Peruvian Japanese Fusion at Tira.D.Toss

Tira.D.Toss.  (It’s the name of a restaurant.)  How would you pronounce that?

Well, it took me a couple tries, but I finally realized that the restaurant’s actually named after tiraditos, Peruvian dishes composed of raw fish.  Accordingly to Wikipedia, tiraditos are representative of the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cooking!  Learn something new everyday, huh?

Anyhoo, I usually get pretty excited about fusion restaurants, and this one’s been on my list for a few months now — ever since I read some good reviews about it and saw its eye-catching website —  so I was happy to finally check it out!  As you probably guessed by its namesake, this restaurant serves a combination of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines.

I would have to say, Tira.D.Toss doesn’t have the most economical menu from a price standpoint, but the descriptions looked good, so I was willing to give it a shot.

I ordered the Crunchy Tuna roll from the sushi section of the menu.  That’s tuna, avocado, spicy mayo, and scallions roll topped with tuna, salmon, avocado, crunch and eel sauce.  Mmm…

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Ice Cream Cake in Winter?!

Yes, it’s Winter.  And yes, I’m eating ice cream.  Hey, it’s one of the benefits of living in South Florida!

I’m not typically a desserts person — unless we’re talkin’ about a sampler platter — but if I had my choice of dessert, ice cream cake would make it pretty high on the list.  I think I may have just stumbled upon my new favorite spot — at least in Doral — to get some.  Miller’s Ale House*.

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That’s Capt’n Jack’s Buried Treasure.  And treasure it is!  Homemade ice cream cake with Oreo cookie crust, caramel, chocolate fudge, and Heath Bar crunch.  All the best toppings!  Better yet, this mountain of booty’ll run you just under $6 (excluding tax)!  What are you waiting still for?

*Location:
3271 Northwest 87th Avenue
Miami, FL 33172

Paris-dise in Miami at La Provence

It’s nice to occasionally escape to a place that’s much unlike your own, if only just for 30 minutes or an hour…

In the LatAm microcosm of the US known as Miami, I recently visited a little piece of France sitting near the corner of 41st Street and 107th Avenue in Doral.  A little cafe-type shop called La Provence*.

I’ve walked by it a couple times before on the way to one of my favorite restaurants in Doral — Olivos — but have never stopped in to order anything.  The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating, which is great when the days are nice and sunny — most days.

I recently stopped by and tried one of their sandwiches for lunch — the Brie LT (like BLT) on Ciabatta.  Really, it was more like the Brie — and Bacon — LT.  In addition to the standard ingredients in a BLT sandwich, there was a nice thick, semi-melty layer of brie cheese incorporated right into the center.

012015_laprovence_brieIt took a while for the sandwich to be prepared, but I think the wait was worth it.  The bread even came out with a crunchy crust, yum!  Overall, a pretty fine sandwich.  The relatively lighter taste of the brie balanced out the relatively heavier taste of the bacon, a good combination.  Portion size was pretty decent too.  I actually ended up eating only half the sandwich and saving the other half for another meal!  Then again, $8.95 per is probably slightly more than your average sandwich…

I’d go back to La Provence again.  They had a pretty interesting/extensive menu, so I’d be up for trying something new.  They also had cute (slightly overpriced) desserts and pastries… which I might be tempted to try too.  Here’s their menu in case you’re interested in taking a look.

*Location:
10425 Northwest 41st Street
Doral, FL 33178

P.F. Chang’s Crispy Honey Chicken Lunch Special

The special thing about a lunch special is that you supposedly get more bang for your buck, right?  Specials usually come with a soup, salad, or taste of an appetizer.  And sometimes even with a dessert afterwards.

I’ve eaten at P.F. Chang’s before, but have never ordered off their lunch specials menu.  After lunch last week, I learned that P.F. Chang’s lunch specials leave a lot to be desired, at least portion-wise.

011915_pfchangs_eggdropGiven a choice of soup or salad, I went with the former and ordered a cup of Egg Drop Soup.  The soup was all right, a bit saltier than I was expecting — egg drop soup is usually pretty bland — but still decent, okay-fine.

