Kapow! Noodle Bar Karate Chops Your Taste Buds!

January 25, 2012

Last week my boyfriend and I decided to stay in broward for dinner. We tried our luck at a couple different restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and were met with almost 2 hour waits for a table. We decided to get a little crazy and head to Boca Raton to try this place John had on his list. So we did the drive and got to Boca Raton, which is a completely different planet for my Hialeah raised ass. The restaurant itself is located inside the Mizner Park shopping plaza which was buzzing with want-to-be-hip retirees desperately trying to hold on to the last remaining slivers of their youth.

We walked in and the inside of the restaurant is the complete antithesis of the remainder of Mizner Park, it was young, great alternative rock playing on the stereo, good beer selection and an amazing Asian inspired graffiti mural. Our waitress was sweet, informative and was able to give us a full run down on the menu.

We decided to start the night with a couple of their buns. I had their crispy duck confit buns and John went with their Korean BBQ beef buns. My duck buns were delicious, the duck confit came topped with thinly sliced cucumber and what knocked it out of the park was a dried cherry creamed goat cheese. The cherry and goat cheese combo gave it a slightly tart creaminess what went perfectly with the savory flavor of the duck. While I was stuffing my face with buns my boyfriend was inhaling his korean bbq beef buns which came topped with shredded lettuce and pickled cucumber. He said the beef was tasty, fresh and the bbq sauce was light and didn't overpower any of the other flavors. He did say that the lettuce was a poor way to give the buns any kind of crunch and that cabbage would've been a nice crunchier fit. We both had the same problem that are buns fell apart. Although the buns are soft and fluffy, they were no match for their juicy contents and would break in the center leading to messy buns.

Up next I had their crispy chicken skin, yep you read that right. Think of chicken's version of pork rinds. They were light and super crispy. They were like nature's fatty potato chips. I couldn't really stop eating them. They're served with what tasted just like soy sauce and decorated with a miniature parmesan crisp. My only qualm is that I would've like to have seen a little bit more seasoning on these guys. Although, naturally they tasted great, some sort of funky seasoning on them would have really kicked it up a notch.

My boyfriend had their steamed shrimp dumplings which are served with a chili pepper infused soy sauce. For him, this was probably the lowest point of his meal. He said that although the ingredients were well cooked, the dumplings tasted really, "shrimpy" and that he felt it was a little distracting.
My boyfriend then had their pan seared diver scallops that come with bok choy, drizzled with green curry sauce over a bed of straw mushrooms and rice. The portion was really generous and could easily feed two people. All five scallops were large, plump and perfectly cooked. Only recommendation he would make is to cook them with no seasoning. The seasoning burned and ended up giving the scallops an unfriendly crust of crackling burned bits in his mouth. The green curry sauce had the perfect amount of heat and was delicious with the rest of the dish. I was so full by the time this dish came out that I was bummed that I couldnt try a bite. It looked great.
I then had their green tea cured salmon; this was easily the best dish of the night. This was absolutely delicious. The salmon is served with fresh and fried basil leaves and longan berries that have been stuffed with a yuzu-kosho (citrus) gelee. The waitress told us that the way to eat this dish is by wrapping a piece of salmon around the longan berry so you can get all the flavors at once. The waitress also mentioned that if you don't get a little bit of everything in each bite you miss out and boy was she right. The citrus gelee and longan berry gave the salmon a slightly sweet and refreshing flavor. I usually don't eat slabs of raw fish like this, but the salmon was insanely fresh with a tiny hint of the green tea flavor through out the meat. It's been several days and I'm still thinking about how good this dish was.

If you're in the Boca Raton area and looking for funky Asian food or if you're looking for a restaurant that plays awesome indie/alternative rock music, then definitely check this place out. The atmosphere is fun, the staff was insightful, helpful and the food was overall reall good. It makes me sad that this place is an hour away from home, but if you're feeling adventurous then I encourage you to take a drive.

Restaurant Details:
Kapow! Noodle Bar
(561) 347-7322
431 Plaza Real
Boca Raton, FL 33432

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Cuban Guys offering fast Cuban food in Hialeah Gardens

January 14, 2012

I've been getting some flack from my friends for not reviewing any Hialeah restaurants. The truth is, the variety of food in Hialeah is rather limited and the bulk of restaurants offer primarily Cuban food. Let's be honest, reviewing a cuisine that is so near and dear to the majority of the city's residents is no easy task. Everyone's tio makes the best Lechon and everyone's abuela makes the best arroz con leche ever, so great Cuban restaurants in Hialeah are extremely subjective. None the less, one of my new year's resolutions is to make an active effort to write more about restaurants from my home town.

I had seen a couple of tweets about a brand new restaurant offering Cuban favorites at a fast food pace. I decided to head into Hialeah gardens and give the place a shot. The restaurant's decor was simple and it had a fast food layout. The music playing on the stereo were Hialeah basics, you know Pitbull, Daddy Yankee, Marc Anthony and the like. Their menu is laid out on a large tv on the wall next to a sign that reads, "Not just fast food, it's awesome food fast."

I decided to keep it simple and had their Pan con Bistec with a side of plantain chips. The pan con bistec was enormous and piled high with a palomilla steak, real deal crispy potato sticks, shredded lettuce, a tiny bit of mayonnaise, thinly sliced tomatoes, and grilled onions in lightly pressed Cuban bread. The steak was perfectly grilled and seasoned. The crispy potatoes were fresh and homemade. This was easily one of the best pan con bistec sandwiches I've had in a really long time. I inhaled this bad boy and didn't think twice about that pesky new year's resolution to lose 20 pounds.

