Showing posts with label Thai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thai. Show all posts

Friday, January 6, 2017

first thoughts: Cake Thai | Wynwood (Miami)

About a year and a half ago, I sung the praises of Cake Thai Kitchen, a tiny spot in Miami's Upper East Side opened by chef Phuket Thongsodchareondee (a/k/a "Cake"). From this little hole in a wall, Cake was putting out some of the best Thai food I've eaten in this city. This was not the "regulation issue" menu of so many other local Thai spots; Cake offered some boldly-flavored street foods, executed with that percussive attack of spicy / sour / salty / bitter / sweet / herbaceous that brings such joy when Thai food is properly done.

The only thing I couldn't unreservedly recommend about Cake was its location. It was actually great for me personally, a few miles from home and literally just a one-block detour from my usual commute. But despite some new upmarket neighbors – Paulie Gee's on the next block, The Anderson around the corner – this particular stretch of Biscayne Boulevard remains somewhat dodgy, and the utilitarian-at-best venue might not be everyone's idea of a night out on the town.[1] If I wasn't solo, it was usually a take-out option for me too.

Well, now you can have your Cake and eat there too. [Go ahead, just kill me now].

A second Cake Thai has opened in trendy Wynwood, just off the "gateway" corner of 29th Street and NW 2nd Avenue. I made my way over there for lunch just before the new year (see all my pictures in this Cake Thai - Wynwood flickr set).

It won't be mistaken for the Four Seasons, but the dining room, with seating for about 30, is bright and airy, the walls covered with white tiles, the ceiling festooned with upside-down woven baskets for decoration.

The opening menu at Cake Wynwood is abbreviated in comparison to the original location: about thirty dishes, roughly half as many as on the Biscayne Boulevard menu. It's something of a "greatest hits," but also includes some items that were semi-regular blackboard specials at the mothership (the chive cake with chili vinegar and dark soy sauce, the chicken in red curry with pickled bamboo shoots). There's also at least a few things that are completely new, at least to me: a duck larb, some new soups and large format dishes.

The new kitchen gives Chef Cake a little more room to play, and so we can expect some more in-house pantry items to be making their way onto the menu. His nuea dad deaw – dried and fried beef jerky, made here with rich, fatty brisket buried under an avalanche of crispy fried shallots – is served with house-made sriracha sauce and pickles.

I never order pad thai. I'll invariably pick at it if the kids order it, and invariably be disappointed. Until I tried Cake's, which brings the proper balance of sour and spicy and funky to a dish that is usually just insipidly sweet. Some plump, fresh head-on shrimp also help elevate the dish. Fresh bean sprouts add crunch.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

30 Great Things to Eat in Miami for Less than $11

A disproportionate amount of my time and energy writing here is devoted to higher end dining (leading some people to think I actually eat that way all the time!). Yes, there's a lot more glamour in a fancy tasting menu than in the average daily meal. But not necessarily more satisfaction.

And as Miami rapidly becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, there's a particular joy when that satisfaction comes cheap. As we enter the season of Miami Spice, when everyone goes scrambling to sample all the $39, 3-course dinners, this year I decided to do something different.

So forgive me for the click-bait title, but here are thirty great things to eat in Miami[1] all of them under $11.[2] A few of these come from Miami's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Others come from places with no websites or social media managers, made by cooks whose names I will never know. Many are not terribly Instagram-friendly. What they all have in common is that they make me very happy when I eat them.

Though it was not my original purpose, and though it's obviously skewed somewhat by my own personal predilections,[3] I suspect this list might just give a more complete picture of our city than the latest restaurant "hot list" – not just the million dollar dining rooms in the South Beach and Brickell towers, but the many Latin American and Caribbean and other flavors that give Miami its – well, flavor. I'm always gratified to see exciting things happening in the Miami dining stratosphere; but there are good things closer to the ground too. Here are some of them.

1. Pan con Croqueta ($10)

I wrote recently about All Day, and won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll mention something that only occurred to me in retrospect: how comfortably it traverses the territory between new school coffee house and old school Cuban cafecito shop. Sure, the coffee beans are a lot better than the regulation-issue Bustelo or Pilon, and they don't need to put an avalanche of sugar into an espresso to make it taste good, but there's not as much space as you might think between a fancy Gibraltar and a humble cortadito. All Day even has a ventanita where you can order from the sidewalk. And, they've got an excellent version of a pan con croqueta, with warm, creamy ham croquetas and a runny, herb-flecked egg spread, squeezed into classic crusty pan cubano.

