Blackbrick – Miami, FL

I think it’s high time we got back to our roots here at Eat a Duck. I mean it’s been what, TWO posts since we featured dim sum around here! Well not to worry, we’d never let the dumplings disappear for long, and neither will Richard Hales, chef and owner of Blackbrick, Miami’s sorely needed dim sum mecca. Chef Hales, best known for the popular Korean joint, Sakaya Kitchen and its mobile counterpart, Dim Ssam a GoGo, clearly saw the gap in Miami’s dining landscape. Until now, finding truly great dim sum was a chore at best, and nearly impossible at worst.

Sure, you’ve got Mr. Chow on Miami Beach, but who wants to drop $13 on a plate of siu mai? Alternatively you could make the trek out to Tropical dim sum on Sundays for one of the only dim sum cart services I’m aware of, but neither of these options are ideal. What Miami needed was a centrally located spot, within a few minutes drive and preferably near other like-minded restaurants for obvious food crawl possibilities! Chef Hales found the perfect spot, nestled right in between the design district and Wynwood, two of the hottest neighborhoods in town.

Blackbrick spread 1

At first glance, the large Target shopping center where Blackbrick is located may seem like another bland, prefabricated Florida “village”. Clearly though, someone did their homework. Instead of bringing in the typical corporate restaurants like Brio, P.F. Changs and Cheesecake Factory, they opted for independent, local talent. Granted, there’s still a Five Guys and a World of Beer, but for the most part, the dining options in Midtown are something to be excited about.

Blackbrick is one of the places warranting the most excitement, not only for the crew of Eat a Duck, but for food lovers around the country, even being nominated for Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America. The reason behind the buzz is no secret, as Blackbrick combines tradition and creativity seamlessly.

Blackbrick dim sum

Their dim sum selection, while not exhaustive, is of a quality you won’t find anywhere else. Each item is cooked to order, so while the wait may be more than some veteran dim sum-o-philes are used to, the resulting flavor makes it all worth it. The wrappers of the har gow and pork siu mai are perfectly cooked, tender and toothsome. The fillings are equally well executed. The shrimp and scallop dumplings are fresh, leaving none of the low-tide aftertaste some lesser establishments might offer.

A couple of instant favorites are the fried pork cheek dumplings (pictured in the first spread) with its succulent filling and drizzle of slightly sweet sauce, and the jade Peking duck dumpling, an idea which I’m upset I haven’t found until now. Both of these manage to find their way to my table during each visit. Do we have any bao fans? Blackbrick makes a mean steamed bbq pork char siu bao with that wonderfully sweet meat filling. A couple of these for breakfast would start any day off right.

Blackbrick spread 2

But Blackbrick isn’t simply a dumpling house. Looking for some comfort food, why not take a look at their selection of fantastic fried rice that will expand your opinion of what the dish can be. Not content to match your neighborhood Chinese take out joint, Chef Hales spikes his rice with things like rock shrimp, lobster tail and duck. Another exciting option pairs bacon with kim chi made by sister restaurant Sakaya Kitchen.

The Chinese brunch, once dominated by dim sum alone is now joined by a bevy of options including a breakfast fried rice of sausage, eggs and country potato, shrimp and grits made with cornmeal congee, bacon and a poached egg, and my personal favorite Chinese fried chicken and fortune cookie waffle with a scallion, ginger maple syrup. Don’t forget the salt and pepper tots! Here they’re prepared simply with peppers and onion, achieving a level of spice that gets your brow moist but keeps you coming back for more.

My favorite dish however, might be Blackbrick’s take on Dandan Mian, a Sichuan dish usually consisting of a spicy, chili oil tinged sauce, minced pork and scallions. Here it resembles a Chinese version of ragu alla bolognese. This is one of those dishes I could eat for the rest of my life and be a happy man. Chef Hales chose bucatini, a stout noodle that can stand up to the mountain of fiery pork and scallions.

Blackbrick spread

After a half-dozen visits to Blackbrick, it’s solidified itself in my pantheon of go-to Miami restaurants. Over the past few years, the food scene in there has grown by leaps and bounds, leaving behind the tired, stodgy cuisine of the late 1990s and early 2000’s in favor of a vibrant blend of traditional fare, executed well and bold new creations destined to become classics. Blackbrick is indicative of this trend and stands among the leaders of great dining establishments in South Florida.

Click to add a blog post for Black Brick Chinese & Dim Sum on Zomato

Garde Manger Revisited

After only two visits, Garde Manger has entrenched itself deep in my heart. It’s not simply because the food hits the mark with near perfect accuracy, or that they’ve achieved such a warm and inviting atmosphere, but because it has quickly become forever linked to happy times with friends and family. On my most recent visit, I was bestowed the honor of minting two new oyster lovers. Only Garde Manger, with a constant supply of the most pristine bivalves North America has to offer, has the power to turn people’s preferences around on a dime. I ordered a beginners pack of oysters, featuring a pair each of Cooke from PEI, Chipaganne from New Brunswick and Montreal’s own Trésor du Large (thanks to Meggie for the spelling!). I’ve said it before, but in my opinion the oysters here set the bar, no where else even comes close. As a tasty accompaniment, we chose a tidy bowl of buttery smoked salmon and pickled onion.

Garde Manger spread 1

With five people, we planned on sampling a majority of the menu if possible, starting with a crisp beet salad with apple radishes in a buttermilk dressing. As you’ll tend to do at Garde Manger, especially in the winter, we left the light dishes behind and dove headlong into a plate of pork and mushroom bread pudding topped with mizuna and a soft-boiled quail egg. Keeping the rich train rolling was a hot reisten brioche topped with foie gras and cranberry sauce. The thick lobes of buttery foie linked up perfectly with the tangy cranberries. The brioche standing by to soak up all the glorious drippings.

Garde Manger spread 2

Everyone at the table, all loved ones of mine, did me proud with their selections. As this was Montreal, the lobster poutine was an automatic choice. Fresh cheese curds, thick gravy and a sprinkling of chives were mounded over succulent chunks of lobster meat. Somehow the frites managed to sustain the moist barrage and kept things crisp and salty, flavoring the crustacean nicely. On the other side of the table, the walleye with quinoa, artichoke and rosemary crisps was a hit with the ladies.

