Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cobaya Qui @ Pao 7.14.16

CDC Derek Salkin & Paul Qui

I was happy during the meal. I was happy after the meal and I'm still happy thinking about the meal 48 hours later.  It must have been a great meal...

Cobaya "experiment" 63 a/k/a Cobaya Qui went down on July 14, 2016 at Pao located at the Faena Hotel on Miami Beach. If you've been paying attention to this site and my Instagram feed it's no secret that I'm a big fan of Pao and the Faena. Pao recently made my difficult to crack Top Five Restaurants in Miami list and probably deserved to be ranked higher. I've also enjoyed and recommended their new show C'est Rouge playing on weekends at their Theater. I've also recently written about great meals at both Pao & Los Fuegos. So yes I'm a big fan and NO I'm not on Alan Faena's payroll. 

But this post isn't about the Faena or Los Fuegos or C'est Rouge. This is about Paul Qui and his talented team at Pao who crushed Cobaya.

I must admit that I'm full of stress before each dinner, worrying that the chef will not fully grasp the concept or comprehend what we are trying to achieve with these dinners. Or maybe they just won't care. I stress during each dinner as each course is served wondering if the chef is trying too hard or if the group size is too large and will either affect the execution of the dish. But I wasn't worried before Cobaya Qui. Because everything Paul cooks is interesting. And I wasn't worried the night of the dinner because Paul told me he loved what we were doing and asked me if he could do a Cobaya dinner every time he was in town (deal). And I wasn't worried during this one because he cooks like this on a nightly basis and excels at it.

Paul epitomizes Cobaya.

Cobaya Qui. That's what Cobaya is all about. Passionate, enthusiastic, energetic, creative, unique and daring. That's how I would describe Paul after spending time with him prior, during and after the dinner. And it translates onto the plate and results in really fucking tasty food. Something a lot of young chefs lose sight of in their quest to have that perfect instagram ready plated dish.

Paul won a James Beard Award in 2012 for Best Chef Southwest. Top Chef fans will recall his dominate run during his Season Nine win. He was born in Manilla, Philippines and his training was in classic French and Japanese cuisine. In addition to Pao, he owns Qui  in Austin and recently opened a 12 seat omakase spot, Otoko. He also has a side project, East Side King which consists of food trucks and brick and mortar spots across Austin.

His local right hand man, chef de cuisine Derek Salkin is another rising star.  Prior to taking his talents to South Beach, he spent time in the kitchens at Per Se, French Laundry and Joël Robuchon. An impressive trifecta. Pao is in excellent hands when Paul is out of town.

Paul and Derek have Filipino backgrounds so the menu was littered with twists on Filipino dishes and flavors. And they were all really good.  Dessert was a hit too thanks to pastry chef Alyssa Hurlstone.

Paul and Derek embraced the concept and they owned it. They delivered an interesting, unique, creative and most importantly a delicious night. Flavors were great and execution was perfect. The progression was solid and pacing was impressive especially with a group of fifty.

It was a fun night from start to finish. You could tell by the buzz at each table that diners were really enjoying each dish. Most cited a different favorite dish at the end of the night which reflects the overall strength of the meal.

I'm not sure is this was strategically done or not but Paul did not provide diners with a menu. So we had no idea what was coming next. It was a nice twist that added extra intrigue to the night.

Huge thanks to chef Paul for taking time from his busy schedule to cook for us and to Derek and the entire kitchen crew. And thanks to the entire team at Faena, John Rogers, Maria Linkous and Michael Pounsberry for making this happen on very short notice. Special thanks to Zach Gossard, Beverage Director at the hotel for lighting the spark and spreading the word about Cobaya to the chefs and hotel. This was his third Cobaya pairing following great ones at Experiment 45 with Danny Grant and Experiment 56 at Michelle Bernstein's Seagrape. And he delivered another excellent pairing with some challenging dishes.  Welcome to the Cobaya Hall of Fame!

And of course thanks to the Cobaya Nation for your love, interest and continued support.

See you at 64!

The Guinea Pigs crushed course one....

Guests were welcomed with a refreshing Blackberry Bramble.

Paul unsuccessfully attempted to source Unicorn for the dinner but The Golden Myth was in the house.