(More pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).

All Day
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida

2. Croqueta Sandwich ($5.90)

If All Day offers a new-school version of a pan con croqueta, the prototype can be found at Al's Coffee Shop, hidden away inside a Coral Gables office building. Despite the obscure location, it's usually full of police officers and municipal workers, who know where to find a good deal. The croqueta sandwich here starts at $4.65; you can add eggs for an extra $1.25. Bonus points: on Tuesdays, those excellent croquetas are only 25¢ apiece all day.

Al's Coffee Shop
2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida

3. Curry Goat ($10; $7 on Thursday)

For as long as I've been in Miami – which is a long time – B&M Market has been open along a dodgy stretch of NE 79th Street. Run by a sweet, friendly Guyanese couple, this Caribbean market with a kitchen and small seating area in back turns out fresh rotis, staples like braised oxtails, jerk chicken, cow foot stew, and my favorite – the tender, deeply-flavored curry goat. A small portion, with rice and peas and a fresh salad, is plenty, and will set you back $10 – or go on Thursday when it's the daily lunch special, and it's only $7.

(More pictures in this B&M Market - Miami flickr set).

B&M Market
219 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida

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Monday, April 18, 2016

best thing i ate last week: grilled eggplant salad at Vagabond Backyard Cookout

I'm a big fan of all the good things happening in Miami's "MiMo District" along Biscayne Boulevard, anchored of late by the refurbished Vagabond Motel. Yes, it's partly because it's a straight shot from home across 79th Street Causeway for me, but it's also because the neighborhood has some old 1950's Miami feel, which many of its new inhabitants are looking to preserve in some fashion while still bringing new styles and flavors.

So I was particularly happy to see Chef Alex Chang, who runs the Vagabond Restaurant, team up with Chef Phuket Thongsodchaveonde of Cake Thai Kitchen up the street for a Backyard Cookout around the Vagabond pool. Two of my favorite spots, at one event? Sold.

Together they did a Thai-style BBQ that included grilled corn slathered with coconut cream and palm sugar, a fragrantly spicy Isaan style pork shoulder larb dusted with roasted rice powder, BBQ chicken with papaya salad and sticky rice, grilled whole fish cooked in banana leaves, and for dessert, an ice cream sandwich tucked into a hot dog roll topped with toasted peanuts and fish sauce caramel (a LOT better than it might sound).

(You can see all my pictures on the back end of this Vagabond Restaurant flickr set).

But my favorite dish was this eggplant salad. Little golf ball sized Thai eggplants were halved and grilled so their edges blackened and their insides had just started to go soft and custardy. They were doused in a key lime vinaigrette packing sour, sweet, and just a little heat. But the clincher was the toppings: those crispy shallots, those chewy, funky dried shrimp, like little flavor bombs that keep you digging in for another bite.

It was the best thing I ate last week, and a really fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Monday, July 13, 2015

best thing i ate last week: rabbit with green curry from Chef Aaron Brooks

I know I seem like a homer when I pick dishes from our Cobaya dinners here. But the truth is we've been on a really nice streak lately. The trend continued in Experiment #55, with Chef Aaron Brooks from Edge Steak and Bar in the Four Seasons.

I could have easily gone with Chef Brooks' charcuterie plate, but we did that last week, so instead my choice for "best thing I ate last week" is this rabbit with green curry, the rabbit loin stuffed with a brightly flavored Thai sausage, the curry alive with lemongrass and makrut lime. You can read more about the dinner here.

Runner up: the smoked oyster mushroom with Beemster gouda purée and crispy yuba skin from Chef Brad Kilgore at Alter. What an incredible umami payload in a vegetarian dish.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cake Thai Kitchen - Miami

I've often bemoaned the cookie-cutter nature of most Thai restaurants in Miami. It's as if they all got the same regulation-issue menu from the "Bureau of Miami Thai Restaurants:" there's the "A" version which invariably has a nearly identical listing of satays, spring rolls, "volcano chicken," and choices of proteins with choices of different-hued curries; and there's the "B" version, which also includes sushi and other Japanese items.[1] The same dull consistency infects the preparation of those menu items: lackluster, tepidly spiced, and invariably too sweet.

