Thursday, January 31, 2013

First Date- Momi Ramen (Miami)

I grew up in New York eating pizza, pasta, deli, Chinese food and bagels on a daily basis.   I've also devoured tons of sushi, burgers and foie gras along the way.  As a result, I'm comfortable commenting on and writing about those types of cuisine.

However, I can count on one hand the number of bowls of ramen I've had in my lifetime.  I've never been to Japan and thus have zero reference point.  The couple of bowls I've had in Miami were okay but nothing special.

I know ramen has a fanatical following in certain areas, even outside of Japan, but I never understood why. Who waits in line for a bowl of soup?!  Thus, I wasn't planning on writing a "First Date" post prior to my visit to the recently opened Momi Ramen located in downtown Miami.  But after the first taste of their wonderful broth and the first bite of their house-made noodles everything changed.

This is awesome stuff I said to myself and then the waitress.  I immediately whipped out my iPhone and  started taking some quick one handed shots.  No way was I putting the chopsticks or spoon down.

Anyway, I don't know jack about ramen.  But I do know about flavor and Momi's broth contained some very deep and rich flavors.  I also know a thing or two about fresh pasta and their noodles are fantastic.

I don't have a clue if ramen traditionalists and experts will love this place but I suspect that they will.  Nevertheless, if you are a novice like me, I would highly recommend paying Momi a visit.  And make sure you bring cash.  No cash, no ramen for you!

The Ramen Shack! And I mean that as a term of endearment.  I'm not sure what the seating capacity is but I would guess that it must be in the 20 range.

The menu on my visit.  I hear that it changes often.

I was there for the ramen but there was no way I was going to bypass the bone marrow.  This was happiness in a bowl.  This featured a very tasty tonkotsu broth.  The waitress instructed me to pour the broth into the marrow and then drink it.  Boooya!

The Oxtail Ramen, featuring a spiral te-momi style ramen with braised oxtail was the ramen call on this first date. And it was a great call.  As I indicated earlier, this broth has really deep flavor.  I have zero clue about the process that went into it but I will simply tell you to try this dish.  The broth, noodles and oxtail were all outstanding and the dish as a whole even better.

Look at those strands of noodles.  My only complaint is that there weren't enough in the bowl.

Oxtail fans will love Momi's braised tail.

A View of the ramen kitchen.

The wall of sake.  Sapporo beer is also available on draft.

The world of ramen has a new fan thanks to Momi.  I look forward to eating a lot more in the near future and learning a thing or two about ramen along the way.

Momi Ramen on Urbanspoon

5 SW 11 Street, Miami, Florida 33130
(786) 391-2392

Pie'Sano's Pizza Pop Off Saturday Nights @ The Dutch

Late Nights Every Saturday in February

The Dutch at W South Beach Hotel & Residences is launching a late-night series, PieSanos Pizza that will run every Saturday night in February beginning Saturday, February 2nd , from Midnight – 3 a.m.  The weekly series will feature wood-fired personal pizza pies from chef de cuisine Conor Hanlon.

For the limited February weekly engagement, Chef Hanlon will create a menu featuring four handmade, seasonal pies and starters like Zeppoli – pizza dough balls piped full of burrata and fried.  Guests can expect creative twists such as the Rockafella – east coast oysters, spinach, bacon, parm and garlic crumbs ($23) and specialty Antipastiincluding a medley of pickled baby vegetables, parmigiano-reggiano, salumi and Swank Farms lettuce ($15).

Draft beers ($8) and wines by the glass ($10 - $11) will also be on special.

PieSanos Pizza Parlor will be offered at The Dutch every Saturday through February 23, 2013; midnight – 3 a.m.


fried dough, burrata, tomato sauce, sicilian oregano


pickled baby vegetables, parmigiano-reggiano, salumi, Swank Farms lettuce


red gravy, fresh muzz

whipped  cows-milk ricotta, caramelized onion, thyme, cracked black pepper


housemade sausage, peppers & onions, red gravy, fresh basil


east coast oysters, spinach, bacon, parm, garlic crumbs


lamb belly bacon, kalamata olive, red onion, harissa, feta, arugula

Personal Pies Made-to-Order in Our Stone Oven **Every Saturday Night

Narragansett Lager

Victory “Hop Devil” IPA
Rouge Hazelnut Brown Ale
Hoegaarrden White Wheat Ale
$6 pints/ $20 pitchers

Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ~ New Zealand   $9 by the glass
Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ~ Italy   $11 by the glass

The Dutch is located inside W South Beach Hotel & Residences2201 Collins Avenue, in Miami Beach, Florida, 33139. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.,Monday – Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday. Lunch is served daily from noon to 4 p.m. Dinner is served from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Sunday – Wednesday, and from 7 p.m. to midnightThursday – Saturday. The bakery counter is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For reservations, please call (305) 938-3111 or book online via or  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Flying Under the Food Radar


I wanted to take the time to share a few spots around town that for some reason continue to fly under the food radar despite serving good to great food.  All of these spots are reasonably priced and worth driving for.

CHAPULTEPEC- (Hallandale Beach)

Chapultepec is a Mexican restaurant and bar that serves inexpensive and authentic Mexican fare.  They serve the best tacos I've had in South Florida.  The tortillas are house-made and always fresh.  Tacos range from $1.50 to $1.99 and they usually have  several options available including carne asada, barbacoa, lengua, al pastor, chorizo and tripa.

I also recommend trying their Pozole, a pork soup Chapultepec style with cabbage, rabano, onions, chile en polvo and oregano.  This is full meal and only $5.99.

They also carry an array of familiar Mexican favorites including hard to find Tortas.

Chapultepec is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 4 a.m. on the weekends.  The main dining room has a stage area so they must have live music at night.

Two of my favorite tacos at Chapultepec are the carne asado and chorizo.

Another favorite dish of mine is their Menudo soup.  This is a Mexican style beef tripe soup with pig feet, hominy and a side of onion, cilantro and lime.

Chapultepec Mexican Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It's located a block north of Hallandale Beach Blvd.  
(954) 456-0771

PANYA THAI- (North Miami Beach)

Panya serves some of the best if not the best Thai food in town.  Plus, they are one of the few Thai restaurants in the area that do not serve sushi.  And dishes are always properly spiced.

Panya is located just east of I-95 on 167th St. I've tried a decent amount of their menu and the only pedestrian dish I've had is surprisingly their pad Thai. Everything else has been spot on and delicious.

One of my favorite dishes there is the spicy Dancing Shrimp. Raw shrimp are served in a fish sauce topped with chili, garlic and lime juice.

Another standout dish is their really flavorful Larb Pork. It consists of a generous portion of pork with onions, scallions, rice powder and green salad.

The Fresh Roll is rice paper wrapped in bean sporouts, scallion, tofu, omelet, cucumbers and Chinese sausage.

Curry and duck fans will be very pleased with their wonderful duck red curry.

Other favorites include their papaya salad and beef jerky. Their extensive menu is littered with great dishes.

Panya is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Panya Thai on Urbanspoon

520 NE 167th St, North Miami Beach 33162
(305) 945-8566

PHO 78- (Pembroke Pines)

When I'm craving Banh mi, a Vietnamese sub, I head out west to Pho 78.  This no frills Vietnamese restaurant serves the best banh mi in town and their pho is good too.

I always start with Goi Cuon, a clean and light shrimp and pork summer rolls.

I also always order a  Bánh Mi Ðac Biet which includes grilled chicken, pork and fried egg along with the perfect combination of mayo, cilantro, cucumber, pickled daikon/carrot and jalapeño.

Pho 78 on Urbanspoon

7849 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
(954) 989-6770

CHEF PHILIP HO- (Sunny Isles)

I know, everyone knows about Chef Philip Ho and their great dim sum.   But not many know that their non dim sum dinner menu is equally good.  Thus, they are flying under the radar.  I must admit that I am a tad spoiled when it comes to Chef Philip Ho because I live within their delivery zone and order from there regularly.  The food always arrives just as hot as it does at the restaurant.  Very impressive.

This post is not about their extensive and delicious dim sum menu.  However, it should be noted that a lot of their dim sum is available at dinner and for delivery as evidenced by the pictures below.  Their non dim sum menu offers some unique dishes and everything served is fresh and "clean".  This is not an Americanized glop fest.

