Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cafe Sharaku (Ft. Lauderdale)

Cafe Sharaku has been on the top of my "list" of restaurants to try since they opened back in 2007.  A myriad of reasons including distance kept me away but I was recently motivated to get there following the recommendation of Chef Kevin Cory of Naoe.

Cafe Sharaku is owned and run by Chef Kaita who trained under Chef Boulud and was a sushi chef at Nobu. Thus, he's created a menu of French-Asian fusion fare. He offers a daily four course prix fixe menu for $28.00.  It's actually more than $28.00 because most entrees cost an additional supplement.  Nevertheless, it is still a very good deal and the obvious way to go.  The night we were there (and I suspect every night) they had several appetizer specials that were featured on a black board a la Gourmet Diner.   

Cafe Sharaku is a small, quiet, 18 seat restaurant located in US1 just south of Oakland Park Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale.  There is also a sushi bar with a few seats but there is really no reason to sit there since the chef is behind the scenes in the kitchen and the space is essentially used as a service area.  The restaurant itself reminded me of a semi-modern Chinese restaurant but with white tablecloths and flowers.  Nothing off putting about it but it could use some tweaking. 

We were there on a Saturday night and there were four other occupied tables.  There was one waiter, one server and the chef.  The service was professional and the meal was properly paced. 

The meal began with a choice of soup or salad.  I wasn't in the mood for soup so I reluctantly passed on a lobster miso soup and went with a fresh tuna green salad.  As advertised, the tuna was fresh.  On the boring side but the tuna and salad dressing were good and thus not a bad way to start.

For my second course I opted for the grilled black pork belly with apple ponzu sauce over other interesting options such as tuna tartar served with a sunny side up quail egg and creamy garlic sauce, quail teriyaki, seared fatty tuna with yuzu miso, deep fried salmon belly and a baked stone crab in a garlic wasabi sauce.  I got to taste that dish and it was good.   The pork belly contained two thinly sliced pieces topped with an apple ponzu sauce.  The texture of the pork belly and the contrasting sweet and salty flavors of the sauce were spot on and complimented each other well.

For my main course I went with two of my favorites, pan seared scallops with sea urchin sauce. It also came with sauteed asparagus, spinach and shiitake mushrooms.  The dish featured three fresh scallops that were perfectly cooked.  The sea urchin sauce was flavorful without overpowering the scallop.  This was a great dish.  

We ended the meal with a crepe filled with an uneven mix of blueberries and cream which resulted in a  mediocre dessert.  A strawberry mill-feuille with homemade vanilla ice cream fared a little better. 

The meal was very  enjoyable. That being said, I'm not sure I agree with the 27 it received this year in Zagat. A solid 25 overall is probably more accurate with some dishes deserving a 26 and maybe 27.   Nevertheless, the menus creative and unique combinations of ingredients will get me back again.

Cafe Sharaku on Urbanspoon


 2736 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306
( 954 ) 563-2888

Thursday, February 18, 2010

NAOE Shines in Sunny Isles

Two visits in eight nights and I'm still unable to express the amazing experience in words.  Part of the problem is that I know my semi-literate writing will not come close to accurately describing what transpired or providing it with the proper justice it merits. 

Where do I start?

With the sweet, friendly, warm, charming, cute, personable hot dog throwing hostess Wendy?
With the talented, creative, ambitious, delicate, calm, cool, meticulous Hideki Matsui loving (family is from Kanazawa too) dishwasher/general manager/chef Kevin Cory?
With the magnificent, delicious, unique, diverse bento box?
With the insanely fresh, rare, fantastic, superior  nigiri?
With the amazing, unexpected, enjoyable, unique, surreal overall experience?

Or should I start with me emailing one of my dining mates the following morning and advising him that the experience felt surreal.  Unbeknownst to him I was actually attempting to confirm that it really happened and wasn't some Ambian/wine-induced dream.  It should be noted that he confessed that he felt the same way after his initial visit.

