Thursday, June 21, 2007

Eat It - Versailles - 3555 SW 8th St. (Calle Ocho), Miami, FL (305) 444-0240

Please, whatever you do, don't pronounce it the way they do in French. Miami's Versailles is pronounced "Vair-sah-yes". It's a Cuban restaurant, after all.

I went there recently with Mitzy and her dad, and we had a lovely meal. We had to brave a nice Miami summer torrential downpour, but we made it there and back without getting in an accident, flooding our car, or ruining our espadrilles.

As appetizers, we had a selection of croquetas and some tostones with mojo. The tostones were huge and crispy, but also quite greasy. The mojo sauce was delicious. However, I prefer the tostones at Las Vegas in North Beach (6970 Collins Ave.). Tostones, in case you don't know, are twice-fried plantains (smashed in between fryings).

For main courses, Mitzy's dad had lechon asado (roast pork), which he polished off quite handily. She had the boliche, for which I prepared her by saying that there would be a carrot jammed in the center of it. Boliche is pot roast, heavily marinated and stuffed with tons of garlic. It's delicious.

Well, she was a little surprised when, what appeared to be a carrot, just as I told her, turned out to be chorizo. I thought that was a little gross, actually. The reason for the confusion was that my Cuban grandmother used to make boliche with a carrot in the middle, and she has her own cookbook (A Taste of Old Cuba), so there.

I had the ropa vieja, which is a pretty safe choice at a Cuban restaurant. Even though the name of the dish translates to "old clothes", it is (they are?) actually quite delicious. The dish is stew-like, shredded beef.

Most main courses are served with white rice (short grain), beans, and maduros. Maduros are fried, ripened plantains. They are dark and soft, and fried only once. One caveat is that the rice and beans are often served as "moros", which are beans and rice mixed together. It's a pretty dry dish, and you are going to have a much better eating experience if you order the "arroz, frijoles negros, y maduros" instead of moros. They are really dry. Did I mention that? I cannot stress enough, dry, they're dry. Moros are dry. And I'm realizing as I write that word over and over, that it's probably a racist term, because "Moros" are the Moors, like, from Spain. Black Muslims basically. They don't taste very good, I'll tell you that. Maybe because they hung around Spain for 700 years. Blacks beans, when served separately from the rice are soupy and provide a nice sauce for the rest of the plate.

For dessert (postre), Marguerite and I shared cascitos de guayaba (canned guava slices, served with cream cheese), and her dad had flan con dulce de leche (creme caramel with, uh, caramel on it).

Versailles is such a landmark, located on Calle Ocho, and likely site of one of the biggest parties in town cuando caiga Fidel (when Castro dies), that you should visit it. But there are places on Miami Beach that serve as good, or better, Cuban fare. Those places are David's Cafe II on Lincoln Rd. and Meridian, and the aforementioned Las Vegas.

And moros are dry.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Eat It Alert! - Cafeteria

I have not found any specifics on the matter, but I was just alerted to the fact that Cafeteria, the 24 hour/day restaurant that served upscale comfort food has closed. I tried going to their website,, but the site is down. Does this mean that even the New York location, in trendy Chelsea, has closed as well? Has the company gone under? I can't find any news about it. If you have, please leave a comment so all of us are on the same page.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Don't Eat It/Eat It - Sum Yum Gai - 1403 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 305-604-8889

So, the reason we went to Sum Yum Gai is that they have a deal on Thursday nights. You must order at least $10 of food, and that allows you to drink all the beer you want. There's only one choice, though, and it comes from a keg that sits out near the entrance of the restaurant.

I don't want to waste too much of your time on a forgettable eating experience. I will point out that the service was pretty good and the decor is, too. It's a little bit dingy, but this adds to the authentic feeling of the place.

The food is another matter. I don't know how they managed it, but Sum Yum Gai served up an insipid Kung Pao Chicken. That's quite a feat for something known to make George Costanza sweat through a board meeting. The Crab Rangoon tasted like it was filled with artichoke dip, and the Mu-shu Pork was just not very good. The pork had bad texture and the vegetables were not properly proportioned. There was too much onion, if I recall correctly. It just wasn't quite right.

If you're going to go to a restaurant for Chinese food, go to Miss Yip's. It's twice as expensive as Sum Yum Gai, but it's probably 10 times better.

My friends Avi and Vivek have been raving about Yeung's (954 41st St., Miami Beach, FL 305-672-1144) as a cheaper alternative to Miss Yip's. It is their preferred Chinese takeout joint, and they liken it to New York City's affordable, but good, Chinese eateries. Here's the review from the New Times. They gave Yeung's Best Takeout Chinese in 2000.

*Update - For some reason, when you order takeout from Sum Yum Gai, it's great! The General Chong's chicken is delish, as is the wonton soup. The fried rice is average but the spring rolls are too greasy. For some reason I still always get one with my combination dinner. Not sure why. By the way, I ordered from Yeung's once and it was not good. Not good.