Phoenix Claws with black bean sauce is a must order for fans of the claw. 

Sticky Rice in lotus leaf is usually available ay night as well.

From the dinner menu, HK Aberdeen Style Silver Fish.

In case you are wondering, soup dumplings can travel.  

Some of my favorite dishes from the dinner menu are their noodle offerings.  My favorite is the chive and mushroom hand pulled noodles.  A very close second is the Singapore style rice noodles.  The shredded chicken vermicelli noodles are great too.

Stir fried snow pea tips with garlic sauce, salt and pepper prawns, scallops with pumpkin and okra, clams in black bean sauce, zucchini and fungus prawns, tofu with eggplant and black bean sauce and their special fried rice are also worth trying.  

Chef Philip Ho on Urbanspoon

16850 Collins Ave
Ste 106A
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160
(305) 974-0338


If you are a fan of barbecued roast pork and haven't been to King Palace you need to stop what you are doing and head over now.  They serve an unreal version that you will be addicted to.  Their menu is full of very interesting dishes including marinated pig intestines, stir fried spicy dungeness crabs, stir fried silver fish, stir fried frog, duck tongues, steamed frogs with lotus leaves, boneless duck feet etc.

Why are you still reading this? Go get the barbecued roast pork. And don't skip the sautéed snow pea tips either.


Stir fried silver fish is a tasty treat.

King Palace Chinese Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

330 NE 167th St
Miami, FL 33162
(305) 949-2339


El Tamarindo may be the best bang for your buck in town.  They are located in a small strip mall just east of US 1 in Hallandale Beach.  They specialize in Salvadoran food which is primarily the meat portion of the menu and coal fired pizza.  The pizza from their wood burning oven is good and so is most of the menu.  i wrote a post about them when they first opened here and shortly later here so I will leave you with that.

El Tamarindo Restaurant & Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

712 Atlantic Shores Blvd
Hallandale, FL33009

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Macchialina Taverna Rustica (South Beach)


I know I'm a tad late to the game on Macchialina but I really enjoyed my first meal there plus I devoured enough food to justify posting about it now.    

As soon as I walked through the door I was happy.  Maybe it was the seductive smell of garlic and tomato sauce that was flowing throughout the room.  Maybe it was the cool urban neighborhood vibe of the dining room and bar area.  Maybe it was the warm welcome from general manager and co-owner, Jennifer Chaefsky. Maybe it was all of the above.  Regardless, I was happy to be there and eager to try chef and co-owner, Michael Pirolo's food.  My happiness didn't cease there.  It continued to grow as I sampled dish after dish of delicious and inspired authentic Italian fare.

Chef Pirolo's food registered with me in a big time way. And that's because he's serving Italian "soul" food. But don't confuse that with comfort food.  That would be a lazy disservice to the talented chef.  Chef Pirolo has successfully put a gourmet spin on rustic dishes without sacrificing its soul.  This skillful balancing act is not an easy thing to do. But he clearly knows his way around classic Italian flavors and ingredients and that permeates through each bite of every dish.  

Macchialina opened in June and is located on 8th Street and Alton Road.  They are open for dinner six nights a week and currently offer a great daily happy hour deal from 6 to 8 pm featuring $1.50 oysters and $5.00 Peroni, prosecco and wine. You can also grab a pizza and a pint for $10.00.  South Beach locals have longed for a neighborhood joint with a good happy hour scene, great food and reasonable prices.  Hello Macchialina!!


Michael was born in New York but his family moved to Avellino, Italy when he was eighteen months old.  Rumor has it, he was making gnocchi in pre-k. Okay, just making sure you're paying attention.   

At the age of 21, Michael enrolled in I.C.I.F., in Torino, Italy.  This led to apprenticeships at Michelin rated restaurants, La Voglia Matta, in Bologna, and Cafe Groppi, in Piemonte.

In 2003, he returned to New York and worked with chef Christopher Lee at Oceana, and then as a sous chef at Striped Bass and Gilt.

In 2007, he became chef de cuisine at Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbour, New York.  Shortly after that he became co-chef de cuisine with Scott Conant at Scarpetta, NYC.

In 2008, he moved to Miami Beach to open Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Hotel.

