Meat Kibbe, Anyone?

Life has gotten so busy lately… but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re working full-time and completing a Master’s degree!  Hopefully after a couple months, I’ll only have to focus on work and have more time for blogging.  In the meanwhile, I still eat out — but just don’t have as much time to blog about it.

Anyhoo, my latest food adventure was to a Lebanese restaurant (and apparently hookah lounge) in Miami called Layali*.  The restaurant’s interior felt authentic/local, so I was pretty excited to see the menu.  There weren’t very many people inside when we got there though — only one or two other tables — so maybe I shouldn’t have been so excited after all.

I liked that the restaurant had lunch specials, which spanned $9 and $12 each.  Fairly reasonable prices for lunch — in Miami.  Feeling adventurous, I ordered the Meat Kibbe.  I had absolutely no idea what it was, and had never even seen it on a menu before.  It was described as “Meat and crushed wheat, filled with pine nuts, onions and minced, baked in the oven.”  Sounded promising.

20150130_layali_meatkibbeBoy was I wrong!  Firstly, I was pretty disappointed by the portion size.  It was basically a 3-in by 3-in by (less than) 1-in piece of meat, which a lot of my colleagues mistook for a piece of wheat bread, accompanied by a square ramekin of yogurt sauce — I probably got more sauce than meat!  There was also some diced tomato on the side, but it looked more like garnish than part of the meal.

Taste-wise, I wasn’t impressed either.  I mean, the meat was fine and didn’t taste bad or anything, but it wasn’t particularly tasty either.  Kind of reminded me of plain meatloaf.  The pita on the side was also not very exciting… I’d compare it to something you’d get at your general grocery store.

Overall, I’d have to say this meal was solidly below average.  I wasn’t very impressed, but to be honest, I didn’t think my last Mediterranean meal was all that spectacular anyway.  Maybe I should try something else next time.

*Location:
11402 NW 41st St #115
Doral, FL 33178

Lunch Specials at Sushi Sake

Since I’ve been in the mood for sushi recently, I frequented on of my favorite Doral sushi haunts, Sushi Sake.

Since I dined with a buddy, you know what that means, right?  Sampling!

We ordered two lunch specials to split, the eel and tuna rolls, as well as the Chef’s Choice roll, which included shrimp, salmon, white fish, and tuna. Continue reading

2-Minute Tilapia at The Buzzer Beater

I’m all about lunch specials, and recently found one in Doral that’s worth blogging about!

The Buzzer Beater* is a basketball-themed restaurant — stay with me here for a sec — with lunch specials that rank it in Doral’s top 20 list.  At first I was pretty skeptical, since it seemed like your run-of-the-mill American restaurant, but since it was the only one of the top 20 that I hadn’t yet been to, I decided to give it a shot (har har) and went for lunch with a colleague from work.

Scanning my options in TBB’s 2-minute menu and another lunch specials menu, I decided to go with the tilapia entree, which came with a lightly-fried filet topped with corn, and two sides of garlic sauteed spinach and jasmine rice.

20151102_buzzer_tilapiaI gotta say, I was pleasantly surprised about what I got for $6.99.  The fish — which, mind you was not a shrunken, puny dried-up square — was the slightest bit crispy and had good (i.e. enough but not too much) flavor, and the spinach was not wilted and soggy.  The garlic even tasted fresh!  And the portion of rice was a good size too.  Glad I got a balanced share of meat, veggies, and grains!  Overall, a good meal.  I’d come back again to try their other lunch specials, perhaps even something from the the $9.99 specials list!

FYI, TBB also has a set of indoor basketball hoops, in case you were feeling like working up an appetite before your meal or burning some calories after…

*8347 NW 36th St
Doral, FL 33166

Authentic Homemade Rigatoni at Trattoria di Campo

I’m making up for lost time here, since I’ve eaten out plenty and clearly haven’t posted enough… so here’s my second post of the day!

I recently tried out another “new” restaurant in Doral… Trattoria di Campo, an Italian restaurant located in the same plaza as Capriccio.  I originally stumbled upon it after searching for “lunch specials” on Yelp, and shortly thereafter remembered that awhile back, an Italian co-worked had also recommended that I try it.

