A lot of debate has been going on about the state of Chinese restaurants in Miami recently on the twitterverse. Ho made someone nauseous recently, Tropical is no longer what is used to be, so on and so forth. So I recently asked my tennis club’s manager, which happens to have chinese heritage, a simple question: “where does your family eat?” And she mentioned two places: Silver Palace and South Garden. I decided to visit the former recently and both me and my guests were pretty satisfied. On first impression upon arrival we suspected we had a winner in our hands, since the place was packed and we were the only Western eyed. The place is no shiny silver cup, so you may not want to choose it for a first date (or for any date for that matter). But if you’re craving some real authentic Chinese, this is the place. The menu is quite extensive and includes all the classic items, the egg rolls, the wontons, the crab rangoons, plus many rice, vegetable and protein options. All conveniently numbered so the ordering is easier with your very friendly but not-so-fluent in english waitress. A couple of staple dishes seem to be quite popular, the roast duck and the whole fried fish, the latter innocently swimming in a tank at the back of the room waiting to be caught with a fishnet right after being ordered! Which in its on right is a spectacle worth alone the trip to Kendall.
The egg rolls were not as greasy as I was expecting them to be, and had a decent amount of filling. Fried wontons were excessive and probably not worth ordering, just a mountain of the deep fried doughs with a super sweet red sauce next to them. Egg drop soup was hot, savory and gelatinous as expected.
The special fried rice was spot on, with right amounts of pork and vegetables. The sweet n sour chicken was too sweet for my taste but tender inside. The roast duck was the highlight, with crispy skin and chunky breast pieces, neatly presented on a large plate with allowed for drippings to accumulate, which served as superb dipping matter.
Fortune cookies and a ridiculously cheap check (30$) made for a nice ending.
On a side note, the man on the table next to us (Chinese of course) affirmed Silver Palace was indeed the best, but for Dim Sum he suggested China Pavillion, so soon we shall be wandering up north to find out all about it.
Next, I finally made it to Juvia. Can’t believe it had been so long specially since I’ve known Laurent (Cantineaux, one of the executive chefs) since the Atlantique days back in Caracas, a place where I was always well fed. We went “carte blanche” and had Laurent send us his best selection, which consisted of about 10 plates. The starters were mostly raw fish dishes which had been nicely paired with either a delicate sauce or a combination of herbs and vegetables, or in the case of my favorite, the hamachi, a spicy foam. That hamachi dish was special, particularly given my fondness for all things hot, and unexpectedly hot. From the second round of plates I enjoyed the chino oyster, helped by a nice crunch from crispy onion slivers and a tangy black bean sauce; a prawn dish with the classic peruvian style aji amarillo sauce lacked seasoning but made up with a cilantro kick and sweetness from potato. Another peruvian inspired dish, the Causa croquette was a pleasure to eat since it combined the deep fried main character with tuna “bacon” and more of that great aji amarillo sauce.
From the mains, the scallops with broccolini, mushrooms and capers were great, as was the chilean sea bass, quiet a generous filet I must admit and cleverly paired with maple glazed eggplants and palm heart “strings”. The pig confit was moist and nicely topped with crispy skin, both rectangular pieces on a puddle of honey ginger glaze.
A great baba rum finished us off , its advantage to my favorite from Buena Vista Deli probably lying in its undetectable spice contained within the delicate syrup at the bottom of the plate.
There is nothing new I can say about Juvia that hasnt been said. Yes it is probably the restaurant with the best view in Miami, yes it is indeed expensive and the food, which I found to be very good, has some tough competition eastbound and westbound. But it’s a great place and I’m sure everyone can find that special occasion to go and celebrate there once or twice a year. A great addition to the culinary graveyard that is Lincoln road no doubt.
Oak Tavern opened recently in the Design District and after a couple of visits it has gained my respect. The place is nicely done, with large indoor and outdoor dining areas you wouldn’t expect from the low key entrance on 40th street. The outdoor terrace has a large Oak tree in the middle which is decorated by some red paper lamps which make it a beatiful sight and setting at night. This is the place to bring that first date, not Silver Palace!
Behind it is David Bracha, a New York chef/restauranteur with more than 20 years of career in Miami, and mostly know to all for his popular River Oyster & Seafood restaurant in Downtown.
The menu is bold and extensive, aiming to tease every desire. It includes the famous oysters from River plus a series of crudo dishes, a charcuterie section most of which is homemade, wood oven pizzas, small plates and large plates. Flavors range from Asian to Europe and back home to America without hesitation.
I ordered a pizza with a little skepticism since my favorite in town was a stone throw away (Harry’s). I was pleasantly surprised, the outside crust and insides resembling the Neapolitan style pizzas you can’t get in town.
All of the small plates had great combination of flavor and presentation. The scallops were seared to perfection and beautifully wrapped in bacon and sided with lentils, the octopus chargrilled nicely and paired with chickpeas. A bison carpaccio benefited from crispy shiitakes and truffle based aioli, and a beet salad was beautifully seasoned and came along with soft creamy goat cheese. Fava beans were gorgeous, with fatty duck prosciutto and a perfectly poached egg sitting atop a crispy baguette slice. The pastas were also a hit, one creamy and with decent pieces of cod, another with sea urchin and shaved bottarga.
On my second visit for lunch I ventured east, and tried the crispy thai fish salad and the Bahn Mi. Again with hesistation, since you wouldn’t expect Asian food to be included in what seems to be a modern American food restaurant, but I can say they worked. The salad had a powerful spicy punch which was balanced with the sweetness in the dressing and the cherry tomatoes plus the softness of the flaky crispy white fish. I’m no expert when it comes to Bahn Mi, but this one tasted great. The pork belly and foie gras really came through, and the benefited from the crunch from the vegetables.
On my second visit I also tried their homemade charcuterie, which was fine but slightly dry for my taste. Fish croquettes were great and a bacon marmalade crostini was sweet, creamy and crunchy to the bite; a winner.
The service was great on both occasions, the wine and beer selection plentiful, including one of my favorites, White Rascal. Desserts are simple but satisfying.
A great option in the Design District for lunch or dinner.