Garde Manger spread 3

A handsome plate of seared scallops soon arrived joined by Romanesco broccoli, buttercup squash and bacon topped with healthy slices of black truffle. Scallops are a tricky protein to get right. The chefs at Garde Manger will take you to school in the art of scallop searing, achieving a perfect caramelized layer on the outside, while leaving the interior pearly and loose, sort of like a medium rare steak. Speaking of medium rare, a grouping of slice venison looked like little targets, their deep crimson centers indicating where the choicest bites would be found. The sometimes gamey nature of venison was noticeably absent here. A smooth Jerusalem artichoke purée and crispy bits of kale gave contrasting textures to the beautiful meat. I was leery of the last seafood dish, a seared fillet of cod surrounded by clams in a fennel purée. I’m a notorious fennel hater, but I have full trust in Chuck Hughes and company, and with good reason. The purée was delicious, maybe it was the mixture of saffron and butter that tamed the licorice tinge that I so abhor, or it could have been the sweet caramelized endives. Either way I found a preparation for fennel that I could swallow, and dare I say, enjoy.

Garde Manger spread 4

Nothing could have prepared me for the dish I chose. Whole Cornish game hen, swaddled with winter veggies, stuffed with foie gras, mushrooms and red cabbage topped with truffle butter. The smell coming off this bird was enough to induce a truffle aroma coma. I will admit, I was simultaneously excited and intimidated by the fowl. The prospect of an entire bird, with ribcage and all replaced with a foie gras, mushroom mixture was almost too much to resist. Needless to say, I dispatched the bird along with the truffle infused veggies.

Loyal readers, I feel that I’ve made this clear in last post on the subject, but if there’s one restaurant you visit while in Montreal, make sure it’s Garde Manger.

Orlando Food Crawl 2014: Part II

ead-orlando-food-crawl-2014 2.0

We arrived early at East End Market just in time for Sangria Hour over at the adjoining Txokos. While most of the crew had to cure their shakes, I set out to explore the market while waiting for a couple of chumpy stragglers to vacate our spot at Kappo. Not that any of us are big tymers like Bird Man or Mannie Fresh, but we “still fresh” and because of that, reserved the entire restaurant…all eight seats. (For an introduction to Kappo, see our review)

For those who don’t know, East End Market is a food-centric co-op/incubator for small upstarts. The owner has provided a handful of spaces for small business owners to develop and demonstrate their concepts. It’s been a proven success as pretty much every booth is always buzzing with shoppers. I decided to do another mini cleanse with a small glass of lemongrass, starfruit Kombucha from Joybird Juicery.

Out of all the places on the crawl, the crew was most looking forward to Kappo. All eight members of said crew are live free or die harder with a vengeance sushi connoisseurs. If you want to experience the experience we experienced, you need to set it up through their email process. I’ve had a nice back and forth with the reservations department coordinating this and previous visits with excellent results. They have hospitality down on all fronts in a dynamic way, from planning to meal execution.

Let me reiterate, if you’re looking for the girlfriend experience in a way that only food can provide, phrases such as, “money is no object”, “foie-forward”, “don’t hold back”, “bring the uni” and “its imperative you make it rain shaved truffles” need to be part of your conversation when you set up meal.

Just so we’re clear, you may or may not be able to have a meal in a similar scope to what we had. We ate omakase style. There are no menus. We have no say. The whole idea is to trust the chef. If you want to order off of their pretty incredible menu, I think your best bet is to go to the first come first served weekday hour where everything can be had a la carte. If you want a meal only a small group of people will ever have, do what we did. You’ll feel like Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones in the 1994 action thriller, “Blown Away.”

Starting with the first course, they were definitely “foie-forward” with a lavish preparation of cured duck liver torchon, hidden inside a caviar jar with dollop of beluga, and a small layer of preserved kumquat marmalade underneath to add some sweetness as well as acidity.

Kappo spread 1

And so began the debate of which course was best at Kappo. It would be hard to top to the silky foie, except maybe with the most luxurious chawan mushi ever assembled. The custard, flavored with dashi, had a deep mahogany layer of truffle demi-glace that was so heavily reduced it approached life-threatening levels of pungency and earthiness. I almost started believing in umami. The custard itself was nice and wobbly, not too dense, which played perfectly with a couple of tongues of Atlantic uni that hovered gently over the truffle sauce. We assumed that the dish set in front of us was complete as is. We were dead wrong. The chef started walking around with a handful of whole black Alba winter truffles, shaving them with a microplane in the general direction of our bowls, without fear of consequence. This might have been the moment where my, “It’s imperative you make it rain shaved truffles” comment came into play. James wasted no time positioning himself to have truffles shorn straight into his mouth. Chef obliged with some paper-thin wafers as he pulled out the industrial strength slicer. I felt like Kurt Russell in the 1992 fire related action-thriller motion picture, when I was surprised to find truffles floating in my sake due to the “Backdraft”. Studying shaved truffles up close is such a beautiful and mesmerizing thing, like the most delicious Catacomb you could ever traverse. You should try it sometime.

The chefs kept the pace with a warm and cold sunomuno style salad with a heaping pile of cured salmon roe and marinated then seared scallop as the base. More uni fulfilled the request to “bring the uni”, this one coming from the Pacific. You could really tasty the subtle nuances between the different regions the sea urchins hail from. The Atlantic was more buttery, almost without that sense of coming from the sea at all, which did pair well with the custard. The Pacific was briny, with a stronger presence which worked just as well with in the sunomuno preparation. No salad would be complete without roughage. Chef placed a single nasturtium leaf coated in spritzing of kaffir lime essence. It reminded me of the way morning dew sticks to a flower just before sunrise.

The next dish was a fried enigma. What was this? One bite of the milky interior and I knew immediately. Milk poached sweetbreads fried in coarse panko crumbs for maximum texture. They were served with small heap of pickled julienned Asian pear, and a pungent nutta sauce of hot mustard, vinegar and blanched baby bok choy to create perfect harmony.

Kappo spread 2

Next was the sushi course. We were treated with a sampling of Artic char, flounder and waqyu strip loin, all topping the most succulent nubs of tranquil rice at just the right lukewarm temperature. I imagine if I ever got a chance to try out a 3 Michelin star sushi joint, the rice would be similar. The fish and beef weren’t ice cold and neither was the rice. I think serving cold sushi masks the true flavor, thankfully they were both at a more resting temperature. It goes to show that if you’re working with a superior product, you don’t need to put it into a cryogenic sleep to keep it fresh.  I can confirm  our resident “rice” guy Thai was spotted shedding tears of joy.

Yes, you can go to Kappo and only eat sushi, and I know that you’d go home praising yourself for the amazing decisions you’ve made. With that said, if you don’t allow the chef to breathe in a way that promotes creativity, you’ll miss out on a rare experience. The meal was inherently Japanese, as this is technically a Japanese food stall. Though, the influence of French, Korean, Italian and American for that matter, all played out seamlessly during the course of the meal.