There are a couple exceptions: I am a big fan of Panya Thai in North Miami Beach, and Ricky Thai Bistro nearby in North Miami, both of which I've been meaning to write about for a long time. Now I can add another to the list: Cake Thai Kitchen on  Biscayne Boulevard, just north of 79th Street.[2]

Back in December, after driving by the somewhat mysterious new sign (is it a bakery or a Thai restaurant? A Thai bakery?),[3] I found Cake's menu listed on an online delivery service website, and got pretty excited. Crispy rice with house-made fermented pork "salami," grilled pork neck, chili paste squid with salted egg ... clearly, the Bureau never sent them the regulation-issue menu.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cake Thai Kitchen flickr set).

And, most dishes were every bit as good as they sounded. When Thai food is made right, there's a balancing of extremes: salty, sour, spicy, sweet, bitter, funky and herbaceous all turned up really loud, ultimately combining to great effect - sort of like vintage Stooges. Cake's food had that going on.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ten Great Things to Eat in Maui

While starting to mull over potential destinations for the upcoming summer, it occurred to me that I never really reported back on last summer's trip to Hawaii. Though this was not a trip centered around dining, we do always look to eat well, and it was actually just a bit of a challenge in Hawaii. Not for lack of good food; but as someone who lives in Miami Beach, I know from experience that when you're in an overwhelmingly tourist-driven destination, it can be tough not to eat like a tourist.

Honolulu seems to be the epicenter of interesting dining in the Hawaiian islands - crazily ambitious projects like Vintage Cave, refined tasting menus like Chef Mavro, pop-ups like The Pig and the Lady. That's not a surprise, given that it's the most populated city. But for non-culinary reasons, we elected to skip Oahu entirely in favor of Maui and Big Island.

The good news was that locavorism seems to run strong on all the islands. It ought to: Hawaii has ready access to a fantastic variety of fresh fish straight from the ocean, as well as great locally grown fruits and vegetables. And over the past couple decades, there's been an increasingly concerted push to incorporate those ingredients into the restaurant repertoire, instead of relying on flown-in products.

Still, there's a huge gulf between the resort restaurants catering to the "haole" (foreigners), and the local joints with their loco moco and spam musubi (which we ate, and which was good, but there's only so much of that my Crestor can handle), and it's not always so easy to find the middle. But that's what we were looking for; here's what we found:

1. Fried Saimin at Star Noodle (Lahaina). Star Noodle was exactly the kind of place we were seeking out. Located in a business park well off the main drag, it felt more like a locals' hangout than a tourist trap. The menu, from Chef Sheldon Simeon (yes, the guy who was always wearing the "Where's Waldo?" hat on last season's Top Chef, and who also was a 2011 James Beard semi-finalist for Rising Star Chef and Best New Restaurant) was a happy hodge-podge of pan-Asian noodle dishes and other items, done with some contemporary flair.

From what I've read, saimin is arguably the "national dish of Hawaii" - ramen-style wheat noodles, either in a broth or pan-fried, often coupled with that other Hawaiian staple, Spam, as the main protein. Star Noodle's Fried Saimin hewed pretty close to tradition, the chewy noodles tossed with slices of Spam and kamoboko (fish cake), thin ribbons of cooked egg, bean sprouts and green onions. They were the best of the noodle dishes we tried there.[1] An assortment of pickled vegetables, seaweed salad, kimchi, and Momofuku-style pork buns rounded out the meal.

Star Noodle
286 Kupuohi St., Lahaina Maui

Star Noodle on Urbanspoon

2. Ahi Poke Shoyu at Safeway (Lahaina). Safeway? Really? Yes. As unlikely as it sounds, a Chowhound thread tipped me off that the Safeway in downtown Lahaina has a remarkably good selection of pokes. And sure enough, in the seafood market they had about a dozen different varieties of the Hawaiian marinated fish dish. Though most were made with frozen, thawed fish or octopus, a couple were made with fresh ahi tuna, including this one laced with soy sauce and sesame oil, chiles, onions, scallions and masago.

3. Reuben Sandwich at Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop (Lahaina). Maybe it was that we'd just spent the morning kayaking and snorkeling off the coast in Olowalu Village, and were starving. But in the moment, anyway, I've found few sandwiches as satisfying as the Reuben I had at Leoda's Kitchen, another place opened by Sheldon Simeon. Layers of shaved corned beef, oozy Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing piled onto thickly sliced, griddled rye bread - what's not to like? The single-serve macnut-chocolate praline pie was a winner too.

Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop
820 Olowalu Village Road, Lahaina Maui

Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop on Urbanspoon

4. Shave Ice at Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice (Lahaina). You can get shave ice all over the islands - and we did - but the best we had was at Ululani's Shave Ice in downtown Lahaina. Unlike the typical, treacly day-glo syrups that look and taste like nothing from the natural world, Ululani's flavors its powdery, freshly shaved ice with all natural syrups made in-house, many from the plethora of tropical fruits that are available locally. Little Miss F opted here for green tea and lychee. I was partial to mango with li hing mui powder (salted dried plum), which became something of an obsession for me during our time in Hawaii.[2]

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice
790 Front St., Lahaina Maui

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Cobaya Khong

I have never been to Thailand. I've not had the chance to eat from a floating market vendor or a Bangkok street stall. But when Chef Piyarat Potha Arreeratn (a/k/a "Chef Bee") talks about preparing the food he grew up eating as a child, I feel pretty comfortable using that dangerous buzzword - authentic.

Chef Bee is the chef at Khong River House, which played host to our latest Cobaya dinner the Thursday before last. As always, our marching orders were simple: cook the dishes that get you excited, that you don't otherwise have a chance to serve at your restaurant. Chef Bee's response was as passionate and heartfelt as any we've ever experienced.  The result was a rewarding meal that provided a view of Thai cuisine we aren't often afforded by Miami's Thai restaurants.

Our dinner started with a trip up the stairs of Khong, named for the Mekong River which winds its way through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In the comfortable upstairs hideaway,[1] a long table awaited, covered with blown-up photos from Chef Bee's trips back home. The bar was also set with some drinking snacks that would set the tone for the meal:

(You can see all my pictures from the meal in this Cobaya Khong flickr set.)

Dak Dae Tod are plump salt-and-pepper fried silk worm larvae. Mang Da Tod[2] are deep-fried water bugs, which chef Bee tossed with five-spice. Of the two, I genuinely enjoyed the former - the silkworm pupae had a pleasingly soft, almost creamy texture, and were as good a vehicle as any for the classic salt-and-pepper flavors. The water bug was more texturally challenging - the kind of papery feel of a shrimp head that's not quite been fried crispy enough to eat comfortably - but had an intriguing, almost floral flavor as you crunched down on its carcass which reminded me of elderflower. Though perhaps shocking to Western sensibilities, both are common Thai street snacks.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

City Snapshots - Las Vegas Dining

Our experience at é by Jose Andres was the most exceptional of our recent Las Vegas visit, but it certainly wasn't our only good meal. Some like to deride Vegas, including its culinary options, as phony and Disney-esque. And that's understandable: while many big-name chefs have established outposts in the desert - Thomas Keller, Joel Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire, José Andrés, Masa Takayama, among others - they are satellite operations, with perhaps varying degrees of attention and inspiration.

And yet we've always eaten well in Las Vegas, and not necessarily always on a  high rollers' budget. Indeed, sometimes you have to get off the Strip and back into the real world to find it, but even in the belly of the beast, there is much good eating to be had. Here, then, some briefer snapshots rather than full posts on some other fine meals we had in Las Vegas: Sage, Aburiya Raku, China Poblano, and Lotus of Siam.

On our first night in town we were looking for something easily accessible from our home base at the Cosmopolitan, and Sage, in the Aria resort next door, fit the bill. Like most Vegas venues, it is a second project of an out-of-town chef, in this instance, Chicago's Shawn McClain (Green Zebra, Custom House). On the slow Monday following Christmas weekend, it appeared they had the main dining room closed and were serving only out of the lounge area in front, which was fine by us. With lots of leather settees, dark wood, and soft lighting filtered by pleated lampshades, it was comfortably posh without feeling stuffy. Also nice is that the restaurant is not situated right in the middle of the casino area, and has the feel of a sophisticated, placid refuge from all that hubbub.

(You can see all my pictures in this Sage - Las Vegas flickr set).


It was just as well we were sitting at the bar, because Sage has an excellent cocktail menu featuring both traditional and contemporary concoctions. Their Sazerac, made with Sazerac Rye, Marilyn Manson Absinthe, and Peychaud's Bitters, was as good as any I've had in New Orleans. They carry an extensive absinthe list and are fully equipped for a traditional service, absinthe fountain and all.


Sage's four-course "Signature Tasting Menu," at $79, is a relatively good bargain, even if adding the "Foie Gras Brûlée" for a $10 supplement makes it slightly less so.

foie gras brulee

It's still a good call: this is an excellent, if more than a bit decadent, dish, a rich foie gras mousse topped with crispy burnt sugar crust, a little fruit jam tucked underneath a shower of shaved torchon of foie gras as the final garnish.