Or I could start with me stubbornly refusing to cancel my reservation when my sushi loving best friends flight was delayed causing him to be over an hour late. (I wasn't being completely selfish here, I knew he would really enjoy and appreciate the experience. It should be noted that Chef C was very understanding and accommodating plus it gave me more time to watch the master at work and drink more Sapporo)

Or I could also start with me pushing my plate forward the following couple of days hoping Chef Cory's nigiri would magically appear. 

I had the opportunity to join fellow food loving bloggers/friends for my first NAOE experience.  From the moment I was warmly greeted by Wendy and sat in my front row seat at the bar overlooking the precise work of Chef Cory I was completely blown away and mesmerized.  I felt like I was transported to another place.  After tasting my first piece of nigiri I spontaneously blurted out  "I am ruined" knowing that sushi would never be the same. That was not an exaggeration.  (I usually have sushi a couple of times a week.  It's been exactly two weeks since my last visit to NAOE and I haven't had sushi since)

BASICS- It's located in a small strip mall in Sunny Isles.  It has 17 seats with 5 at the bar.  Seatings are currently at 8, 9 and Midnight.  

Reservations are mandatory and obtained online via open table.
There is a menu but only for sake which are all produced by Chef Cory's family.  They also have Sapporo on draft.  The bento box is $26 followed by an omakase offering of nigiri.The meal takes about 2-3 hours depending on how much nigiri you opt in for. Tagging out is not recommended... 

BENTO BOX- The bento box is divided into four compartments plus a soup.  The box is includes so many flavors, textures and unique ingredients that all come together.  It would be impossible to recall all of the different components so I received some help.

My first bento box contained the following:

Organic egg tofu with shirako sauce.
Kumamoto oyster with grated wasabi & soy-citrus sauce.
Komochi konbu (herring roe layed on konbu).
Simmered turnip w/walnut miso sauce on organic spinach.
Lightly pickled organic dandelion leaves.
Steamed fluke, yamaimo, organic carrots & kinome pepper leaves.
Fried; kisu (Japanese whiting) & gingko biloba nuts.
Parsnip roasted with karasumi (dried mullet roe).
Seared hirame, shiso and mirugai mantle wrapped in white seaweed.
Organic shiitake rice w/red pearl onion rice vinegar pickle.
Organic butternut squash miso soup.

NIGIRI - The bento box is great but it's the nigiri I crave.  This is the best I've ever had. 

Scottish salmon belly nigirizushi with fresh grated wasabi, brushed with  shoyu.
Shiraebi (Japanese white shrimp) nigirizushi w/fresh grated wasabi & fresh grated organic ginger, brushed with shoyu.
Poached live Maine lobster nigirizushi w/fresh grated wasabi, brushed with orange-soy.
Marinated kohada (young gizzard shad) w/fresh grated wasabi, brushed with shoyu.
Aji (horse mackerel) w/fresh grated wasabi & fresh grated organic ginger, brushed with shoyu.
Mirugai (geoduck) w/fresh grated wasabi & white seaweed, brushed with shoyu.
Sea urchin roe w/fresh grated wasabi, brushed with shoyu.
Cantelope & bing cherry with rice vinegar sauce.
Uji Gyokuro green tea.
Fresh homemade sweet potato mochi w/roasted soy flour.
Homemade organic honey kasutera (Japanese sponge cake).
Homemade matcha ice cream.





Naoe on Urbanspoon

175 Sunny Isles Boulevard
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160


(  n  a  -  o  -  é  )

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Casa Tua

Valentine's day 2010 fell on a Sunday this year so my wife and I decided to celebrate it on Saturday night.  Valentine's day is right up there with New Years Eve as awful days for food lovers.  Places are packed and restaurants force you to order from an overpriced set menu.  Yes, it's amateur night but it's Valentine's day and going out for a romantic meal is mandatory and should always be enjoyable. (There's nothing romantic about me cooking dinner unless you're a fan of baked doritos and natural cheetos...)