Finally, as part of the chefs tasting we were served dessert. The chef handling pastry is a master. She keeps the flow of the meal intact by not killing the senses with overly sweet morsels, and she presents the final treats like a goodbye kiss. Not with a lame handshake, but with two kisses on each cheek. Starfruit paté de fruit, green tea mochi, pistachio and cocoa-matcha truffles were all delightful in their own unique way. Together they formed a Voltron bonbon.

It was time to say goodbye to the four chef team of Kappo to hit our last stop.

With our bellies distended, we saddled up to a hightop at the ever-loving Cask & Larder. Fullness never stops a true eater from ordering something that sounds tasty. Pogo eyed a scrumptious tamale with roasted goat, buttermilk curds, and pickled sweet peppers, while me and James couldn’t resist the lamb ribs, with a sticky BBQ sauce, smoked collard greens and quick B&B pickles. The rest of the table was not going to let us down.

Cask & Larder goat tamale

They pooled together what room they had left in their tummies and ordered an impressive tower from the raw bar. Rock shrimp scampi, roasted oysters with slivers of uni, oysters on the half with mignonette, steamed cherrystone clams with tostones and an aji amarillo aioli, and slabs of raw tuna coated with tahini, chiles, Asian pear and crispy maitake mushroom threads.

Cask & Larder spread

We had a round a victory drinks to mark another successful conquest, one of which happened to be the best gin and tonic in town. It’s always sad saying goodbye, but then again we’ve already begun plans for the next adventure, so that softened the blow. We all miss Todd, and while we’re glad he’s living his dream with his dreamgirl, it doesn’t diminish the fact that a big part of what made the Tampa food scene so lively, isn’t in Tampa anymore.  We miss him so much, we miss his scent. When this all gets sorted out, I think we should all get an apartment together. Til’ next time, old friend.

Hungry Mother – Cambridge, MA

Dude. This place is nuts.  We made a reservation for this one, so we knew it had to be special.  It’s in a bit of a random neighborhood, very utilitarian office buildings and a bit of a residential area in Cambridge. Don’t let that fool you.  This place is full of soul, and so is the food.

Hungry Mother logo

First of all, they give you boiled peanuts. I have never had boiled peanuts. Shamefully, we had to look up exactly how to eat them, but holy whoa. Eat a boiled peanut ASAP. It’s like peanut butter made in your mouth.  Deliciously salty and mushy and nom.

We both got drinks at this place and thank goodness we did. I ordered the #43 which is rye, tawny port, maple syrup, and Angostura bitters served with one monster ice-cube (as it should be, I was so pleased.)  Diana ordered #108: Laird’s 7.5 year apple brandy, sweet tea, limoncello, lemon, and mint as recommended by our lovely waitress, Hannah. Well made drinks and boiled peanuts.  We’re off to a great start and we’ve barely begun.

Hungry Mother apps

We ordered cornbread with sorghum butter.  Cornbread is already good, but this cornbread is perfect. So perfect in fact, Diana ordered one to take home for breakfast the next morning.  Not overly sweet and when the butter begins to melt all over your slice, it’s almost too rich to eat.

Deviled eggs were next because deviled eggs are the greatest. We forgot exactly what was on these deviled eggs because they were a special and we couldn’t look it up later, but I’m pretty sure it was pork belly and chives. The tangy egg yolks against the salty pork belly was almost too much. We could have stopped there and been satiated, but we took a page out of the Eat a Duck Official Handbook and continued the feast.

The Hoppin’ John was next. A small bowl of cornmeal dumplings, slow roasted farro and pork belly with jalapeño.  I’m not sure if this is a Southern staple, but it should be.  The perfect amount of heat from the jalapeno flavored the farro and pork belly and we’ve already established that Hungry Mother kills it when it comes to corn products. All of the flavors married so well and didn’t step on each other.  We could have stopped there again. But we didn’t.

Hungry Mother escargot & hoppin' John

Yes, I had to order the escargot and pomme frites with aioli and lemon sauce.  I don’t think I could be related to Jimmy and not order this dish.  I wouldn’t normally think to put fries on top of escargot, but boy is it a good idea.  (It is.)  Getting a bit of aioli mixed in with the lemon sauce added a richness that escargot hardly needs, but we were going for gold here.  At this point, we were starting to reach our limit, but we couldn’t stop ourselves.

We had another special. The scallops with cherry tomatoes, beans and bacon in some sort of ridiculous delicious sauce that we forgot also.  These scallops were cooked so perfectly and paired so well with the rest of the ingredients that they had a chance to sing, but also be married to the rest of the dish in an effortless way.  This may have been my favorite of the meal.  But that’s like asking me to choose between my nonexistent children.

Hungry Mother mains

Our last two dishes were cornmeal-crusted catfish with Virginia andouille, dirty rice middlins, chow chow relish, pecans, lemon-mustard brown butter and baked grits with tasso ham and cheddar. I want to make a note here that as we were insanely full at this point (so full that I couldn’t sit up on the T ride home) and only ate a few bites of each of these, but I took the catfish home, put it in the fridge, proceeded to drive home 3 and a half hours from Boston to Vermont and the catfish crust was still crispy and perfect.  It tasted as good as it did in the restaurant, even after all that rigamarole and being zapped in the microwave (forgive me, Jimmy.)

This restaurant was just perfect. If you’re in Boston, please make the effort to get over there.

Also, the bathroom walls are plastered with pages from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What else is there to say?

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon

Kappo – Orlando,FL

In the world of food writers, I’m a relative pauper. I don’t realistically see myself ever being a world traveler. I suppose that’s why we invent words like WANDERLUST. It was specifically created for people like me, and I reckon that’s why food and travel shows take up so much of my free time. The act of living vicariously through television is a yet to be named mental syndrome that I’ve developed over the years.

The word ‘vicarious’ often times connotes punishment. Therefore, in my case, vicarious is the proper word choice. Not being able to trot the globe is excruciating for someone with an intrinsic love of global cuisine. I think my blood lust burns hottest when I watch some spoiled host fall all over themselves while dining in Japan. If I ever had the chance to visit any of the prefectures, getting me to come back home would be a colossal task.

With that said, my recent trip to Orlando reassured me of the fact the Orlandoans have some very special new dining establishments. While I was in town, the city reactivated my faith in having the traditional experience right in my backyard.