I also ordered the Crispy Honey Chicken entree.  Sweet & salty is one of my favorite taste profiles, and while the chicken tasted fine, I was pretty unamused at the overall chicken to rice ratio!  Look at that mountain of rice, sitting next to a noticeably blunt dune of chicken.  That’s like one bite of chicken for every five mouthfuls of rice!  Very disappointing, Mr. Chang!  *shakes fist*

I consumed all the rice on my plate, and two fortune cookies later, I was still hungry.  In fact, I even left the restaurant hungry!  While overall food quality was decent, I’ll have to think twice about revisiting when I’m in a ravenous mood (which is before nearly every meal)…

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A Taste of Italy on the Costa Mediterranea

Those of you that have been reading my blog likely know by now that food is the way to my heart.  And I am always open to and appreciative of a good ethnic meal.

Luckily, I got to experience an authentic piece of Italy today, onboard an authentic (and gorgeous) Italian cruise ship — the Costa Mediterranea!  My morning began with a nice frothy cup of cappuccino — and great service to go along with it.  So good so far.  After a three-hour walking tour of the ship, I had the privilege of having lunch onboard in one of the ship’s main dining rooms.

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Like any good Italian meal, this meal started off with antipasti.  Prosciutto crudo e Grana Padano con bruschetta al pomodoro.  Translation: Raw ham and Grana Padano cheese with tomato “bruschetta.”  (I had the privilege of walking through the galley of the Mediterranea earlier and saw the chefs carving the chunks of cheese out of a humongous cheese wheel, so had been mentally drooling and super eager to try this appetizer.) Continue reading

Doggi’s Patacon de Pollo

In my mind, Chicago will always be the food mecca of the US… except when it comes to Latin American food.  There are some LatAm options in Chicago, like Cantina Laredo or Xoco, but there are many more tempting options for other types of cuisines.  South Florida is without a doubt, my mecca for good, authentic Latin American cuisine.

Today’s adventure brought me to the heart of Miami, just south of Downtown and Little Havana, to a little Venezuelan eatery called Doggi’s.  Sitting along an unassuming street in a fairly residential area, Doggi’s offers both indoor and outdoor seating — though to be honest, I felt a bit claustrophobic inside because the tables and chairs were packed so closely together.

Since I feasted on an arepa just a couple days ago, I ordered a patacon today.  A patacon de pollo — that’s a chicken patacon.  Think shredded chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato, (a pile of) cheese, and a medley of sauces — but substitute the bread for (flattened) twice-fried green plantain.  Yum!

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Taste-wise, the meal was fairly comparable to other patacons I’ve had in the past, like the one at La Coriana in Doral.  Texture-wise, I may have preferred other alternatives… this patacon seemed relatively heavy and left me full well into my normal dinner time.  The sauces were tasty though.  I’m pretty sure one of them was garlic aioli — with emphasis on the garlic!  Overall, I’d give this a fine.

Doggi’s menu is pretty extensive, definitely worth checking out.  (Click on “Pickup” after clicking on the link.)

Oh, and one more thing.  There’s no parking lot nearby, only street parking for $1.50 an hour.  If you’re lucky enough, you just might find a paid spot right in front of the restaurant for super quick entry/exit.

*Location:
1246 Coral Way
Miami, FL 33145

Amazing Arepas at Amaize

There are a ton of sit-down Latin American restaurants in Miami, but I can only think of a handful of fast casual joints.

The flavor of the day was Amaize*, a relatively new fast casual Latin American restaurant that opened in town just a couple months ago.  The restaurant’s known for its arepas, or corn pancakes, and cachapas — think of these as sweet yellow corn pancakes.  Both are prominent in Venezuela and Colombia.

010915_amaize_arepaFor lunch, I ordered the Beauty Queen — avocado chicken salad (with peas) stuffed into an arepa — and made it a combo (for an extra $1) by adding a roasted pepper and gouda soup!  I enjoyed the stuffing, but wouldn’t necessarily say it wowed my taste buds, so I’m going to have to give it an okay.  On the other hand, the arepa itself was soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, so despite it’s inherently bland nature, I must say I enjoyed eating it and if I had to rate that by itself, I’d give it a fine.

Onto the soup!  Roasted pepper and gouda.  Pretty bold flavor I have to say, but at first I was unexcited about it.  After a couple spoonfuls of the roasted pepper soup, I got to the cheese.  OMG, the cheese was melted just the right amount and became all stringy when I tried to separate it from the rest of the soup — just like that hot stringy cheese on the pizza that came right out of the oven!  The amazing part was that the cheese was still melty 20 minutes — or more — into the meal!  Overall, gotta give this soup a fine-good.  Thumbs up, I’d definitely order it again.