When I asked The Chowprincess where she wanted to go to celebrate she asked if there were any new restaurants worth trying.  After providing her with a thorough rundown I realized that she had fallen asleep.  After she woke up, she said she wanted to go to Casa Tua.  This was a very random and surprising request although it is famous for being a romantic spot on South Beach.  We actually used to frequent the upstairs lounge/bar area when it first opened and prior to it becoming a member only club.  It was a great escape from the hustle and bustle of South Beach.  I had sampled some of the restaurants' food early on but had not been back in a long time.  I was intrigued by the selection but remained skittish since I had not seen or heard any positive reports in a long time.  This had bust written all over it.
After securing our reservation I went to their website and reviewed the menu.  It contained enticing appetizers like seared foie gras with ginger and tomato marmalade, organic zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta, grilled octopus, burrata and soft polenta with black truffles.  The homemade pastas jumped off the menu.  Tagliolini with creme fraiche and caviar, raviolini del plin with mushrooms and truffle pecorino and black truffles.  Farro risotto with main lobster, risotto with black or white truffles and tagliolini with stone crabs and zucchini.  The entrees looked strong as well, especially the beef tenderloin with foie and the veal cheeks with polenta.  This was looking promising now.

Casa Tua is located in a renovated Mediterranean styled house and also contains a small hotel.  The restaurant has three seating options.  There is a large communal table that over looks the open kitchen.  There is also indoor seating in the main "living" room and several tables out in the patio/garden area.  The patio is the way to go especially if you are doing the romantic thing.  We were a bit concerned because the temperature was dropping but they had plenty of heat lamps that made it very comfortable.  The patio is quiet, candle lit, charming and I was told romantic.  The setting was perfect.

I had seen several complaints over the years about the service being pretentious and unresponsive.  No issues here.  It happened to be courteous and very efficient without being intrusive.  They were also very patient while I studied the large wine list in the dim light.  The mini flashlights they provide were a big help.

The food-  There were so many interesting options that I had a really difficult time ordering. The menu was almost entirely different from the one listed online but contained several interesting options.   The agnolotti with braised kobe beef , fonduta cheese and black truffles had my name written all over it.  Thus, I bypassed the appetizers and went with that  plus the veal cheek with mushrooms and polenta entree.  Good call.  No great call.  The agnolotti was light and soft yet able to hold the rich tasting braised kobe beef.  The black truffles added a knockout punch.  In fairness, I've had better truffles than this one but I'm really not complaining... Next were the veal cheeks served with mushrooms and polenta.  The veal cheek was super soft and spoon tender. The meat was delicious without being overly rich.  It was accompanied with a small dish of its gravy like juices that was packed with flavor.  So good.

The Chowmother aka The Chowprincess opted for the burrata which was fresh and creamy.  It was a generous portion but not the best I've had.  She opted for a pasta as her entree and the tagliolini with creme fraiche and caviar was a no-brainer.  The portion was on the small side and difficult to eat because it was served in a narrow cup like dish.  Nevertheless, the combination worked and she was happy.

We are not dessert people and rarely order one unless we are at Micheal's Genuine where they are hard to resist.  That said, we enjoyed our meal so much that we both ordered a dessert. I can't recall what we had (that's the non dessert eater in me) but both were very good.

I was concerned going in that I was going to be unable to find a reasonable priced bottle of wine off the menu but was able to locate several options at a reasonable price point.  I opted for a nice 2006 La Spinetta Ca' di Pian Barbera d'Asi for $50.  The $8  Franco Prosecco we started with was very good.

The setting was perfect, the service was spot on and the food was excellent.  If you are looking for a quiet romantic spot with great homemade pastas and quality gourmet ingredients look no further than Casa Tua.

** Edited to add that it is on the expensive side thus making it more of a special occasion type place.**

Casa Tua

1700 James Avenue, Miami Beach -
(305) 673-0973
Casa Tua on Urbanspoon

Dining room at Casa Tua, Miami Beach, FL

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tiers of A Burger

After eating countless burgers, I've come to the realization that it is impossible to assign a ranking to my favorite burgers.  There is little separation between most of the good ones. I've also come to the realization that due to my love of burgers, The Chowfather may need to be The Nutrisystemfather for a few weeks.... (I don't get/do the cleanse thang)

These are the best of the best in South Florida


Bourbon Steak (bar/lounge menu)
Burger & Beer Joint*** new edition***
Red Light


Le Tub
Michael's Genuine **would be in first tier but for the Vermont cheddar I added**


Five Guys


Charm City


Kelly's Landing
Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies

Notables I haven't tried yet
burger & beer Joint

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


"That's on my list"
"Never been but it's on the list"
"Oh that's on the top of my list"

Does anyone really have a list??

