Showing posts with label Surfside. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Surfside. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Josh's Delicatessen & Appetizing - Surfside

When Edible South Florida magazine decided to do an issue dedicated to "classics," I was honored to be asked to participate. As a lifelong South Florida resident with many fond memories of places long gone, generally any opportunity to reminisce is enough to get me started. The piece I contributed is on Jewish delis, and I’ll try not to repeat it here too much - go find yourself a copy or read it online - other than to lay out the basic premise: that if the closing of the late, great Rascal House signified the death of the Jewish deli in South Florida, then Josh's Delicatessen & Appetizing, which opened earlier this year in Surfside, may be its reincarnation.

The "Josh" in Josh's Deli is chef/owner Joshua Marcus, who opened Chow Down Grill in this same spot a couple years ago. I was a fan of Chow Down, which brought a modern spin to Chinese-American classics with fresh, high-quality ingredients and house-made everything. But it (and its South Beach sibling, which opened about a year later) were on the front end of what seems to be an inexhaustible supply of contemporary casual Asian eateries in Miami - first Sakaya Kitchen, Pubbelly and Gigi, more recently, Bloom, Shokudo, PaoTown, Kung Fu Kitchen, Lantao Kitchen ...

Amid the glut, Josh decided to try something nobody else was doing: a Jewish-style deli. In April, Chow Down's Surfside location became Josh's Deli.

(You can see all my pictures in this Josh’s Deli flickr set, or click on any picture to enlarge.)

Though maybe the only thing that Chinese food and delicatessen food have in common is Jews' fondness for both, Josh’s approach to them has been similar. In particular, virtually everything at Josh’s Deli is made from scratch.[1] He cures his own corned beef and smokes his own pastrami. He prepares his own fish – salmon three different ways (cured, smoked and pastrami-spiced), smoked tilapia for whitefish salad.[2] The bagels are specially made for him by a local baker.[3] He pickles his own pickles. He even makes his own mustard.

This kind of cooking is a labor of love that many deli owners abandoned years ago in favor of the convenience of pre-prepared, pre-packaged products. It’s a lot more work than cutting open a plastic wrapper, but it’s worth it.

His cured salmon, sliced to order, is beautifully silky, achieving that uneasy feat of tasting like fish without being fishy. We brought home some of each variety to break the fast on Yom Kippur, and while family members all had strong opinions on which they preferred and there was no consensus, everyone had a favorite (for me it’s definitely the pastrami-cured salmon). His whitefish salad, which I initially quibbled with as too chunky, has grown on me, with just enough chopped onion, celery and hard-boiled egg to provide some contrast to the flaky smoked fish without overwhelming it.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Harding Dinner Series with Chef Jeremiah

harding dinner series

It's only going to be around for a week, so I've moved my writeup of the first "Harding Dinner Series" with Chef Jeremiah to the front of the queue. As I mentioned here earlier, the original Chow Down Grill in Surfside is being converted into Josh's Deli & Appetizing during the day, and a pop-up dinner venue for visiting chefs in the evenings. The first guest chef is Jeremiah Bullfrog (of the gastroPod and also a two time Cobaya veteran) and several of us got a preview dinner[1] on Wednesday. It bears repeating once more:
There are some genuinely interesting and exciting things going on in Miami's dining scene right now.
The format of this dinner was a lot tighter, more focused than the sprawling 17-courser Jeremiah did for his last Cobaya: seven courses plus a cocktail to start. But the style and spirit was very much the same - playful, but with a serious focus on maximizing depth of flavor.

(You can see all my pictures in this Harding Dinner Series flickr set).