After being seated at a table, while munching on the deliciously chewy-on-the-inside-crispy-on-the-outside bread and olive oil with cheese dip — this might be one of my favorite breads in the area — I considered my lunch options.  Should I go with one of the $9.99 lunch specials or one of the $13.50 lunch specials?  (FYI, I tried searching for an online version of the menus afterwards but couldn’t find it, so I came to the conclusion that the restaurant actually changes the specials menu from time to time.)  I opted for the $9.99 combo, which included a bowl of pasta and a soda.  Rigatoni in a tomato-based red sauce and… my default soda option, Sprite!

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Di Campo uses ingredients from Italy and also handmakes its own pasta — and you can definitely tell from eating it!  I thoroughly enjoyed the texture of the pasta, especially since it was cooked to a perfect al dente… not too soft like how pasta is cooked at many other restaurants.  The tomato sauce was really tasty too, and included chunks of tomatoes.  Also, notice the mountain of cheese atop the pasta… who doesn’t love cheese?!  Overall, I think I might rate this as good!

*Location:
9533 NW 41st St
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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Pad Thai Lunch Special at Umami

Pad Thai, one of my all-time favorite Asian classics… and what I ordered for lunch at Umami* today!

Pros?  Since I ordered the lunch special, it came with my choice of soup or salad — salad it was.  I was particularly impressed that the salad bowl was actually chilled — not something I typically encounter!  Also, the size of the main entree was ginormous (though it might not look like it from the picture), so that was a win too.  #doublelunch #lunchanddinner

Cons?  The salad was swimming — or maybe drowning is a more appropriate description — in ginger dressing.  I mean really… did I order salad with ginger dressing or sweet ginger soup with lettuce?!  Also, the rice noodles weren’t very chewy, and I was surprised to find bell peppers hiding among my noodles.  Since when were bell peppers an ingredient of Pad Thai?!  (Not that I really cared that much since I actually like bell peppers…)  Should’ve known better from a restaurant that only earned 3.5 stars on Yelp.  Despite ~150 ratings, my optimism got the best of me!

081414_umami_salad081414_umami_padthaiAlso, did you notice the mountain of peanuts next to the noodles?!  Just wanted to point that out in case you didn’t.  That was one HUGE buttload of nuts that remained unconsumed, as that particular contrast of hard and soft textures just doesn’t work for me.  On a related note, did you know that nuts are actually fruits?  #mindblown

Overall, the food was edible — rating: okay — but I probably wouldn’t order it again.  In fact, there’s a pretty low likelihood I would return to Umami again, given the other (read: better) Japanese restaurants in town.

Umami does get a shout out for having a lot of seating available, so at least we weren’t worried about getting a table there during peak lunch hours.  Woo.

Anyway, since I ❤ noodles, I probably critique harsher than your average Jane.  But hey, if I’m not enjoying what I eat, why eat at all?

*Location:
1400 NW 87th Ave
Doral, FL 33172

Try Some Italian American Fusion at Divieto

New restaurant!  And this time, new genre too — Italian American fusion!  I don’t think I’ve been to a restaurant that mixes those two specific flavors, so I was pretty excited to check out Divieto*.

A co-worker and I headed over to the restaurant around noon and luckily just avoided the lunch rush.  Right before leaving the office, we scoped out the online menu and were set on ordering lunch specials off the “Executive Menu.”  We even had the slightest glimmer of hope that we’d be able to ration our meals!  (Seriously, all this eating out is making me fat.)  After being seated at the restaurant, reality slapped us in the face, as we learned that the Executive Menu on the web was outdated and no longer available.  What?!  Fail #1.  #startfromscratch

The ambiance in the restaurant was very nice — vintage, yet modern — so we decided to forgive and forget that the original Executive Menu was unavailable, move on with our lives, and order something else from the current menu — of course still with the hope that we’d be able to ration our meals.  Turns out that not only would we not be able to ration, but the lunch special portions weren’t even really enough for one full meal.  Fail #2.