Places I haven't been to yet and need to get to soon.

Burger & Beer Joint (3/1) Outstanding Thunder Road Burger. One of the best in town for sure.
Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill (3/6) Loved everything about this place.
Solea- chef left so it's off my list for now.
Grill at the Setai- closed but re-opening soon.
Palm d' Or
The New Altamare- Great Cobaya dinner on 3/22. Another winner.
Lou's Beer Garden
Sakaya Kitchen      (2/19/10- ika geso age w/ssamjang sauce and pork buns were great)
 Sushi Deli  Fantastic little spot serving the best sushi in town along with Naoe
 BLT Steak  (3/3/04- solid ribeye and hen of the woods mushrooms.)
Area 31-


Cafe Sharaku
Ola at Gulfstream (D Rodriguez's latest)
SoLita (New place in old Mark's spot on Las Olas with crew from Martarano)

Places I need to get back to soon

Talula (real deal)
Macaluso's (meatballs)
Scarpetta (truffle polenta)
Bond St. (first date with Chowprincess)
Michy's (Been too long)
Red Light (slooow)


Cafe Maxx (always good)
Valentino's  (best Italian in SoFla)
Martorano  (fun)
3030 Ocean (great seafood)
Johnny V's (long time fan mmm ribmeat hoagie)
Hi-Life Cafe (top chef alum)
Canyon (been long time)

The List

Pony Island 2/13 @ Gulfstream Park

Giddy Up Kids! Saturday, Feb 13 from 10am – 11:30am
The Village and Gulfstream Park welcome you and your families to Pony Island – a special place to meet the horses and jockeys of Gulfstream Park, pose for a picture with your favorite pony, enjoy snacks and have lots of fun! It’s all free at Pony Island, located in the Walking Ring at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, February 13 from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Don't forget to grab some bagels over at Sage pre or post the Ponies

Monday, February 8, 2010

Williams-Sonoma @Gulfstream Park Opening Weekend Festivities

Opening Weekend Festivities:
Thursday, February 11, 2010  9:00 a.m. Grand Opening Ceremony and ribbon cutting   10:00 a.m. – 12:00pm Feature Guest Chef Sean Brasel from Meat Market restaurant in Miami Beach  12:00- 4:00 p.m. Vendor demonstrations featuring representatives from: Nespresso, DeLonghi, Kitchen-Aid, Le Creuset, Wusthof, Calphalon, All-Clad, Breville and Cuisinart   4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Cutlery demonstrations with Wusthof Representative   Friday, February 12, 2010  10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Feature Guest Chef Jeff O’Neill of Gibraltar at Grove Isle providing a demonstration featuring All-Clad D5   12 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Vendor demonstrations featuring representatives from: Nespresso, Kitchen Aid and Wusthof   Saturday, February 13, 2010  12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Featuring Guest Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink featuring D5     12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Vendor demonstrations featuring representatives from: Nespresso, DeLonghi, Kitchen-Aid, Le Creuset, Wusthof, Calphalon, All-Clad, Breville and Cuisinart     Sunday, February 14, 2010    12:00pm – 1:00 p.m. Demo and feature Valentine’s Sweetheart Treats from Williams-Sonoma Bakeware and Foods 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

2010 Super Bowl Pick

The Colts obviously have the best player in this game (probably the best I have ever seen. LT and JRice watch out) BUT the Saints are the better team.  Garcon looked great against my j-e-t-s but the Saints have a very talented secondary and I think they stop the Colts in crunch time.  This should be a fun game to watch.

The official pick  Who Dat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saints 34 Colts 31

Saints BELIEVE DAT Vertical Flag