You want local flavor? How about the "Instagram"? Not a popular new photo app, this was the other kind of gram. But the fine white powder in this baggie, unlike many others commonly seen in Miami, was only baking powder, which reacted with the acid in the drink (Bombay gin and lemon) to make for a fizzy, frothy cocktail. It's the same chemical reaction that powered the volcano you made for fourth grade science fair.

beet composition
beet composition

The first course, a "Beet Composition," was like a terrarium:[2] inside a glass jar were beets in various forms - salt roasted garnet beets, sous-vide candy-cane beets, ribbons of pickled red and golden beets, magenta-stemmed micro beet greens, plus bits of creamy cheese, all nestled in a black sesame "soil." Not merely a presentation ploy, this had great vivid flavors, ranging from the more deep roasty notes to brightly acidic pickled notes.

duck pastrami
duck pastrami

The next course was one of the best things I've eaten this year. Jeremiah' s duck pastrami was cured  in salt, sugar and pink salt for about five days, then thin shavings of the duck were plated on a long communal plank[3] with brussels sprout "kraut" and a spiced pumpernickel streusel. It was just a perfect combination of flavors: the duck, meaty and fatty; the sprouts, bright, vegetal and tart; the streusel providing an earthy, spicy anchor for it all. Great stuff.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Harding Dinner Series Pop-Up at Chow Down Grill Surfside


Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog

A couple weeks ago when I wrote about Eating House, I noted that:
There are some genuinely interesting and exciting things going on in Miami's dining scene right now.
The momentum continues. News recently came out that the original Chow Down Grill location in Surfside - since supplemented with a second location in South Beach - is being converted into a Jewish-style deli during the day, and a pop-up dinner venue in the evenings. The first guest chef to take over the site will be Jeremiah Bullfrog, who, aside from running the gastroPod truck, has also been responsible for a couple of our Cobaya "underground" dinners and contributed behind the scenes to several more.

If you're interested - and you should be - go here for more information here about the Harding Dinner Series, which starts on March 30 and runs, for right now, through April 5, including dates, prices, and the number to call for reservations.

For a glimpse of some of Jeremiah's earlier Cobaya and other dinners, check these posts: CobayaJeremiah (flickr set), Cobaya Experiment #2, 2.5 (flickr set), and Notorious P.I.G. (flickr set). I'm going to miss having Chow Down so close to home for me, but I'm looking forward to what's coming - both the deli and the pop-up.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This One Goes to Eleven - Cobaya at Chow Down Grill 1.11.11

It's always an interesting experience planning these Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs dinners. The mission statement for the chefs is a simple one: cook exactly what you want, without limits, so long as it's on off-the-menu experience that diners won't find in a restaurant. That leaves much room for interpretation. The particular dishes, the menu format, pretty much everything is up to the chef. Ideally, it gives the diners a chance to experience something new and different, and gives the chefs a chance to explore ingredients, cooking methods or ideas that they might not have an opportunity to use otherwise.

Chef Joshua Marcus of Chow Down Grill (you can read my write-up of Chow Down Grill here) is one of those who "got it" immediately. When we decided to do a dinner together, he really got into the spirit, setting things up so that diners were brought in via the alleyway behind the restaurant through an unmarked door that led into the (tiny) kitchen, managing to squeeze 32 seats into his tiny space in Surfside, and bringing in a couple guitarists to play throughout the dinner. He also called out reinforcements including a sushi chef from Nobu to assist in the kitchen, and a friend who worked at BLT Steak to help with service (and also to play the "bouncer" at the back door). They put out 11 ("These Go to Eleven")[*] courses using some ingredients that several of our diners had probably never encountered before, some of which Chef Josh and his team were working with for the first time too.

You can see the menu here at the Cobaya site and all of the pictures in this Flickr set - Cobaya 1.11.11. Here is a more detailed rundown.

Birds' Nest Soup
Bird's Nest Soup
When we first started plotting this dinner, one of the goals was to showcase the house-made soy sauce that Josh and his sous chef Jason have been brewing for months and were finally ready to unveil. I knew that Chow Down Grill was making most of their sauces from scratch. I did not know, until this dinner, that they were also making tofu from scratch, and the house-made soy sauce was a product of having all those soy beans around and wondering what else could be done with them. The bird's-nest soup (made with a stock from squab bones, the rest of which would make an appearance later in the menu) was purposefully underseasoned so diners could use that soy sauce with it. The sauce was light and thin and pure in flavor (like an uzukuchi soy sauce) and not overwhelmed by the sweet caramelized notes of many commercial soy sauces. Bird's nest soup is more about texture than flavor (the nests, made from the stringy saliva of swiftlets, really don't taste like much), though the highlight here for me was the broth, pure and simple, rich in flavor without being in any way heavy or filling.

