The last column I wrote (which was before I “disappeared” for 10 days during the end of 2011) was about Chow Down Grill & Lounge, an amazing Chinese food eatery (well, actually two – one location is in Surfside on Harding Ave. and the other in South Beach on 9th and Alton), which happens to be the closest thing to “New Yorkstyle” Chinese food (sans the MSG, cornstarch, and added sugar) that I have tasted since coming to Florida. Every time I go there – and I tend to head to the South Beach location, although the intimate Surfside space is just around the corner from my condo in Aventura, I try something new. This time it was the organic chicken wings, which were tiny, perfectly fried, and super-delish and Pork Chow Fun, which provided thick rice noodles with just the right amount of chewy and give; and were filled with flavor.
Since then, I have been obsessed with Asian food, eating it everywhere (partially to compare, also because I cannot get enough and it is embarrassing returning to the same place day after day) and I cannot get enough of it in my body. Mostly Chinese, Chef Josh makes the best sweet and sour tofu in town – hands down, but there isn’t much competition, after all – who makes their own? I stop into Mr. Chef in Aventura solely because I can walk there. I admit, they do have a decent shrimp & lobster sauce – the shrimp are big and tasty – and are cooked just enough to pop when I bite into one. Eggrolls, one of my “guilty pleasures”, are always tough. Why? Because you grow up with “long and thin” or with more “girth” and that’s what you get used to, so by the time you are a grown-up – only one way will work. I like mine thicker – Mr. Chef’s are thin. It doesn’t make them bad…just different.
I also crave Japanese quite often. I look at sushi and sashimi as food groups. I’ve been motoring over to Katana (on 71st street) for the inexpensive plates of fish that are moved round and round on a water belt. I love the salmon sashimi. Served on a bed of onion (which I could do without!) and a dollop of mustard sauce (which I love), it could be one of the greatest surprises…ever! The salmon is sweet and buttery, just the right amount of fat and flesh…true beauty. The spicy scallop and spicy yellowtail are served in a band of Nori atop rice. Fresh, flavorful, great consistency – right on the money.
I also found Sushi Deli on the 79th Street Causeway, whose intimate digs and selection of fresh fish make me remember why I went in there to begin with. This is a place where they take their craft seriously – so don’t go if you’re strapped for time. But if you can chill out, poke around and wait for the hand cut pieces of tuna, yellowtail, salmon…or let the chef get creative for you.
But wait – there’s more to come. I want to expand my cravings to Thai, and when I get the yen for curry, it’s Eddie Hill or Thai House II. Being that I am of the “wimpy tongues”, I tend to stay closer to Massaman and Penang curries. Rich, thick, creamy and filled with flavor, any protein works in either dish – or try it with just veggies to really lighten up the meal. I always love Thai soup including Tom Yum – made with Coconut Milk, Keffir lime, lemongrass (which I happen to grow in my garden), mushrooms, and more. Dangerously to me, I could eat gallons.
So, what’s the point of this? Well, I am not sure, other than be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese – what may seem pedestrian, or foreign, or heavy, or whatever, are some of my greatest pleasures in life. When I think of chef Josh’s house-made peanut and duck sauces, it reminds me that Chinese food is meant to be eaten…often.
Shari Lynn Rothstein has been writing about food, wine, lifestyles and fashion for more than 20 years, in New York and Florida. She resides in Aventura. Shari can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments, questions thoughts.