By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
852 Alton Rd., Miami Beach; 534-9557. Open Sunday - Thursday from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m.; until midnight Friday and Saturday.
Located at the decidedly unfashionable Miami Beach crossroad of Alton Road and Ninth Street, this slightly rounded dining room is a cozy, checkered-tablecloth kind of place where the authentic German food is topped only by the fragrant, yeasty beer.
A honey-garlic Brie starter served with crunchy French bread was delectable, a miniature Brie melting like lava in a pool of hot, lightly spiced honey. (It's wise to wait a few minutes for this to cool down before digging in.) This seemed to be every customer's favorite, not just mine, as I watched plate after steaming plate being taken from the kitchen.
6388 S. Dixie Highway
South Miami, FL 33143
Region: Coral Gables/South Miami
11780 N. Kendall Drive
Kendall, FL 33186
Region: South Dade
2250 NE 163rd St.
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160
Region: North Dade
A mixed-plate main course contained some of the other appetizer options: bratwurst, garlicwurst, and veal loaf. The bratwurst (pork sausage) and garlicwurst (beef-and-pork sausage) were thick and juicy, their outside skins crackling, interiors meaty and not at all fatty. The veal loaf was delicious too, a flat slice of cured, seasoned pork that tasted much like a frankfurter. A dollop of whipped potatoes and a bed of sauerkraut provided mellow accents, as did side condiments of brown mustard and curry-flavored ketchup.
We gave Wiener schnitzel the knife test and Dab Haus passed, the utensil sliding cleanly between the tender veal paillard and the puffy, bubbled breading. A squeeze of lemon and a mixed salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and kernels of yellow corn lent some acidity to the plate, while mashed potatoes gave it a base. My favorite dish, kndel mit Pilzsauce, I could barely pronounce, even when teasingly challenged to do so by the waiter. But I can describe it: bread dumplings, roasted and sliced into supple sections; burgundy sauce replete with mushrooms; a side salad of the lettuce, corn, and tomatoes. An extremely satisfying vegetarian plate.
Cinnamon-heavy apple strudel reached the same volcanic temperature as the Brie. I loved the crust, like a crepe folded around apples, with a dollop of fluffy homemade whipped cream melting off one side.
11780 N. Kendall Dr.; 274-1300. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The color scheme takes the royal route, featuring comfy red banquettes and pink tablecloths, and the turbaned Sikh waiters, who appear immediately bearing pappadum (lentil crackers) and a potent onion chutney, are deferential and extremely polite. Though the dishware (compartmentalized metal trays) may make you feel as if you've landed in a mess tent, this touch of inelegance doesn't detract from the meal. At Punjab Palace, the customer is clearly king.
The easiest way to eat like a king is to order the combination platters, vegetarian or otherwise, known as thali. Both the vegetable and meat thali included a fabulous vegetable samosa A flaky, delicate pastry stuffed with potatoes and peas and served with a dark and tangy tamarind sauce. Steamy, pull-apart nan, baked to order in the clay oven and dripping with butter, was also present on both, as was a rice pilaf flavored with almonds, cashews, peas, and cumin seed.
From there the platters diverged. Vegetable thali featured three main courses, all fairly spicy (here "medium" translates to "pretty hot"). Dal makhni was a hearty dish of lentils stewed with tomatoes and onions; garden vegetable curry, a bit too salty, was fresh with cauliflower, potatoes, and peas; chana masala contained chickpeas flavored with bits of green pepper.
With the meat tray, meanwhile, came a choice of two entrees from a list of several: tandoori chicken, and chicken, lamb, beef, or goat curry. I chose the tandoori chicken, marinated in spices and roasted in the clay oven to optimum flavor, and lamb curry, a small portion of boneless cubes in a piquant brown sauce, a bit tough but tasty nonetheless. Raita, a delicious yogurt dip flavored with cucumber, cooled down the palate.
A dessert of gulab jamun (pastry balls soaked in honey syrup) accompanied main courses as they would have had this been a TV dinner, and I ignored it, the way I always did when I was a kid and my mother gave us TV dinners. It didn't matter; I didn't need to eat any more.
2436 SW Eighth St.; 642-2452. Open Sunday A Thursday from noon to midnight; until 1:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
This quintessential Spanish eatery is a cool, tiled hall plied by strolling guitarists and very professional waiters. But don't let the ambiance and Casa Juancho's reputation as a tourist spot turn you off; the high quality of the food makes it worth your while to wait for a table.
To start, gazpacho andaluz was an ideal puree, a smooth, pale tomato base blended with olive oil and tasting of onions and celery, served with a garnish of cucumber, onion, green pepper, and bread crumbs. Another terrific way to begin a meal, ensalada mixta, consisted of romaine, watercress, radicchio, and Belgian endive topped with juicy tomatoes and white asparagus, dressed with a sharp vinaigrette spiked with marinated onions and peppers.
Main courses were huge, garnished with string beans in a sweet tomato sauce, buttered carrots, and buttered white potatoes with onions. (Just the side dishes could fill you up.) Filete de pargo "Casa Juancho," a red snapper fillet grilled with butter, was crunchy on the outside and tender in the middle, topped with Spanish ham, sauteed mushrooms, and shrimp -- and too big to finish. But the snapper had nothing on the cochinillo segoviano (roast suckling pig). Three gigantic pieces generous with steamy, succulent meat were flavored with garlic and topped with skin so crisp that it cracked like brittle, and melted in your mouth like brittle, too.