While at Scarpetta, Michael received an impressive Four Star review from the esteemed Miami Herald critic, Victoria Pesce Elliott. Missy Elliott recently awarded Macchialina Three and a Half stars.

Subsequent to dinner I had an opportunity to go Oprah on him and unleashed some riveting questions for my loyal readers:

1. Meatball Hero or Sausage and Peppers? Sausage and Peppers.

2. Favorite parm? Eggplant Parm is the only parm that exists in my eyes.

3. Favorite pizza topping, if any? No toppings, give me a classic Margherita.

4. Pasta, fresh or dry and why? I love them both, it depends on the application.

5. Favorite Pasta? Paccheri.

6. Favorite Italian dish not on your menu? Caccio e Peppi.

7. Sports fan? If so favorite teams? Heat and NY Giants.

8. How many times have you seen The Godfather? Countless times.

9. Land at JFK, time for two Italian meals, where are you going? Scarpetta and the Saint Austere.

10. Table of Four you'd love to see walk into Macchialina? Can it be a 5 top? Sure Sweet D, Charlie, Dennis, Mac and Frank Reynolds.

11. What are you serving them? Milk steak- boiled over hard and Rum Ham.

12. Last time you had Chef Boyardee Raviolis? Never, my mother loves me.

13. Favorite Dish at Olive Garden? Never been.

14. Define "gabagool" a mispronounced charcuterie, capicola.

15. You ready to rock a Cobaya Dinner?? If so, one dish tease up your sleeve? Ready and excited. I love cooking tripe and risotto.  SOLD!!!


Upon arrival, I enjoyed an Italiano with Campari, lemon and prosecco, while ChowP sipped on spicy sangria. We also enjoyed the Frittura di Verdure from the snack menu.  This featured lightly fried artichokes and zucchini along with a very tasty horseradish dip.

Once seated, we were treated to an "amuse bouche" consisting of a great combination of olives and roasted tomato sauce.

A standout dish from the snacks portion of the menu is the Grilled Country Bread paired with an addictive and creamy fontina fonduta.  At $5.00, this is a must get during happy hour.   

If you've been to Scarpetta, you know Michael knows his way around polenta. Here, he delivers an equally great rendition. His polenta is wonderfully creamy and topped with an awesome house-made sausage ragu and cipollini onions.      

Michael's Tortino di Melanzane was an interesting twist on the classic eggplant parmigiana.  Michael combined thinly sliced eggplant with a subtle amount of tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella and ricotta cheese.  

Read more here:

One of my favorite dishes of the night was Michael's riff on another classic dish, the caesar salad.  Michael's Broccolini al Cesare includes a parmesan dressing, a hint of anchovies and topped with toasted garlic.

Read more here:

A Warm Butternut Squash Salad paired with kale, hazelnuts and topped with tasty slices of prosciutto was a unique and enjoyable dish.

The first pasta dish to hit the table was a slightly sweet and perfectly cooked Beet Filled Mezzaluna with hazelnuts, brown butter sauce and ricotta salata.  This was a huge hit at the table.  

Cavatelli Macchialina had my palate buzzing. The spot on cavatelli was topped with generous amounts of extremely tasty porchetta, pecorino and baby meatballs.  This is last meal on earth worthy.

Read more here:

The pasta hits kept coming.  A special that night and an absolute treat was an unreal house-made Picci Pasta with venison and port stewed plums.  

I suspect the hearty Lasagna with short ribs and talleggio is a popular dish.  The flavors were there but the overall dish was a tad too soft for me texturally.  But I guaranty I'm in the minority on this one.

Despite being stuffed, desserts looked to good to resist.  Macchialina's "Tira Misu" comes in a jar full of mascarpone, dulce de leche, lady fingers and topped with a refreshing espresso granita.

The Tira Misu  was very good but the Banana Bread Pudding with Whipped Ricotta was outstanding and a the perfect end to a fantastic evening.

Macchialina's got soul! And I can't wait to go back and experience more of Michael's food.

My Italian grandmother who was a great cook would have loved chef Pirolo and his wonderful rustic Italian food.

Macchialina Taverna Rustica on Urbanspoon

820 Alton Rd Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 534-2124