Monday, March 19, 2007

Eat It - Joes' Stone Crab, 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 800-780-CRAB(2722)

joesstonecrab.com (great website with history, menu, recipes, and online ordering to anywhere in the country from October to May)

Joe's is an institution, and not just for crazy people. It's been around a little less than a hundred years, and although I'm no expert (even though I'm a writer on this phenomenal blog), I think that is a good length of time for a restaurant to be in business. I frankly have no idea how they made it through the 1910's, since no one really lived in Miami then.

My good college buddy, Rich, was in town for his annual pilgrimage to the St. Patrick's Day capital of the world. I am, of course, speaking of Miami Beach. Part of that tradition is a stop at Joe's takeout, which people in the know have found to be a cheaper and easier way to enjoy Joe's staple dishes: stone crabs, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, etc. It's just down the street from the restaurant, west of the parking garage.

Well, our late start on Friday got us to the restaurant too late for takeout, and we prayed (yes prayed, Joe's is that good, my girlfriend is now quite surprised that I have not yet taken her there, and by "surprised" I mean "enraged", just kidding sweetie, you're beautiful and patient and we will go there soon, besides no one reads this anyway) that we would be able to be seated in the restaurant. Incidentally, the hours of operation are as follows:

Lunch:

11:30am-2:00 pm Tuesday-Saturday

Dinner:

5pm-10pm Monday-Thursday
5pm-11pm Friday and Saturday
4pm-10pm Sunday
(305) 673-0365

Sunday Bar Service 3pm (I don't know what this means)

Joe's Stone Crab Take-away:

7:30am-9pm Sunday-Thursday
7:30am-10pm Friday and Saturday

Breakfast Served Daily 7:30am-10am
(305) 673-4611

We arrived at just after 10:30pm on Friday night and were seated immediately. If you don't mind eating late, that has to be a great way to do it. Joe's doesn't take reservations, and some people wait for hours to be seated.

So, why don't I get down to the review already? Well, soooooorry! I hope you added a nice cadence to "sorry". It's like, totally sarcastic. What was I talking about again? Right, sarcasm. Oh right, I'M the weird one. You're the one reading this, weirdo.

Anyhoo, we were greeted immediately by our waiter, who was an extremely professional and polite guy. He took our drink order and was followed shortly by the busboy who brought water and bread. Living in Miami makes you appreciate little things like that at a restaurant (see any review of Hofbrau Haus by anyone who has the ability to eat and/or write).

Rich and I both ordered the seafood bisque, which is basically heaven in a bowl. It tastes like there's a stick of butter dissolved in each. Hmmm, maybe butter really does make it better...

We each ordered a medium (sizes of stone crab are medium, select, large, and jumbo, which refer to the size of the claws themselves, and not the number you are served), and I assure you, it will be plenty to eat and taste quite delicious. I consider it a waste to order the larger, more expensive claws. Just my humble opinion. I suggest you heed my advice since I'm really, really smart. The claws are served with Joe's signature mustard sauce, which is one of the tastiest condiments you will ever have.

De rigeur sides are grilled tomatoes and hash browns. Did I mention that yet? Some people like the creamed spinach, but I don't think it's that great. It's kind of sour tasting. The lyonnaise version of the hash browns is, I think, better, but a lot of people find onions disagreeable and they are heaped into that dish. We ordered a large hash browns and that was a mistake. A small is plenty for two people.

When I asked the waiter for a chardonnay recommendation, he suggested the second least expensive one (by the glass) and it was wonderful. This was a relief to me as I half-expected to get what I will henceforth call "the Barton G treatment", which is being told to order the most expensive thing on the menu. I shouldn't have fretted, since Joe's has such an excellent reputation, up to which it certainly lives.

There was no room for dessert, but you have to try the key lime pie if you've managed to somehow not stuff yourself to near-sickness. A meal at Joe's runs about $50-60 per person, depending on how much alcohol you consume. Rich insisted on paying. I insisted on accepting. Everyone was happy.

Joe's Stone Crab on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Eat it - Prime 112, 112 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 305-532-8112

prime112.com

I had the pleasure of eating at Prime 112 on Friday night. I know what you're thinking, "Friday night at Prime 112. How did he swing that?" Well, I'm not quite sure how to say this, but I'm kind of a big deal around here; people know me. Actually, we were supposed to have a reservation, but something got screwed up. So we did the old walk-in instead at about 6:30 and were seated almost immediately outside. It was a nice night, so sitting outside was very pleasant. They accept walk-ins only for the patio so if you go early you can get a table.

I started with foie-gras. I'm not sure exactly what that is, but it was delicious. It was garnished with pineapple. Mmmm. My buddy Jon had steak tartar, which was also good, but I preferred the foie-gras.