I suffer most when I watch these guys walking through some back alley in Tokyo with their guides, and just so happen to stumble into a tiny izakaya or a micro sushi bar that was literally cut out of a wall. Generally these types of places seat no more than a handful of patrons at a time. I envy the admiration and communal attitude shown between patron and host. It’s a completely raw atmosphere involving only a cook and their guests.

Size matters.

Tucked in the rear of the deservedly popular East End Market in the Audubon Park district, lies Kappo, a 6-7 seat food stall specializing in Japanese specialties made from the heart, with ingredients source primarily from local vendors.

kappo

This is exactly what I was looking for.

I know that Central Florida has made some pretty decent strides to expand the culinary parameters of acceptance. However, until Kappo raised their clunky metal security partition for business, it was the first time someone dared to take a chance on the local palates. At the very least they’ve brought a new approach to our dining scene, one that’s causing food lusters to flock like rats in Meyers flats for a chance at the Sunday lunch omakase. Their setup and the way they treat their guests is eerily reminiscent of a high energy family meal. All that’s missing is the wonderfully boisterous pinpoint sound of my Nana’s voice coming from all directions like a swarm of killer bees.

The restaurant (which is not really a restaurant, but more of a proof of concept food lab) is run by five people that flow through the kitchen like a steady and uncompromising current. Some cut their teeth in New York City, a battleground for aspiring chefs, but all of them were friends before being business partners. If memory serves me correctly, all or a majority of the team spent time studying at the University of Florida. The interaction they have with their patrons is part of what moved me in such a positive way. I enjoyed my first meal at Kappo alone, seated with a group of strangers, some of whom were regulars and some, like me were there on their maiden journey. I wasn’t saying much because I’m not socially awkward or anything. I like to call it guarded. I’m always ready to parry an opponent when the situation calls for it. I wasn’t talking to anyone but simply watching the technique, since I find we can learn much from watching others work. The chef asked me, as he was a mere three feet from my face and I was hunched over staring at his mushroom cleaning technique, “Do you not like the food?” I replied. “I like it very much so. It’s actually making me exercise my brain.”

The food was entirely thoughtful and inventive from my point of view, with ingredients that I’m positive, have never been on any menu in this region. Truthfully they aren’t even on Kappo’s either when it comes to their Sunday lunch service, which changes not seasonally, not monthly, not even weekly, but per seating. What is eaten during the noon service might be totally differed from what a diner at 3 pm has, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

The meal is structured similarly to a traditional Kaiseki style service. It’s not just a whole bunch of sushi and sashimi, although when they do offer you a plate of either, you will want to eat it post-haste. Each dish is presented as a ceremony that ends up being a party.

The meal began with a rectangular bento box, from left to right, it contained a single bite of chopped horse mackerel sushi with matcha salt shishito pepper party umbrellas, followed by a duo of oysters, one with sake gelée and cucumber jus, and the other with lobster roe, bombarded my receptors with a tiger uppercut of oceanic flavor bursting at the seams. On the right there was foie gras of the sea, monkfish liver with grated daikon radish, which provided a paté like consistency.

Kappo bento box

Following that we enjoyed a delicate plate of flounder, snapper and salmon sashimi with salmon roe and cucumber relish.

Kurobuta pork belly kakuni with coarse country store grits from a mill up in Tallahassee was a comfort reminiscent of both a steamy bowl ramen and a creamy serving of porridge, while the pork confit, milk poached sweetbread croquette with pan roasted shimeji mushrooms, shiso dressing and a nori schmear was a nod to the more complex and time-consuming methods that the French have taught us to toil over. I think the croquette was the best bite of the day, as it was such a welcoming surprise. As the chef explained what lay before me, I had to ask myself, “Wait, what? Where am I?”

Kappo omakase

By this time in the meal, all of us former strangers now had a common bond, that of receiving a fantastic meal from some seriously genuine folks. We began to converse and relax a bit, all while groups of people from the market buzzed around trying to see what all the fuss was about. It was a good feeling to have, as if we were privileged in some way. Which in part you were as only 50 people in the entire world got to eat what we ate that day.

The last savory course was said to always include rice, so we were presented with a vibrant bowl of chirashi adorned with thin strips of omelet, diced scallop and salmon belly along with pickled vegetables and pickled plum.

Kappo chirashi

The chef instructed us to start eating. As we began to devour our rice bowl, two of them walked around our area and started pour shrimp head broth into our bowls, and made a second pass to sprinkle various crazy condiments as if we were part of some food related ceremony/drum line. First came the dried ume flakes, then togarashi, matcha, salted pop rocks and dried milk powder. They kept telling us to keep eating so that every bite is different. It was such a fantastic and interactive interpretation.

For dessert, we were treated by the pastry chef to a perfectly made tuille, filled with silken tofu mousse laced with coffee soaked cherries. It was placed in a sake cup filled with coffee and dried cherries to give an even more pronounced familiarity.

Kappo matcha green tea ice cream

Finally, we were treated to the creamiest, most luxurious matcha green tea ice cream I’d ever had. It was accompanied with some sweet red beans and a bed of honeycomb nougatine which caused the levels of flavor to jump passed the power of reason. I said out loud that my wife was going to be so mad that she missed out on this, as she is an expert on the subject.

Without fear of public retribution, I can honestly say that it was the best meal I’ve had this year. We use these terms loosely because cuisine is so subjective, and often times those words lose their meaning, but I mean it. If I could choose, I would want to enjoy that type of dining experience every single day. I don’t want to be a Kappo stalker, but I can see how that could easily become a thing.

Kappo on Urbanspoon

Sushi Pop – Oviedo, FL

I’ve noticed a trend recently of small towns, that less than a decade ago offered nothing more than aging diners and fast food chains, are sprouting innovative restaurants serving stunning cuisine on par with the best in the country (i.e. Indigenous, Red Door and Rooster & the Till). It could be that these youngsters are tired of killing themselves trying to compete with the heavy hitters in the big cities, or maybe it’s a desire to bring their talent and creativity to a new and less obvious markets. Whatever it is, these little towns are not only benefitting, but reciprocating the trust shown by these restaurants with their patronage.

A great example of this trend is Sushi Pop, a high energy, day-glo wonderland of Japanese cuisine that’s more Omotesando than Oviedo. On an otherwise sleepy street, the bright pink signage serves as a beacon to the hungry masses…in a town of less than 50,000 people. Yet when you cross the threshold, it seems as if the whole town simultaneously had a hankering for hamachi.

