait for a booth since this place is always packed.  If you’re with a small enough party, I suggest sitting at the bar. The service at the bar tends to usually be quicker because there are friendly waitresses running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  Even though the waitresses are always in a hurry, the majority of them are always friendly and jovial. This is a ‘no frills’ kind of place, the menu’s are printed on colorful paper and laminated, the food is on the same wavelength, no frills just the good stuff.  

On my last visit, I sat at the bar and decided to have breakfast. I went with a regular cup of coffee, a short stack of pancakes and their #2 breakfast combo which consists of:  2 eggs, Jimmy’s Jumbo Country sausage, home fries or hash browns, toast and orange juice. This plethora of food only cost me $12.00. If you want quantity and quality for your breakfast, you should definitely check this place out.

I ended up getting my #2 combo with scrambled eggs with cheese on top, home fries and white toast. My scrambled eggs were soft and fluffy, the cheese on top was regular American cheese (remember no frills!). The home fries were killer; they had a spicy almost Cajun seasoning to them that made them irresistible. The sausage was also on the spicy side and really great. The pancakes were simple, fluffy, aunt jemima-esque hot cakes. Nothing to write home about in regards to the flavor or texture of the pancakes, but hot and fresh none the less. I soon realized I had ordered way too much food, luckily for me I was with my human food compressor (my best friend). Whatever I couldn’t finish, he inhaled.

This family friendly diner truly is a rarity in the upscale and trendsetting Miami food scene. It’s a laid back place that offers simple and good food at very reasonable prices. Always one of my favorites to soak up a bad hangover and definitely a place to check out if you’re ever in the Miami Shores/ north east Miami area.


Restaurant Details:
Jimmy's East-Side Diner
7201 Biscayne Blvd
Miami Shores, FL 33138

Jimmy's East-Side Diner on Urbanspoon