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Keep reading, it gets better.  I ordered the Shrimp Bistro, essentially linguine in lemon sauce, with shrimp, tomato, and arugula.  Pretty delicious, flavorful.  Fine.  The waitress had introduced it as a “special,” so thinking she meant lunch special — logical, since we had just asked about those — I went ahead and ordered it, along with a house salad.  (Lunch specials are supposed to come with either soup or salad.)  Come bill time, I was unpleasantly slapped (again) with a $3 surcharge for the salad!  Apparently “special” does not mean “lunch special.”  Uuugh… Fail #3.

080514_divieto_salad

Though this culinary adventure might sound like an overall fail, at least we accomplished trying something new.  I actually enjoyed the taste of my meal — though not so much the cost — so I suppose I could be convinced to go back again… but next time, I’d want to first inquire about the current Executive Menu!

Try any interesting fusion restaurants lately?

*Location:
10650 NW 41st St
Doral, FL 33178

Meatball Lunch Special at Mozzarella

Quick was key for today’s lunch, so my co-workers and I decided to give Mozzarella* a try.  If you couldn’t tell, it’s Italian.

Naturally, I gravitate towards the lunch specials — that’s the economist in me — and today was no different.  According to Mozzarella’s tableside menu, all the specials were to be served “with two side dishes (add pasta or risotto +$1.50).”  Sounded good to me, so I went for “Meatballs” with veggies and an Italian salad.  Oh, and also mushroom risotto.  Why not?  Go big or go home, right?

Ten minutes after placing my order, the waitress walked over and started explaining some details about the lunch specials to one of my co-workers.  In Spanish.  Her comment was acknowledged, but then she turned to me and asked if that was okay.  Um… since when could I speak Spanish?  Fluently?!  (FYI, one thing about Miami is that people automatically assume you speak Spanish.)  ¿Qué?  ¡No hablo español!

Apparently, I could either order two sides or a pasta/risotto, not both.  (Btw, this directive was much more clear in the restaurant’s online menu.)  I said that just the two sides were fine, which sent the waitress back into the kitchen, only to come out five minutes later to say that the “risotto was almost finished” so I couldn’t cancel it after all.  Fine.  I told her to just nix the greens then.

15-20 minutes later, the food arrived.  In the meanwhile, I was hungry, so noshed on some bread.  Shout out to the bread!  Fluffy and warmish on the inside, crunchy on the outside, my favorite combo of (bread) textures!  The bread was gone pretty quickly, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to snap any photos…

070714_mozzarella_risotto_meatballs_2

That’s the mushroom risotto on the left and meatballs on the right.  Both were pretty ordinary, though the risotto could’ve been creamier and mushier.  The mushrooms were subtly tasty though, and not overcooked, which was nice.  I appreciate mushrooms that aren’t overcooked.  Generally speaking though, the meal, including the presentation, was really quite ordinary.  Three out of five stars.  Okay.

Quick service though?  Probably not so much…

What’s your favorite pasta dish?

*Location:
7930 NW 36th St
Doral, FL 33166

Kamiko Sushi’s Spicy Tuna, Spicy Crab Roll Lunch Special

Lunch specials are awesome.  Decently-priced and decently-portioned… what more could you ask for?!

The flavor of the day was Kamiko Sushi-Bar*, where I ordered the Spicy Tuna Roll & Spicy Crab Roll combo off the lunch specials menu.  It came with a choice of (miso) soup or (mixed greens) salad, too.  Thinking I’d be healthy today, I opted for salad.

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That’s the Ginger Salad, mixed greens with ginger dressing.  My favorite part was definitely the perfectly seasoned (i.e. not overwhelmingly sweet or salty) dressing, and I was pleasantly delighted that the bed of greens was not swimming a pool of liquid, as it normally is when you order a salad at other Japanese restaurants.  Don’t you just hate, HATE, H-A-T-E that?!  It’s been way too long since I’ve had an optimal greens-to-dressing ratio in my salad.  Taste rating?  Fine, 4 out of 5 stars!

Next up, the sushi rolls.   Continue reading