Iberico pork loin

The rest of the tasting menu was equally refined, if not quite as exciting. A bacon-wrapped rabbit loin was perfectly cooked, paired with multi-hued roasted baby carrots and herb-flecked, cheese-filled ravioli, but nothing about the dish really jumped out to grab your attention. A pork-on-pork-on-pork composition of Iberico pork loin, pork-stuffed cannelloni, and thin shavings of Creminelli mortadella, served over tender baby eggplant with a dark pan sauce, was every bit as precise with its cooking, with the cannelloni in particular standing out for the lusciously soft but still intensely flavored filling of braised pork shoulder.

This is classy, refined cooking at a very good price point in comparison to many of its neighbors, at least if you go with the tasting menu. Maybe not so much with the regular menu, where appetizer prices hover close to $20 and main courses congregate around $45. If for no other reason, I'd go back just to have a cocktail and another taste of that foie gras brûlée.

3730 Las Vegas Boulevard S, Las Vegas NV (Aria Resort)

Sage (Aria) on Urbanspoon

I've written before about Aburiya Raku and won't do so in great detail again, other than to say that this is easily one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas, and if it were in my town I'd be there every week. You can see the photos from our most recent visit in this Aburiya Raku flickr set. A few favorites from this meal:

kanpachi sashimi

Gorgeous kanpachi sashimi off the specials board. The aji was also outstanding.

uni and wakame soup

An unimpressive looking, but deeply satisfying, bowl of uni and wakame soup. A simple combination of dashi, wakame seaweed and a couple pinkish-orange tongues of uni made for a majestic end result. This was umami at its finest: incredible depth of flavor, without any heaviness.

Kobe beef tendon

One of my favorite single bites anywhere: Kobe beef tendon robata. Gelatinous, sticky, crispy on the edges, intensely meaty and rich. Great stuff.

Raku is truly an exceptional restaurant and a highlight of any trip to Las Vegas.

Aburiya Raku
5030 W. Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas NV

Raku on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pok Pok - Portland, Oregon

Pok Pok outside

The story of Pok Pok goes as follows: Andy Ricker is a chef who fell in love with Thai food during repeated trips to the country in the 1980s and 1990s, and eventually set out to do it himself. Pok Pok started as a rotisserie grill take-out business in the driveway of a house, and over time expanded, in somewhat haphazard fashion, into an actual restaurant. "Authenticity," a hot-button word recently, comes up often in discussions of Pok Pok because (a) Ricker is white; and (b) notwithstanding (a), the food at Pok Pok is regularly praised as being more "authentic" than what you will find at most typical Thai restaurants in the U.S.

The issue of "authenticity" gets a lot of attention lately. Is it "authentic" when Ivan Orkin, a white guy from New York, goes to Japan to open a traditional ramen shop? Is it "authentic" when Grant Achatz and crew set out to do a Thai menu for three months at their everlasting pop-up restaurant, Next? Why don't we ask the same questions about authenticity when they do a menu of Escoffier French classics from a hundred years ago?

What about when a Burmese-American and Jewish-American couple start serving dinner out of a hole-in-the-wall Chinese take-out shop in San Francisco's Mission District, sometimes doing contemporary adaptations of Chinese-American classics prepared by a Korean-American chef raised in Oklahama? (Note: if you haven't yet, do check out the Mission Street Food book; it's often a little too pleased with itself, but is nonetheless a fascinating read for a multitude of reasons, the food being only one of them). And surely there's nothing "authentic" about Torrisi Italian Specialties serving up lamb's tongue gyro salads and curried cavatelli?

"Authenticity" is the mantra of many a typical food snob, and yet it's never entirely clear exactly what it means. There is a great piece in the Lucky Peach magazine by Todd Kliman called "The Problem of Authenticity" (sorry, not available online) which persuasively makes the case that it doesn't mean much at all. So many cuisines, even in their "native" forms, are capable of so many infinite variations, and so many "traditional" dishes are actually themselves the result of historical cross-cultural mash-ups that would today go by the sobriquet of "fusion" dishes, that labeling any one particular iteration as "authentic" is a fool's errand.

Kliman suggests, for instance, that Torrisi, with its attention to fresh, local ingredients and its effort to honor the foods of its immediate surroundings or "micro-culture," is authentically Italian in spirit, a different kind of faithfulness than to particular ingredients or their traditional combinations. As Torrisi chef Mario Carbone puts it, "Italian food is not sauce and cheese and pasta. It's an attitude. It's an approach."