For my main course I had the ribeye, as did Jon. The waiter recommended it and it was delicious. One thing that has always upset me is ordering a la carte. If I'm buying a $48 steak, can't the restaurant throw some potatoes or vegetables on there for me? No, instead I have to pay $11 a side and then have too much too eat. We ordered asparagus, tater tots, and truffled corn. The waiter recommended the corn and it was the best corn I have ever had. No dessert; we were too full.

The waiter's recommendations were excellent. The food was delicious and the service was fantastic, especially for Miami. My two criticisms would be that we had to order sides a la carte and that it was extremely expensive. I would certainly recommend Prime 112, but expect to pay $100-150 per person.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Eat It - Primarepa, 1570 Alton Rd. #2, Miami Beach, FL 305-532-9862

I asked my half-Colombian buddy, Diego, what he thought of Primarepa (a Colombian restaurant chain) and he said it was good. I decided to try it out with a friend before going to a movie on Lincoln Road, since there's one on the way from my apartment.

The service was quick and friendly and when I asked what the most popular dish was, the waitress told me "bandeja paisa", which consists of either ground beef or steak (I got the steak), red beans, rice, an arepa, fried plantains, some fatty pork, and a fried egg. Um, in case you need it spelled out, this is not a healthy place to eat. There wasn't anything in this dish that I would describe as exemplary in any way, but I enjoyed the novelty of my first Colombian meal. I would go there again. The food was ok and the service was good. I got a whole tray (that's what "bandeja" means) of food for $10.95, so that makes up for it. The restaurant has the feel of a fast food place, but it's clean. I also saw a lot of Latins eating there, so that's a pretty reliable indicator.

I think that Colombian food is probably not that good, all of these things considered. No offense, Diego.

Take a look for yourself at the Primarepa Menu posted on Restaurantplace.com.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Social at Sagamore - 1671 Collins Ave, Miami Beach


When I was born, the doctor held me up in front of my exhausted mother, and said "Mrs Norton, you have a beautiful baby boy". And while it is likely that he said this to most new mothers, he did not, as far as I know, have cause to contact social services to warn them about the half boy, half ape-like creature he had just delivered.

I am not beautiful, I know that. Cars do not slow down in the middle of the road when I walk past. Nobody has ever asked me if I am a model. If I have had any secret admirers, then they have done an undeniably excellent job of keeping themselves secret.

However, I have a beautiful wife who is definitely not married to me for the money and power. I have taken my clothes off in front of various people, and thus far, nobody has vomited on themselves at the very sight. It's fair to say that like most of you, I am an average looking person.

Until that is, I enter the Sagamore Hotel.

Here, I take on a new role. I am not an underwear model, playboy, actor, or porn star. And in the Sagamore, this means that you are probably the ugliest creature in the building. In this way, the hotel acts as microcosm of the South Beach experience - beautiful people in a beautiful setting, talking about beautiful things. OK, taking it too far with the last bit, but I am sure you understand.

Everything that is good about South Beach, is here. But, like all good microcosms, the bad of Sobe is here in equal measure. Nobody who is as amazing as a Sagamore person would give a normal person (normo's, as I believe they call us) the time of day. They absolutely have every right to ignore our existence.

Which is not a problem, but for the fact that that the staff at Social, the hotels restaurant, are infected by the same superiority complex. On a recent visit, our waiter was not just bad- - he was obnoxious, disinterested, unfriendly and unhelpful. Any questions that we had about the menu, or the fact that our food took 45 minutes to arrive were greeted with the same response: He registered us with a look that would not have been out of place had he just caught me keying his car while simultaneously enjoying a menage-a-trois with his wife and mother.

It's an uncomfortable analogy, but I really cannot overstate my loathing for the experience at Social. The food is dull at best: Greek salad (yawn), Ceviche (big wow) and meats are all served up in a way that, at best, is pretentious, and at worst, is basically taking the piss out of the people that are prepared to pay $20 and upwards for an appetizer.

I challenge anybody to find a meal on the menu that you can look back on and describe as above average. All of the dishes are exactly as you expect them to be, just a bit smaller, and slightly less interesting.

All in all, this restaurant and hotel need to understand that they are not even half as good as they think they are. They are not in the same class as the New York, London and Paris establishments that they aspire to be like. And even locally, you will get a better up-market hotel eating experience at The Shore Club (Ago & Nobu), The Delano (Blue Door), The Raleigh and the Townhouse (Bond St. Lounge). Not one of these is further than three blocks from the Sagamore, so there really is no excuse to waste your time with this entirely boring experience.

You look good though.........