Sushi Pop sign & interior

For the better part of two years, a certain sibling who will remain nameless (Lobe) had been pestering me to visit Sushi Pop.  Every month or so I’d get an email detailing their latest uni shipment or some other enticing menu creation by Chef Chau (can you think of a more perfect name for a chef?). However Oviedo is not exactly convenient to get to from Miami or Sarasota. I’ve been known to travel insane distances for great food, but I was having a hard time getting in the car for a multi-hour road trip for sushi.

After finally getting the chance to visit, I am humbled. The food being created at Sushi Pop is the real thing, this ain’t some Nobu knockoff, peddling the same “high-end” Japanese that has become so tiring. Even when you see similarities, like local rock shrimp tempura with tobanjan aioli, Chef Chau and his Chef de cuisine Cesar Cruz put their own spin on it. The crudos offer a glimpse into the Valhalla of fish that is Tsukiji market where Sushi Pop sources much of their seafood. Flavor packed scallops from Hokkaido give a nod to Korea with a punchy kimchee salsa that elevates the succulent bivalves. The ominous sounding hamachi hara kiri takes the bygone samurai tradition to heart with tender cuts of yellowtail belly, fresh from a jaunt through Southeast Asia with chili garlic sauce, Thai basil, shallot oil and toasted peanuts.

Sushi Pop small plates 1

The tour of Asia’s finest cuisine isn’t confined to seafood, as is demonstrated with Sushi Pop’s take on KFC (Korean fried chicken). Sweet and spicy gochujang lacquers the crispy wings which give way to the moist meat below, spiked with toasted white sesame and scallion. You want veg? Sushi Pop executes on that front with a beautiful plate of hibachi grilled asparagus, meaty garlic braised mushrooms and soy glazed pea shoots.

Sushi Pop small plates 2

Perhaps the miso braised short rib open faced ravioli is more your speed? And why not, what with a truffled brown butter quail egg under an avalanche of tome cheese. Of course pork belly is always an option. That night the dish was a superb trio of Kurobuta tacos with braised Berkshire pork belly, hoisin bbq sauce, scallions, micro cilantro and avocado.

Sushi Pop small plates 3

It’s easy to get caught up in the early stages of the menu and forget all about Sushi Pop’s namesake. Naturally there’s an extensive list of maki rolls, many with touches of Korea, France and Porkbellistan, but the initiated will know to sample the nigiri and sashimi section first. All of the usual suspects are here, fresh from Tsukiji and priced to move, even the Otoro and Uni remained attainable. However the nigiri specials beckoned.

It’s one thing to fly in high-end fish from Japan and call it a day, it’s an entirely different thing to take said fish and start riffing. It’s a bold move, one that could easily lead to over sauced, sickeningly sweet concoctions that waste the beautiful protein. Thankfully these Oviedo otaku display incredible reverence for the seafaring treasures they serve, bestowing each with complimentary flavors that only elevate the fish. A belly duo seemed appropriate, in both salmon and yellowtail varieties. The former, adorned with Chinese ginger, shallot salsa, white soy and radish sprouts was revelation. The fat striped salmon, with it’s subdued, buttery flavor was countered with the fantastic acid from the ginger and shallot. The yellowtail, took a page out of Mr. Matsuhisa’s Peruvian inspired book with jalepeño, lime zest sauce and cilantro sprouts, fantastic.

Sushi Pop sushi

Ah it’s the end of the post, you all know what that means, dessert. Granted, Japanese restaurants aren’t typically known for their desserts, but I think we’ve established that this isn’t a normal Japanese restaurant. This is the kind that takes Japanese sweet potatoes and makes bread pudding out of it. Toasted marshmallows and a reflecting pool of Saigon crème anglaise join a nice scoop of praline ice cream, complete with a bacon hat. Not to be outdone is the P.M.S., the diabetus (sic) inducing combination of peanut butter crumbles, molten chocolate cake and salted caramel ice cream.

Sushi Pop desserts

It’s rare for a restaurant to deliver dish after stunning dish with such consistency, especially with a packed house on a Saturday night. I just hate that Sushi Pop is so far from me, or anything else for that matter! Hey Chef, keep us gulf coasters in mind when you open up your next outpost. I know a bunch of serious sushi savants who’d love a chance to savor your Tsukiji fare…just saying.

Sushi Pop on Urbanspoon

NAOE – Miami, FL

I’ve long bemoaned the state of sushi in Florida. You’d think a state surrounded by ocean on three sides would be more discerning when it comes to seafood. There are myriad establishments where one can enjoy a maki roll, perhaps drizzled with a fruit infused syrup and blanketed with tempura crispies. There are even a few places that offer omakase at the bar, but when it comes to traditional Japanese kaiseki dining, well, until recently, I had given up the search.

Thankfully, my good friend and occasional food cohort, Mr. Todd Sturtz, threw me tip a few months back about a little sushi bar on Brickell Key called NAOE (pronounced nah-o-ay). Ever since, I’ve been trying to make a reservation, to no avail, tables are usually booked straight through their 3 month window. A couple of weeks back though, I was making my regular check of OpenTable (the only place you can reserve a table), and found a table for the second seating (NAOE only has two seatings a day) the very next evening! I couldn’t book it fast enough for fear of some sushi sniper snaking it out from under my scallop loving nose.

Naoe Interior

What you see above is the entirety of the restaurant, not counting the private dining room off the entrance (the design of which was enough to get this architects juices flowing), so it’s easy to see why they’re booked solid for months in advance. You’ll receive the warmest of welcomes from Wendy, who plays the dual role of maître’d and tour guide throughout the meal, answering questions and explaining dishes and their ingredients.

Our seats at the bar afforded us an unobstructed view of Chef Kevin Cory’s immaculate kitchen. You’d be excused for thinking you’re in a showroom, until Kevin enters from behind the curtain to begin a solo performance that transforms it into a stage.

The first act was a bento box, with a beautifully composed assortment of seasonal ingredients, many of which I’ve never tried before. You can check out the detailed menu here. Each quadrant had something unique to offer, a creamy chawanmushi with geoduck and shimeji mushroom, tangy and sweet boniato potato rice with daikon pickled with koji, a rice mold used in the making of sake. A striking bowl of cobia sashimi, two tiny kombu and roe “sandwiches” on shiso and freshly grated wasabi was a favorite. The upper right corner displayed a smattering of fresh seafood, game, and produce. Small fried chunks of kisu (small fish often used in tempura) rolled in poppy seed, fried gingko biloba nuts with firefly squid, and roast duck breast with local green beans were just a few of the items. At the time I didn’t know what I was eating, even after Wendy’s masterful explanation. This allowed for the rare experience of trying something new with absolutely zero expectations. It was truly an adventure in eating.