Ankimo with Aji Panca Sauce
Monkfish Liver
Ankimo, or monkfish liver, is often called the "foie gras of the sea," and it has a depth of flavor that justifies the moniker. This was prepared in-house and came out very nicely - creamy, rich, in many ways very similar to duck or goose liver, but with something of a marine tang that belies its source. Typically in Japanese restaurants it will be served cold, often in a bath of ponzu sauce and with a pinch of yuzu kosho. Here, it was run under the broiler to warm it, and served in a pool of aji panca sauce and dots of soy, the Peruvian pepper providing some spicy heat to cut the richness. One of my favorite ingredients, and a  really nice dish.

Giant Oyster with Habañero Pickled Cauliflower
Giant Oyster
The picture here gives little sense of scale, but these Pacific oysters were close to twice the size of most normal oysters, apparently shucked and briefly steamed, then topped with tiny florets of pickled cauliflower with a dose of habañero chile, as well as a sprinkle of golden pike roe. This was practically a knife-and-fork oyster, though I ambitiously downed it one shot. I found it had gotten a bit dried out from being warmed, and could have used maybe some light sauce or liquid to compensate, but this is a great product with just enough added to complement without detracting from it.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chow Down Grill - Surfside

[sorry, this restaurant has closed; but check out Josh's Deli, at the same spot with the same owner, which I've reviewed here]

I paid my first visit to Chow Down Grill the first week that they opened, about a month ago. This is often a somewhat dicey proposition, even more so for a place that is as unabashedly D.I.Y. as Chow Down Grill. And sure enough, the A/C wasn't working, they'd just gotten their license and hadn't stocked up on beer yet - but the food showed real promise. I went back recently to try it again. The good news is that the A/C is cranking, the beer is well-stocked and cold, and the food delivers on that promise, providing some interesting and well-executed spins on old-school Chinese classics (with some occasional straying into Vietnamese territory).

The chef behind Chow Down is Joshua Marcus, who spent some time in a number of Miami kitchens before venturing out on his own. His resumé includes China Grill, BLT Steak, Timo, and the now defunct North One 10, and it seems he's picked up some tricks at each of them. But Chow Down Grill does not aspire to be like those places, and instead sets out to adapt and update Chinese-American dishes with fresh ingredients and some modern twists in a budget-friendly format. The menu he's put together is fairly short but sweet: a selection of about a half-dozen dumplings for starters; a salad, a couple soups; a choice of a few banh mi style sandwiches; entrées with a choice of protein combined with a choice from about a half-dozen different sauce/vegetable pairings; and fried rice or noodle sides to round out your meal.

Those dumplings are a great place to start. Shaped like oversized potstickers, they come four to an order ($6), and the couple we've sampled were unorthodox but good. A striking black wrapper, colored with squid ink, surrounded a finely diced shrimp filling brightened up with fennel and corn, while a minced chicken dumpling came wrapped in a vibrant basil-green skin. Equally satisfying were the wontons, slightly smaller and more delicate, which came with a peanut sauce that carried a nice undercurrent of spice.[*] I'm not big on salads, but I still found myself picking repeatedly at Mrs. F's "Chow Down Chop" ($8 + $3 to add chicken, shrimp or beef). It's a spin on the iconic Wolfgang Puck Chinese Chicken Salad, with a mix of fresh, perky Napa cabbage, onion, corn, cucumber, carrot, radish,cilantro and slices of mango, all dressed in a brightly flavored chile lime vinaigrette.

It was a bit of a mystery to me why the sandwiches are not called what they clearly are: banh mi, the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Chef Marcus explained: his girlfriend is Vietnamese, and won't let him call them "banh mi" because they're not sufficiently authentic. (This also explains why the "House Special Noodle Soup" is not called "pho"). Whatever it's called, the 24-hour braised beef ($8.50), meltingly tender like a pot roast, makes for a great sandwich. A pâté aioli is an inspired way to combine a couple of the traditional banh mi components and adds even more richness, offset by the fresh flavors of the pickled carrot, cucumber, radish, jalapeño, onion and cilantro.

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