Amuse Bouche
Kumamoto Kinilaw 
Oyster, Sake Granite, Umeboshi, Tomato, Shiso

Foie Gras, Passionfruit, Szechuan Pepper, Pistachio
Sparkling Rosé, Graham Beck NV, Western Cape

Rice Milk 
Fresh Ricotta, Smoked Trout Roe, White Kimchi, Black Garlic 
Kirinzan Junmai Sake, Niigata

Red Porgy Crudo 
Hibiscus Dashi, Finger Lime, Lychee, Yuzu Kosho
Gewurztraminer, Zind-Humbrecht ‘Calcaire’, Alsace 2013

Dinuguan (pork blood sauce) **hard to pick just one but this was the dish of the night**
Hen of the Woods Red Onion, Smoked Shishito, Cilantro 
Priorat, Torroja ‘Terroir al Limit’ 2012

Guinea Hen 
Corn, Black Rice, Coxcomb, Girolles 
Régnié(Cru Beaujolais), Guy Breton, 2013

Kare Kare
Oxtail, Langoustine, Beef Tongue, Dried Shrimp Paste 
Red Wine Blend, Col Solare, Columbia Valley 2013

Caramelized White Chocolate, Sweet Corn, Huckleberry

Thai Tea Marhmallows

Hours of Operation
Dinner Only
6:00pm – 11:00pm (Sunday – Thursday)
6:00pm – 12:00am (Friday & Saturday)

For Information
Phone +1 786 655 5600 / + 1 844 798 9712

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Best Sandwiches Miami/South Florida

I've really enjoyed a few great sandwiches recently so I was inspired to update My Best Sandwich List.  As usual, I've included some standouts from Palm Beach but do not get up there often so I'm sure I'm missing some of your favorites (V&S Italian Deli remains at the top my to-do list).

If you missed my last list which I posted back in November, you can check that out HERE.

Unfortunately, I'm saddened to report the demise of two great spots for sandwiches Genco and Kings County Pizza.  Additionally, Chef Alex Chang is no longer affiliated with the Vagabond so three of my favorites from the last post are off the list too.

I received a few emails after I posted my last list asking why I did not have a Cuban sandwich on my list.  The answer is simple. I don't find them very exciting or good.  Most spots use pedestrian ham and cheese and I'm not a huge fan of the pressed bread thing.  That being said, there is an exception when a great chef elevates the Cuban a la Chef Jeremiah's version at Sub Atomic (closed) and Jamie DeRosa's at Tudor House/Tongue & Cheek (both also closed). But I'm open minded and willing to try more.

** This list does not include some previously listed sandwiches that are staples around town.

Big Ragout - Blue Collar
Corben - Blue Collar
Pastrami - Michael's Genuine and Josh's Deli
Chicken Liver Crostini (almost a sandwich) - Michael's Genuine
McBelly - Pubbelly
Steak Tartare Sliders - Pubbelly/PB Station.
Sausage, Peppers & Onions - Macaluso's Market
Meatball Hero - Macaluso's Market
Lil Oyster Sandwiches - The Dutch
Canadian Classic  - Milos
Octopus Burrito - My Ceviche
Tuna Salad  - Epicure Market
Shrimp Po-Boy - Rumcake Factory (food truck)
Crispy Duck - Sakaya Kitchen
Seared Tuna with kimchi aioli - Crumb on Parchment
Pate - Le Sandwicherie
Salami Provolone with all toppings - Le Sandwicherie
Pork Buns - Sakaya Kitchen
ET Bagel with Nova/Lox - Sage Bagel & Deli
Grilled Mahi - Garcia's
Pan con Minuta  - La Camaronera

Onward, here are some recent great finds followed by my prior recommendations minus the aforementioned closings.  It should be noted that I still need to try the Philly Cheeseteak at Philly Grub (Little Haiti).

First up is one I tried today for lunch courtesy of Chef Aaron Brook's talented right hand man Chef Jose Gamez at Edge Steak & Bar. This is currently featured on the $24.00 three course lunch menu (you can order it solo too) but if you show it some love maybe it will stick around.

Smoked Trout Reuben - European Bakery Rustic Pumpernickel, Celery, Apple, Swiss Cheese, Thousand Lake Dressing.