Naoe Bento

Soon after our boxes were cleared, we were presented with a handsome broiled kasugodai (baby red snapper) with king trumpet mushrooms, spinach and meyer lemon. The texture was pillowy, like a gently cooked marshmallow, but not sticky. The flesh is sweet, offset by a soft touch of salt from the skin. Pro tip, don’t stop eating once the body is consumed, grab that head and dig out the fluffy cheeks on either side, you’ll be in for a treat. As we patiently made our way through the kasugodai, Wendy entertained us with stories of past diners apparent discomfort with eye contact, who attempted to hide the fish face under a napkin. Welcome to America.

Broiled Kasugodai w: Trumpet Mushrooms

Now what I’m sure you’ve been waiting for, the sushi. The procession lasted for 11 courses and was, if I’m honest, the most amazing sushi I’ve ever had in the States, hands down. Taste, color, smell, touch, each sense was able to enjoy the superlative freshness that the fish displayed. Both my father and I were speechless as each piece was presented, how the heck do you keep this stuff so fresh traveling all the way from Tsukiji?! While everything was outstanding, there were a couple of particularly bright spots. In the top right square is a baby golden ring octopus, paired with poached lobster and pea tendrils, atop a slice of Florida avocado. I wish I’d had the gall to ask for a whole bowl of this octopus, the flavor was addictive to say the least, it even beat out the lobster in my opinion. The second moan inducing piece is in the square just above the logo. Both look like uni, but on the right is something called konoko, which are, wait for it, sea cucumber ovaries! Dear lord this was the most delicious thing I’ve put in my mouth in some time. I’d take this over uni any day, and I’m an uni man through and through.

Naoe Sushi

From the oyster, to the live scallop, two preparations of unagi, the Seuss sounding red bluefish, it was a tasty parade of sea life this Floridian has never experienced.

For dessert Kevin started us with a palate cleanser of locally grown ugli fruit, caimito and sapodilla. Those last two were new to me, the purple and white slices were the caimito, also known as star apple. The taste and texture were reminiscent of lychee. The sapodilla on the other hand was more like a pear. All the fruit was sourced personally by chef Cory from local grower Robert Is Here in Homestead, FL. 

Ugli fruit, Caimito & Sapodilla

Our next dish was brought with a challenge, guess what’s in the ice cream. After a half-dozen bites of it paired with the kasutera (Japanese sponge cake made with milk and honey) I was stumped. It was delicious to be sure, but I just couldn’t figure it out. Then Jep blurts out, “it’s soy sauce!”. A round of applause please for a fantastic palate. Sure enough the ice cream was infused with soy sauce straight from Oono, Japan where chef Cory’s family has owned a shoyu brewery since 1825.

Matcha tea soup and a healthy chunk of mamey, another unknown fruit, was the final dish. Mamey is related to mangosteen, although the two are nothing alike. It was creamy and sweet, more custard than fruit, so soft you could slice it with the provided toothpick. We enjoyed a refreshing frozen sake, again provided by chef Cory’s family.

Naoe dessert

NAOE has easily made its way into the top ten meals of my life (the top 5 was getting a little restricting, sue me). In my opinion, this place easily stands among the greatest restaurants in the country, and the world for that matter.

Now I must share a few disclaimers to anyone considering a visit here:

  1. Don’t bring anyone who’s unwilling to try new things, this is not the place for them. Unless you’re ready to taste everything without preconceived notions or squeamishness, don’t bother.
  2. Allow 2-3 hours for dinner, don’t be like the couple sitting next to us who got up and left halfway through the sushi courses. For a restaurant that only has two seatings a night, you have to be a pretty big douche to snub the chef like that (although we did get to eat their eel…serves ’em right).
  3. When you make the reservation you pay for dinner up front, $200 a head, while it is more than worth the price for what you get, it’s something to keep in mind. NAOE would be a fantastic venue for an amazing anniversary dinner or other quiet special occasion.

Well there it is folks, a top of the top-notch Japanese restaurant right here in Florida, but don’t tell too many people, I still want to be able to get a table!

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill – Miami, FL

Here in South Florida, and really Florida in general, modern urban development has become dependent on the “village”. This concept of a pre-planned town center containing a smattering of shops, restaurants and maybe a theater or concert venue. In theory this sounds like a great idea, until you see identical copies sprout up in every town, the concept starts to grow stagnant, with all the personality of a spaghetti western set.

The problem with these villages is that the spontaneity that the great town centers all share from years and years of growth and change is lost. Every so often though, a restaurant rises above its pre-fab surroundings to deliver a truly interesting and delicious experience. The people behind Sushi Samba opened up Sugarcane Raw Bar, installed a menu that plucks the best dishes from Asia, the Caribbean and Mediterranean Europe, and seem to have broken the mold of lackluster eats that most villages offer.

Sugarcane Logo

Chef Timon Balloo (I’m going to take the high road here and avoid any Disney references), of Chinese and Trinidadian descent, showcases his wealth of experience and deep love for food in Sugarcane’s globetrotting menu. This was immediately clear in my cocktail, the Leche de Tigre, with coconut milk, yuzu, Kappa Pisco, simple syrup and cilantro. A mango purée and prosecco concoction joined the yuzu party with an added splash of Domaine de Canton, a French ginger liquor, fortified with eaux de vie and cognac.

Leche de Tigre & Mango bubbles

The menu at Sugarcane has a lot to absorb, with eight sections of tempting dishes to choose from. I homed in on the Crudo area and sprang for the scallop with apple, black truffle, lime and jalapeño as well as the akaushi beef carpaccio, sprinkled with pickled mushrooms and truffle ponzu. The dishes were a perfect compliment to each other, the scallop dish providing a shock of acidity, while the carpaccio brought things down to earth with grassy flavors in the beef and mushrooms.

Akaushi carpaccio and scallop crudo

My wife chose a winner of her own, a roasted kale and peach salad with fourme d’ambert cheese, walnuts and fennel. I’m not usually one to jump for kale dishes, but Chef Balloo has this dish locked with perfect seasoning and a satisfying crunch that had me inhaling the crispy greens like shrimp chips.

Roasted kale & peach salad

We sampled simple goat cheese croquettes with membrillo marmalade. Fried cheese with fruit spread is a no brainer and these little orbs served as a nice segue to the heavier dishes that followed.

