recently, foodies are tweeting left and right about dining finds that offer all the key components for an enjoyable fresh asian eating experience. with additional insight from trustworthy foodie-friend jessica brager, i present you two spots worthy of trying in the near future - as in, right now.
sakaya kitchen in midtown miami
after a wonderful evening spent at the soho beach house with jess and her charming boyfriend craig dell, we hopped over to midtown to try the food at sakaya kitchen. fortunately craig is a food lover who isn't afraid to try new things and most importantly, lots of new things. the setting of the restaurant is low key and the menu is presented on a chalkboard on the lefthand side. the food is asian inspired with korean influences - think lots of fresh produce, well marinated, all-natural meats, especially pork. off mr. dell went with the order and jess and myself were swooning with glee because we were in for some good eats.
the food comes out very fast and within minutes of sitting down bowls of their infamous honey orange ribs with ginger brussel sprouts, pork buns (pork is roasted for eight hours according to the menu) and their shrimp and egg rolls were already at our table. followed by korean chicken wings with kimchi, a bowl of spicy tater tots and a beef lettuce wrap dish termed "bulgogi", which is korean for marinated meat. the three of us were dabbling here and there, commenting on how everything tasted and ultimately trying to decide what we loved the most.
the honey orange ribs weren't too bad but the ginger brussel sprouts and jasmine rice that were served along with them were delicious. i'm a big fan of brussel sprouts so i thoroughly reveled in how well they were cooked and tasted. we all loved the korean chicken wings that were were rich in flavor and super crispy. they were served with kimchi, which can be described something near to a korean version of coleslaw... usually with cabbage, radishes and cucumber - very fresh, very good.
i really loved the buns not only because of the roasted pork but it was also stuffed with cucumber pickles and a great sweet chili sauce. all of the ingredients immersed in the soft buns were heavenly and it was a shame there were only two on the table. the lettuce wraps were fun to make with the angus beef, korean slaw and lettuce and even better enjoyed with a few of the spicy tater tots and a good amount of sriracha sauce all over it.
overall, sakaya kitchen's food is pleasantly simple just like the decor of the restaurant and pleasantly satisfying too. they also have a food truck called "dim saam a gogo" that you can follow on twitter to see where they are located on a daily basis around miami. they have a big following and rightfully so. they have lots of other items on their menu that are pertinent to try, which will certainly be accomplished on my end.
gigi in midtown miami
just around the corner in midtown is gigi. another take on fresh asian dining but with more emphasis on comfort food for the most exquisite palates. the culinary team is led by top chef's jeff mccinnis - who was working hard in the kitchen the night of my visit. my friend mike mccarthy and i went on a thursday night and the vibe was mellow, a few hipsters but probably more foodies all engaged in riveting conversations while 'nomming' on gigi's great cuisine. their website itself describes the concept as 'noodles, bbq and beer' and the crowds sure do come out to enjoy their urban dining chops. just like sakaya, they take the quality of their food very seriously with everything fresh and earth friendly components.
by the time we were seated, we asked for a bottle of red wine and started to dissect the menu - which was short and to the point. the top of the menu offers their buns and sweet ol' michael went for the kill and ordered each and every one. within minutes (i am telling you this whole high quality food coming out faster than some fast food joints themselves is remarkable) there were two buns of roasted pork, shiitake mushroom, shredded beef and pulled chicken. holy amazing! each and every bun was packed with so much flavor and the buns were incredibly soft and doughy. my most favorite were the shitake mushroom with red chilis. very spicy, just how i like it. mike was laughing at me because my eyes were watering a little but i like to believe that when you can't stop eating the food no matter how much pain you might be enduring, it's a good thing.
i was already so happy with the buns but there was more food on its way. we also ordered tuna which was wrapped in cucumber and avocado served over a citrus sauce. portion wasn't too big but it was just the right amount considering we had also ordered the meat loaf and fish bowl. mid dinner, jessica delighted us with her company helping us finish the remainder of the wine and trying the rest of the food. the meat loaf was made out of braised short ribs that were both juicy and savory. to top it off, it was over a smokey plantain and soy molasses mixture and we were all scraping at it until it finished. you must order the meat loaf when you go. it's a combination that is hard to forget. our final dish was the seafood rice bowl entailing mussels, shrimp and scallops in a subtle curry sauce. another great plate filled with so many different elements and that all work together so well. jessica originally suggested that we eat at gigi and i am so very glad she did.
we had racked up our savory tab and the waitress had mentioned for dessert that they had pumpkin ice-cream that are served in very small cones and we were sold. the ice-cream is made at gigi too and was phenomenal, with subtle hints of cinnamon allowing for the pumpkin flavor to really shine. i have been raving about gigi since i've been there and highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area or willing to drive long distances for superb food.
restaurants like these offer food that is reasonably priced with moderate portions in order for you to enjoy a variety of choices while getting a true experience of asian dining. order away!