Photo via Shake Shack

This looked so good that I devoured it before I could even consider taking a shot so I had to use their picture. Surprise, surprise another winner from Shake Shack.

Chick'n Shack - crispy chicken breast with lettuce, pickles, buttermilk herb mayo.

Pho Mi 2Go is a tiny new spot in North Miami Beach that serves a fantastic banh mi sandwich. Pictured above is the Pate and BBQ Pork for $4.95.

Coyo Taco recently opened their second location in the Brickell area.  This one features five torta options in addition to their popular tacos.  I've enjoyed a couple of their tortas thus far. Pictured above is the Milanesa with fresh baked bolillo roll, black beans, queso oaxaca, avocado,pico de gallo, chipotle aioli, pickled jalapeño.

Spring Chicken recently opened their second location on US1 in Fort Lauderdale with more in the works.

Mama's Chicken Biscuit - Award-Winning Crispy Chicken Thigh, House Pepper Jelly, House Pickles.

Corned Beef on a Portuguese Muffin via Proper Sausages (Miami Shores) 

Another Must Get Sandwich Miami. The BBQ Tongue Sandwich -grass fed beef tongue, Proper BBQ Sauce, Iceberg Slaw via @propersausages #Proper #tongue #propersausages #mymiamispice

The BBQ Tongue Sandwich - grass fed beef tongue, Proper bbq sauce, iceberg slaw on a Portuguese muffin via Proper Sausages

Easily one of the best sandwiches in town The Romagna w peppers. & onions @propersausages Berkshire Pork, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, lemon zest & black pepper

The Romagna with peppers & onions. Berkshire Pork, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, lemon zest & black pepper. via Proper Sausages

 Boom! Banh mi - pork pate, chicken liver, pickled vegetables, spicy aioli via chef clay conley @buccansandwichshop #buccansandwichshop

Banh Mi - pork pate, chicken liver, pickled vegetables, spicy aioli via Buccan Sandwich Shop. (Palm Beach)

 Pork Loin, broccoli rabe, provolone @buccansandwichshop #buccansandwichshop

Pork Loin, broccoli rabe, provolone via Buccan Sandwich Shop

Maine Lobster Roll - brioche, mayo, celery via Buccan Sandwich Shop.

Izzy's Whole Maine Lobster Roll warm with lobster butter via Izzy's Fish & Oyster.  (South Beach)

Lobster Roll Mignonette (Miami)

Oyster Loaf - Mignonette (Miami)

Super legit #Pastrami on Rye @zingersdeli (Boca) #zingers #zingersdeli #pastrami

Pastrami on Rye via Zinger's Deli. (Boca)

Crispy chicken sammich - thigh, buttermilk, pickles @chefjeremiah @gastropodmiami #gastropodmiami

Crispy chicken Sammich - thigh, buttermilk, pickles via gastroPod (Wynwood)

Falafel Freakin Benny BOOM!! #FalafelBenny #superstar

Falafel via Falafel Benny  (Hallandale Beach)

 Dac Biet Banh Mi- Pate, bbq pork, pork roll, headcheese 545 Banh Mi Cafe $4.00

Dac Biet Banh Mi - Pate, bbq pork, pork roll, headcheese via 545 Degrees Banh Mi Cafe (Davie) 

Burrata Panini - Housemade burrata with prosciutto, roasted peppers and pesto via Mimmo's Mozzarella (North Miami)

Delicious pulled pork sandwich w slaw on onion roll via @bluewillys

Pulled Pork via Blue Willy's (Pompano Beach)

Shawarma Chicken with garlic sauce and pickels via Noor Bakery
(Dania Beach) also pictured Za'atar and Akawi.

OK not a sandwich but close.  Arepa Parrillera with chorizo, carne y queso blanco via Avila Bistro (Aventura)

Technically not a sandwich but close enough and a must get. Curried Conch Roti via LC Roti Shop (Miami Gardens)

Not New but post worthy again. Cheeseteak via Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies  (Hollywood)

Another classic but post worthy again La Spada Hoagies  (Broward) 

 This hit the spot - French Dip au Jus via Houston's w great thin sliced prime rib #houstons

One more classic one for you.  French Dip au Jus with great thin sliced prime rib via  Houston's (Multiple locations)