Goat cheese croquettes

I’m talking about this masterpiece, the name of which made it an insta-order for me…duck & waffle, uh yes please. The fluffy waffle gets topped with duck leg confit and is then draped with startlingly bright fried duck egg. A mustard maple sauce added a sweet component to offset the richness of the duck and egg combo. Once pierced, the yolk creates a slurry with the syrup that is quickly absorbed into the waffle below, allowing the flavors to be enjoyed in perfect balance.

Duck & waffle

The bone marrow was another unanimous choice for my wife and I. A hearty veal cheek marmalade crowned each of the substantial leg bones. Another winner, this delivered a tongue coating flavor that satisfied our craving for meat.

Bone marrow with veal cheek marmalade

In between dishes, we happily noshed on a bowl of fried pig ears with BBQ spice. An unexpected favorite of my wife, these were packed up and brought home to continue the snacking session later that evening.

Pig ear with BBQ spice

I can always tell when I’ve found a great place, because my wife will suggest dessert, even after a procession of dishes like this. Of the half-dozen sweets on offer, the lemon pot de creme was the most enticing with its blueberry compote and brûléed peak. 

 Lemon pot de creme with blueberries & pie crust

The menu is so chock full of foodie buzzwords it can be difficult to cull down your choices. A few we had to pass on included pan seared foie gras, crispy pork belly, wagyu sliders with quail egg, five spice & honey spare ribs, rabbit paella and beef tongue carpaccio. Sugarcane thoroughly impressed, more with impeccable execution than trendy ingredients. The Samba group landed a great talent in Chef Balloo, who has elevated my opinion of what can be accomplished in the manufactured “village” setting. 

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill on Urbanspoon

2013 Eat a Duck Food Crawl – Tampa Edition

Everyone has their own special way to wave goodbye to the past 12 months. Fireworks, champagne, kisses with strangers. Here at Eat a Duck, as you’d expect, our farewell involves food…and lots of it. Logan and I had been stewing over embarking on a food crawl for some time, and seeing 2013 out with a feasting trip seemed like a perfect fit. Todd from Tasting Tampa and his lady friend were kind enough to join us, rounding out a foursome with the ability and appetite to conquer the larder of any given municipality.

food-crawl1 copy

Naturally, as we were in Central Florida, we had a choice of Orlando or Tampa. We went with the latter and in our best Lemmy impression, we played it fast and loose, adding and substituting eateries on the fly, the final lineup is seen below.

2013 Food Crawl Lineup

Eight restaurants are no laughing matter. With this many places, one must pace themselves or run the risk of hitting a wall long before you reach the end, which in our case, would have been a tragedy. We made our rendezvous with Todd at our first stop, Yummy House. We had sampled the dinner menu on Christmas day, but today it was all about dim sum. Pork and ginger dumplings, pork siu mai, Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce, and fried calamari in their famous salt and pepper preparation. I’m cautiously confident in stating that this dim sum is the best in Central Florida. The only thing to keep it from knocking Ming’s off its throne is the lack variety on the menu.

Yummy House Spread

It took everything I had not to overdo it here as I was famished, but we had a long road ahead of us. So I laid my chopsticks down and hopped in the car for our second stop, Cigar City Brewery. Both Logan and I had decided not to spend any of our crawl money on alcohol, but the call of a hoppy IPA was too much for my colleague. For eats, we kept it light with a small bowl of duroc pork chicharrones with mojo salt and lime. It was a perfect intermission to get us ready for our stop number three…

CCB Chicharrones

Woodfired Pizza. As is usually the case in the Tampa area, Todd was received like a conquering king, this time by a wise looking pizzaiolo working a smoking wood oven. Introductions were made and we were granted a VH1 style story from the owner himself, Peter Taylor, of his decades long quest to make (not bake!) the perfect pizza. Needless to say, we were anxious to get a taste. Todd took the lead and ordered two “must have” pizzas, the Pistachio and the Dante. The former came with pistachios, fresh mozzarella, raw red onion, olive oil, pecorino romano, rosemary and organic herbs. This was by far the most aromatic pizza we had ever sampled. The pistachio and herb mixture made a sort of pesto that filled your nose with an earthy aroma. Subtle and creamy with a slightly sweet crust as a compliment. The Dante on the other hand was bold, with its sriracha spiked tomato sauce. Smooth ricotta managed to shine through the heat and served to balance the dish. Sliced meatballs and grated Dante cheese rounded it out. We unanimously agreed it was the best pizza we had all had in a while.

Woodfire Pizza Spread

After a bit of a drive, we landed at stop 4, Anise Global Gastrobar. Logan has sung the praises of this eclectic temple of food before, so I had taken this opportunity to try it for myself. Half a dozen oysters with hibiscus mignonette got us started. Crisp, clean and tender, they were a perfect appetizer for the stinky bunz that followed. The Eat a Duck boys covered four out of five of the bunz, Chinese BBQ pork, beer battered shrimp, red curried crispy chicken and braised pork belly. After a bit of each I was sold. They more than lived up to Logan’s praises. I was sad to leave without being able to sample more of the menu. The food crawl giveth and the food crawl taketh away, we had to continue!

Anise Spread

Not far from Anise, we arrived at our fifth stop, Pané Rustica. Lo and behold, Todd spotted a couple more friends and lovers of food. After little coaxing, we managed to detour them from their plans in favor of joining us on the rest of our crawl, but not before we each devoured a quarter of a two storey burger topped with ham and cheese.

Pané Rustica Burger

No building sized sandwich was going to slow us down. Élevage was our sixth stop, and I had high expectations following Logan’s recent post. We set up shop in the bar, just outside the main dining room. The menu in the bar was only a fraction of what Élevage has to offer, but in the name of efficiency we ordered the first three items the group agreed on. Deviled eggs with blackened blue crab, escargots parmesan and reuben beef tartare with comte, 1000 island, brussels kraut and rye bread. Surprisingly, these three items were underwhelming. The deviled eggs were a tasty but hardly eye-opening. Sadly the flavor of the escargots was lost beneath the layer of cheese and tomato sauce and the beef “tartare” was cooked all the way through. From what I read about this place in Logan’s post, Élevage is set to be a food destination for any serious eater in the country. However the lounge menu needs some work to say the least. The items sound amazing, but the execution leaves much to be desired. In any case, I’m in no way writing it off as every new venture needs time to work out the kinks. Onwards and upwards stop seven…

Élevage Spread

Sidebern’s. Anyone with an appreciation for food in Central Florida has been here, so we knew what was in store. We wasted no time and ordered up a pile of moules frites, duck rillettes, oysters, a stack of fresh ham with stone ground mustard and a couple of beautiful scallops with a striking herb pesto. Each item was executed to perfection. Fresh mussels bathed in a broth that could satisfy the strongest hunger all on its own. Moist duck settled in a layer of fat coated the tongue, only to be cut by the clean flavor of the oysters. This is what the folks running the Bern’s empire are truly capable of once they get in the zone.