The best part of the meal?  The $5 voucher I got after I filled out the customer survey at the bottom of my receipt — and the survey was short enough to fill out as I waited for my meal to arrive at the table!  Guess I’ll be coming back here soon…

Here’s their menu in case you’re in town and interested in checking it out.

*Location:
3887 Northwest 107th Avenue #101
Doral, FL 33178

Harvest Delights. Looks So Great, But Up for Debate.

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food looks amazing, but doesn’t quite meet your taste buds’ expectations?

IMHO, Harvest Delights* is one of those places.  I first dined in about half a year ago, and while the menu looked great, I ordered something — something that was pretty standard Mediterranean fare — and it didn’t taste as great as I had hoped.  I wasn’t exactly sure what was off about what I ordered, but for some reason, my taste buds just weren’t satisfied.

I decided to give Harvest Delights another chance recently, and despite ordering something different, was disappointed again.  I ordered the Shawarma Platter this time.  Marinated beef “seasoned to perfection,” topped with red onions, and served with tabouli, hummus, and pita bread.  (FYI, tabouli is a vegetarian dish made from tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.)  Again, standard Mediterranean fare, so I was expecting the restaurant to nail it.

010715_harvestdelights_shawarmaBut for some reason or other… they just didn’t.  For me, at least.  Maybe it was because the beef was rather dry and not very flavorful.  Or maybe I’m just not used to eating a salad of parsley.  Or maybe the overall meat-to-veggie ratio was a bit small.  I mean, the presentation was great — look at the picture, the plate looks delicious! — but it just didn’t hit the spot for me.  I rate this platter a below average, even though I enjoyed the hummus and pita.

I likely won’t visit a third time… at least for a very long time… there are other better Mediterranean places in town… but in case you’re curious what else is on the menu, here’s the link.

*Location:
3470 Northwest 82nd Avenue #105
Miami, FL 33122

Nothing Special About the Pho Special

After being a blob in front of the TV for most of this past week, I felt like getting out and doing something different this weekend.  I decided to head north to West Palm Beach to check out the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium.

Of course, I couldn’t go to a new place and not try a new restaurant nearby.  That would just be plain blasphemy!  After spending a good 30 minutes on Yelp this morning, I settled on a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Vn in Boynton Beach, about 10 miles south of my final destination.  (My philosophy is that any restaurant that has more than 4 stars and more than 50 reviews is worth trying out.)

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Tucked away at the back of a shopping plaza in Boyton Beach, Pho Vn is a relatively small shop, with no more than about 10 tables inside.  010415_phovn_pho1

I ordered the Pho Special, which came with noodles and a couple different types of meat (brisket, tendon, tripe, meatballs), in a flavorful broth.  Pretty regular Vietnamese fare — and yes, I will judge a restaurant by how good their Pho Special is!  My take on the one at Pho Vn?  Standard.  No more, no less.  Tastewise, it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but wasn’t the worst either.  I’d give my order an okay.  It also came with some herbs and bean sprouts on the side — typical pho add-ons.

To be honest though, after seeing the rating and reading the reviews on Yelp, I was a little disappointed, partially because of the relatively small serving size.  $9 for a bowl of pho that left me hungry by 6:30p… and I had only finished eating a bit after 2:00p!

010415_phovn_insideI will say that the inside of the restaurant was nicely kept, and the waitresses were polite.  I’d say those — and not so much the food — were the highlights of my visit.

*Location:
344 North Congress Avenue
Boynton Beach, FL 33426

Dim Summing It Up at Pine Court Chinese Bistro

Dim sum, cart-style.  Enough said?

If I must say so myself, Pine Court Chinese Bistro in Sunrise serves some of the most authentic Chinese dim sum you’ll find in South Florida.  The little Chinese tapas-style plates are served via rolling carts by bilingual waitresses, making the experience even more authentic!  Some of my favorite dim sum dishes are…

  • Shrimp-stuffed eggplant
  • Shrimp rice noodles
  • Pork & century egg congee (pictured below)
  • Shumai (pork)
  • Chicken feet
  • Custard tarts

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Needless to say, Pine Court’s one of my two favorite dim sum go-tos in South Florida.  (The other is China Pavillion, which also serves regular Chinese food, in Pembroke Pines.)

What are your favorite dim sum dishes?

*Location:
10101 Sunset Strip
Sunrise, FL 33322