|Written by Pamela Robin Brandt - BT Contributor|
Food news we know you can use
Last month’s biggest local restaurant news story -- big enough to hit national wires -- happened in Biscayne Times territory. Unfortunately it wasn’t good news: On the night of June 13 at Shuckers Bar & Grill, the back deck, packed with roughly 100 patrons watching a Miami Heat playoff game, collapsed into Biscayne Bay. While the water was only four feet deep (and the deck only five feet above the water), more than two dozen people were injured, two of them seriously enough to initiate a lawsuit against Shuckers owner, Charles Grentner and his family.
Meanwhile, restaurant openings, like Miami’s growing season, seem to have slowed down for the summer. But openings still dwarf closings, and most encouragingly, this issue’s newbies are all interesting indies rather than big-chain clones.
Sumi Yakitori (21 SW 11th St., 786-360-5570). From James Chen, perfectionist (and media-shy) owner of Momi Ramen Noodle House, this much-anticipated big brother is equally authentic, down to the coals over which the bamboo-skewered yakitori is grilled (a changing variety of sparely seasoned and sauced meats, poultry, seafood, and veggies). Only imported white Binchan charcoal is allowed here, which may explain Sumi’s big prices for small portions. Good thing Sumi, unlike Momi, takes credit cards.
Nikko by Sunshine (186 SW 12th Terr., 305-418-0151). To the Brickell area’s Asian fusion/sushi saturation there is indeed a solution: Find a gimmick that makes your sushi/Thai eatery stand out from the pack. And that’s what Nikko’s Thai-born chef/owner Sunshine (nickname of Sunchai Naknoon, former master sushi chef at China Grill and other swanky joints) has done in spades, according to opening press releases emphasizing this new “Modern Asian” restaurant’s rattlesnake rolls, kangaroo curry, ostrich basil, and live goldfish garnishes. To clear things up: All the above are available, but only sometimes, as blackboard specials. Nikko’s regular menu is normal sushi/Thai -- curry and basil sauces with choice of beef/pork/seafood/chicken (rather than the reptile alleged to taste like chicken). Plating is indeed exceptionally artful, though, featuring edible sculptures like elegant carrot swans. (Fun food fact: The cuisines of both China and Thailand have been renowned for delicate, detailed food carving techniques for, literally, ages; this Modern Asian cuisine feature dates back to about 200 BC.)
Lunch American Style (221 NW 1st Ave., 305-379-1991). Oddly, this eatery’s opening seems to have slipped in under most media radar, despite the fact that owner Adam Feigeles also owns newcomer Reggae Tacos (whose opening made a major media splash) and downtown institution The Filling Station & Garage Bar. But the most impressive credential is the restaurant’s’ ambitious regional menu (created with partner Rusty Johnson), inspired by favorite foods from all over the USA -- some traditional (Louisiana shrimp po’boys, Kentucky’s open-faced “hot brown” with candied bacon and rich mornay sauce) and some ingredient-driven inventions (Iowa corn puffs with horseradish remoulade). “Since 50 states is a lot,” Rusty confesses, the regular menu covers just their top two dozen or so picks, with daily specials hitting neglected states’ specialties. In addition, this ex-New Yorker notes, “We house-smoke our own pastrami.”
Ten Fruits (143 NE 3rd Ave., 305-373-7678). Helping Miami to play catch-up with West Coast cities regarding the exploding national trend toward Super Juice Bars, this sleek spot serves juices and smoothies that don’t just taste good but serve as remedies for a host of ills -- and, in some cases, are nutritionally awesome enough to be full meal substitutes. Further, for those craving solid food, there’s a limited eclectic menu including healthy salads (like orange/kale), empanadas, fresh-baked croissants or quiches, whole-wheat waffles, and a leftover from the owning team’s original concept, a homemade Greek-style yogurt so creamy you won’t believe it’s good for you.
After 37 years in business, the Crab House (1551 NE 79th Street Cswy.) closed at the end of last month. (Likely replacement: high-rise residential.) It was the original in a 17-eatery Southeastern chain owned since 1995 by Houston-based Landry’s Seafood Restaurants. Some back story: While Joe’s Crab Shack chain has flourished under Landry’s management, Miami’s crab concept floundered. By 2003, only 11 Crab Houses remained. Now, only one is still open, in Edgewater, New Jersey. (Personally, I regret the loss of a landmark, but doubt that any other crab lover who attempted in recent years the once-famed “All You Can Eat Seafood Bar” questions the reason for the closing.) Crab House and Shuckers were neighbors. A waterfront curse?
Volume 13, Issue 12, February 2016
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