Sideberns Spread

Seven restaurants down and we were still going strong, our stomachs hadn’t betrayed us yet as we steeled ourselves for the eighth and final stop, Rooster and the Till. In hindsight, the place that excited me most. The entire restaurant is the size of a large living room. The kitchen resides just behind the bar, so everything is on display. The chef and his minions, armed only with three hot plates and a meticulously prepared mise en place, were pumping out food to the crowded room at an impressive pace. Even more impressive is that the menu changes with the wind, so don’t expect to find everything we did on your own visit. We had to wait about 30 minutes, but once we took our places at the bar, we were rewarded with truly inspired food for Tampa, or anywhere for that matter. Lamb heart tartare with a golden duck yolk was outstanding. Raw littleneck clams with pickled radish and grapefruit was addictive. Pork belly with cornbread and pickled apple with peppercorn honey showcased genius flavor combinations. Cauliflower in brown butter with pickled raisins and braised turnip with white beans and pickled celery in a pork fat vinaigrette wowed even this staunch veggie hater. Dessert was a pear and cranberry parfait with granola and homemade whipped cream. Rooster and the Till has the hunger and passion of a newly formed band looking for a label. I hope they hold tight to that hunger in the years to come as I plan on becoming a regular so as not to miss a single dish.

Rooster & the Till Spread

The first ever Eat a Duck food crawl was more than successful, starting with an explosion of salt and pepper and ending with a lamb heart attack. This could very well turn into a tradition, so keep your eyes and ears open this year for more Eat a Duck crawls, we’d love to bring some of our readers along on our next adventure!

Pubbelly – Miami Beach, FL

With a name like Pubbelly, it must come as a surprise to many of our readers that this sanctuary of sumptuous snacks has taken so long to appear on this storied space. Well allow me remedy that. Pubbelly touts itself as “the first Asian inspired gastropub in Miami”. I’m not here to say who came first, I’m here to report on great food, which I found many times over at this little outpost on Miami Beach. The three young guys running this outfit are all chefs and hospitality pros in their own right, and have joined forces to create a truly food-centric eatery. That may sound strange, “aren’t all restaurants food-centric?” you may ask. Well yes and no. They may serve food, but the other half of the equation is the passion. Just like how you can hear the passion in a great song, when you are presented with a beautiful plate of quivering pork belly, with its golden crown and pearly outer garments, you can tell whoever created it is just as excited about cooking it as you are about eating it…well almost.

pubbelly

Luckily for me, the trio of Pubbelly and I have similar leanings when it comes to food. On the menu you’ll find, all manners of cured meats, various pork products (the words belly, bacon and short-rib occur many times throughout), a whole section devoted to dumplings, noodles, a raw bar, and everything in between. The atmosphere is casual and the staff are well versed in the menu, which will stay with you for the duration of the meal as you’ll likely be ordering in waves as certain items catch your eye.

I arrived a tad late to the gathering, just in time to catch a couple bites of the pastrami & sauerkraut dumplings. I’m usually not such a push over, but this dish gained my loyalty immediately. First of all, I would have probably never ordered it on my own as I’m known to hate sauerkraut and caraway. As I’ve stated countless times before though, everything is delicious when it’s done right, and these dumplings were no exception, tangy, salty, the perfect start. The duck and pumpkin option was another winner, with a very autumn sounding sauce of orange, almond, cinnamon and soy brown butter. The only issue I found was having to fight the temptation to order another plate instead of branching out. Happily though, cooler heads prevailed and we continued.

Duck & Pumpkin Dumplings, Orange, Almond, Cinnamon, Soy Brown Butter

A charcuterie plate was summoned, a long mound of Mangelitsa ham lay opposite slices of toast slathered with goat butter and truffles. Delicious, but not to be outdone by its brothers cooked a bit more vigorously. A pair of plates arrived featuring one of our favorites here at Eat a Duck, pork belly! The first was pork belly with kabocha (a type of Asian winter squash), butterscotch miso and corn powder. It was nearly solid fat (not a bad thing in my book) with a slim layer of flesh at the bottom. It came sliced like a loaf of bread and literally disintegrated in your mouth. The second was cochinillo with sour apple purée, roasted brussels sprouts, cinnamon and soy. This was a crisper more solid take, but no less tasty. A nuclear colored apple purée added a sour note and the subtle presence of soy brought your palate back to Asia.

Pork Belly, Kabocha, Butterscotch Miso, Corn Powder Cochinillo, Sour Apple Purée, Brussels, Cinnamon Soy Jus

Back on the raw side of things, was a short rib tartare with apples, quail egg, green mustard, tobanjan (a spicy paste made from fermented broad beans) and pine nuts. This was a truly beautiful dish. I requested more goat butter truffle toast as a vehicle, that was one of my better decisions. But it wasn’t all pork all the time, not that there’s anything wrong with that. We were on Miami Beach, so we ventured into the sea with bay scallops bourguignon in shiso garlic butter and sea salt with a crusty baguette on the side. I imagine the chefs creating this dish to appease a close friend or relative who was squeamish about snails and finding it was not bad on its own. Escargots are one of my favorite dishes, but the sweet, tender flesh of a scallop was a wonderful substitution on the classic recipe.

Shortrib Tartare, Apples, Quail Egg, Green Mustard, Tobanjan, Pinenuts Bay Scallops Bourguignon, Shiso Garlic Butter, Sea Salt, Baguette

Of course dessert followed. After all the dinner party included my dad and sister, two people who have been partners with me at some of my most memorable meals. After consulting our waitress, we arrived upon the chocolate brownie sundae and butterscotch crème brûlée. Both were gone in moments and were as luxurious as they look. For a chocolate fiend like myself, the brownie hit all the right buttons, though the crème brûlée had it beat in refinement and balance of flavor. It was by no means a blow out on either side.

Chocolate Brownie Sundae Butterscotch Creme Brulée

It proved to be another successful meal. The food at Pubbelly is impressive to say the least. As you know, we here at Eat a Duck strive to write only about those establishments doing something truly special, and I believe the trio at Pubbelly are doing just that. So if that’s not enough motivation to visit, just peruse the menu yourself.

Pubbelly on Urbanspoon