Karen Leibowitz of Mission Chinese Food has a somewhat different take:
We feel authorized to make dishes outside our families' ethnic traditions, and we freely mix different cultures' ingredients and techniques, because we like to eat delicious food, wherever it comes from. After a while, sticking with 'authentic' food from your own identity is boring. (Especially if you're Jewish.)

All of which is a long way of saying: I'm not going to be the one to say whether or not Pok Pok and its chef Andy Ricker are serving "authentic" Thai food.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Le Banyan - North Beach

[Sorry, this place has closed]

The Ocean Terrace area of North Beach is like a little miniature version of South Beach's Ocean Drive. Running between 73rd and 76th Streets just east of Collins Avenue, there are a few charming little Art Deco hotels (along with a couple larger condo buildings) facing right out onto the ocean. Other than beachgoers, however, there are generally not an awful lot of people around here. Despite that, another brave restaurateur* is attempting to have a go of it here - Le Banyan, a Thai restaurant in a lovely location on the corner of Ocean Terrace and 73rd Street.

There's seating inside in the classic Art Deco lobby, as well as nice rattan tables and lounge-y chairs outside where you can dine under umbrellas. We were there early on a Saturday evening and the weather was perfect for sitting outdoors. The menu is a somewhat abbreviated grab-bag of Thai dishes - appetizers include crab and vegetable variations on spring rolls, chicken satay, shrimp dumplings, spicy shrimp salad, along with a few other items, and about 10 choices of entrees along with a number of rice and noodle dishes.

It was just me, Frod Jr. and Little Miss F, and happily (for reasons I'll explain further below) they had a "children's menu" for $15 which included vegetable spring rolls, chicken satay, pan-fried noodles with vegetables, and either ice cream or banana spring rolls for dessert. Done and done (though Frod Jr. needed some convincing that he should stick with the kids' menu, as he eyed the steamed salmon wrapped in banana leaf). We asked if we could substitute one of the other desserts for the kids and pay the difference (I believe it was a coconut panna cotta with water chestnuts that intrigued Little Miss F) and after much consultation we got a vaguely positive response. I had the spicy shrimp salad to start, followed by a steamed fish with lime and chile.

The spicy shrimp salad was very brightly flavored though not particularly spicy - lemongrass playing the most prominent role, along with fresh mint, cilantro, toasted rice powder and chile, in roughly that order, and served on a few leaves of tender Boston lettuce. While very tasty, this was a skimpy portion that even Michelle Bernstein would have been ashamed to serve for $12. The fish was a very nice presentation, a snapper done skin-on and tail intact, with a very interesting fileting technique. It was completely deboned but both filets were still attached to the tail, with one stretched out across the plate and the other wrapped in a spiral around a stalk of lemongrass. It was served in another boldly flavored sauce tart with lime juice and enlivened with a hint of fresh chile. The kids both liked their kids' plates - I wasn't even offered a bite of their spring rolls, but got to try the satay which was more assertively flavored than many I've had locally (bright with yellow turmeric).

When dessert time came around we learned they were out of the item Little Miss F had wanted, and she got a "chocolate nem" instead, which turned out to be little chocolate-filled spring rolls with dabs of condensed milk with chopped peanuts for dipping, along with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Frod Jr. was very happy with the banana spring rolls on the menu, which were crispy outside, gooey and sweet inside, and served over some melted chocolate for dipping. Instead of substituting, they brought out an extra kids' dessert so I got some banana spring rolls too. This gesture turned out to be less generous than it appeared when instead of just charging a markup for Little Miss F's substitution (which was maybe $2-3 difference), they simply charged us full freight for the extra dessert (which was about $11).

While the food was all pretty good, the prices were completely out of whack. Appetizers were in the $10-12 range that can be had for $5-8 at places like Tamarind Thai or Siam Bayshore around the corner. Entrees were mostly in the $25-35 range, which is just absurd for Thai food. Again, this compares to prices around $13-20 at either of the other neighborhood places I usually frequent. Desserts which go for $5 at the other places are $9-12 at Le Banyan. It's a nice view, but it can't justify those kind of markups, especially when I can't say that the food is markedly better than the other options.

Which is a shame, because if the prices weren't so exorbitant, this would be a really pleasant place to spend an evening. But just because Ocean Terrace looks like South Beach doesn't mean the prices ought to.

Le Banyan
7300 Ocean Terrace
Miami Beach, FL 33141
Le Banyan on Urbanspoon

*The last one that I recall was Baraboo, a circus-themed place, more than five years ago.