On a second visit I decided to give their bowls a shot. Similar to a cubanized Chicken Kitchen's chop-chop; it's served with your choice of protein, white rice, black beans, fried sweet plantains and more of those awesome potato sticks. I decided to have steak as my protein, since it tasted so good in the pan con bistec. Again, the steak was perfectly seasoned and ridiculously flavorful. The sweet plantains were chopped, which was a nice variation to how they're typically served. The potato sticks added a nice crunch to each bit. My only qualm was that the beans and rice were really under-seasoned for my particular taste. I found that unless I had a piece of steak with each bite, there wasn't a lot of flavor going on. It's nothing a little salt and pepper wouldn't fix, so hopefully they'll correct it.

I also had a side of their fried plantain chips. Their made fresh in-house and are cut slightly thicker than usual but still manage to have a great crunch. They're served with a small side of mojo that is perfectly garlicky just how I like it. I would've loved a whole bucket of the mojo because it was seriously that good.

I also decided to try their tamal. Flavorwise, this bad boy was on point. The pork and corn was perfectly seasoned and tasted great. My only issue with this was that it was served at room temperature, which is a complete shame. Had the tamal been nice and hot, it would've been a lot better. None the less, it's something small that this place can definitely tweak and correct.

Onto their desserts, this place has some amazing flans. They offer a cappuccino flan that has a nice hint of coffee throughout the really creamy flan. If you're a coffee and sweets lover, then definitely give this a try. I loved this variation of flan and was definitely addicted at first bite. I also tried their guava and cheese flan, think of a pastel de guayaba y queso without the pastry dough. This flan is primarily a cheese flan with rich guava over the top. This flan is very sweet but completely delicious. Both flans I'd have again in a heart beat, they were a different and neat twist on this Cuban staple.

I really liked this place over all and liked the concept of offering fast Cuban food. Definitely check this place out for the sandwiches and their flans. This place is brand new and has the potential to fill a hole in Hialeah with their fast food approach. Wishing them the best of luck.

Restaurant Details:
Cuban Guys Restaurant
3174 W 76 St.
Hialeah, FL 33018
(786) 326-8890

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Something's brewing in Wynwood

January 10, 2012

Now that Edible South Florida magazine has done a whole article on the owners of Panther Coffee, it's safe to say my secret coffee spot is no longer much of a secret. Owned and operated by a married couple from Seattle (The Jerusalem of American Coffee), they've brought their Seattle brewing style and technique to sunny South Florida. Nestled in the center of Wynwood's art district, this place is a regular stop for Miami hipsters and coffee hounds alike. They roast their own coffee right there in front of you on a beautiful 1920's vintage coffee roaster and are always friendly to answer questions regarding the process. You'll find this place relatively simple, not a lot going on decoration-wise because they let their coffee do the talking. The coffee brewed and roasted in this small place is some of the richest and strongest coffee I've had outside of Colombia and it's one of my favorite pit stops on my days off from work.

Their menu is relatively simple, these people know what they're good at and they stick to it. You won't find a dozen fancy coffee syrups to make your, "mocha toffee hazelnut chai with 2% milk, a splash of soy, extra foam, 2 splendas and extra hot." Forget about that shit, the folks at Panther Coffee are purists. They carefully select coffee beans from around the world and carefully roast them to perfection. When I go, there are only two types of coffee drinks I have, either their cold brew (iced coffee) or their cappuccino.

Up first I'll talk about their cappuccino. Not only is it simple and delicious, the foam is always light and frothy as it should be. In addition, these folks have brought west coast "latte art" to Miami by always putting a nice design at the top of your cup of joe. The hot coffee is usually at a spot on temperature and if you need to sweeten up your coffee, your options are natural turbinado sugar or white sugar. I urge you to always go with the turbinado (brown) sugar, the flavor goes perfectly and it gives it an added richness.

You'll also find a handful of pastries from local bakeries for sale by the register. My favorite though are the mini cakes from Yummy ChunBuns. Specifically the Chunky Monkey ChunBun. It's a small banana cake with a chocolate center, topped with chocolate ganache and a chocolate dipped banana. So good and rich, that it's ridiculous. The fact that they're a relatively small dessert, you won't be left feeling like Precious with her bucket of chicken. It's a nice little indulgence that will not leave you feeling like a complete glutton. I personal love banana and chocolate or banana with peanut butter, so I almost always get one.

Since the weather in Miami is usually as hot and muggy as Kesha's armpits, I typically get the Coldbrew (Iced Coffee). They cold brew their coffee at room temperature for approximately 9 hours, so you still get the intense flavor of a hot coffee without any fuss. The coffee's flavor is still strong enough to give you a jolt but refreshing enough to fool you into thinking a second glass won't do any harm. Afterwards, I usually find myself running around town with a ton of energy and a crazy stare in my eyes resembling one of the Lohans.

If you're someone that lives and dies by Starbucks, I would urge you to give this place a shot. If you're still on the fence, try their coffee for FREE! They host coffee tastings on the second Friday and third Saturday of every month. Once you drink their coffee you'll soon find yourself noticing that Starbucks tastes like muddied water. I found it exceptionally neat to see the roasting process done right there in front of you, something you will never get at any Starbucks where everything is prepackaged and sealed.
For more in depth information, feel free to check out the Edible South Florida article, located on page 12/13 of the virtual magazine http://onlinedigeditions.com/publication/?i=84376&p=1

Restaurant Details:
Panther Coffee 
2390 NW 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 677 3952

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