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For dessert an order of torrijas (Spanish French toast) provided yet further indulgence. A slice of white bread soaked in milk, eggs, and white wine had been deep-fried and then dunked in an anisette-flavored syrup. Though well prepared, this was served cold; I've always preferred it warm, just out of the fryer.
Thai House II Restaurant and O-Chin Japanese Sushi Bar
2250 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach; 940-6075. Lunch Monday - Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner nightly from 5:00 to 10:30 p.m.
Almost a year ago, this Thai restaurant added on something called the O-Chin Japanese Sushi Bar, because, our waiter informed us, "sushi popular." Though one may sit in either restaurant and order both cuisines, the two places look different: The Thai dining room contains carved teak tables and wall hangings, while the Japanese section incorporates screens and bamboo.
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 starter of tom kar gai, rich coconut milk soup flavored with tangy galangal (ginger root), lime juice, and lemongrass, was superb, boasting succulent white-meat chicken in a complex mix of spices. Japanese green salad, a cooler choice for summer, comprised chilled iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots and cucumbers, and a superb ginger-carrot dressing.
Only a heavy layer of oil marred a tofu massaman curry, an assortment of fried bean curd, avocado, and sweet potato. The chunks of tofu were hot and juicy, the avocado contributing a mellowness to the spice, but the coconut milk sauce was too thin under all that oil. More enjoyable was a combination platter of sashimi, sushi, and tempura from the O-Chin side: Tuna, salmon, and hamachi sashimi were delicate and lacy, kept cold by a miniature ice boat. A tekka (tuna) roll was eight bite-size pieces; tuna, salmon, and shrimp nigiri rounded out the raw fish selection. Shrimp and vegetable tempura included two jumbo shrimp, sweet potatoes, onions, and broccoli all dipped in a light batter, cooked until crisp, and just a bit too greasy.
The waitstaff is well versed in the service game -- everyone wants to know if you're interested in dessert. Though peanut butter cream pie and Oreo cheesecake vied with more traditional Thai desserts such as banana delight and pumpkin custard, we weren't.
Taurus Steak House
3540 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove; 448-0633. Lunch Monday A Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; dinner nightly from 5:00 to 10:30 p.m.
Not much like home; more like home on the range. If you can bear to eat steak and chops under the glazed eyes of various animal-head trophies (including a rabbit with antlers and a bear with spectacles), then this is your kind of place. Lodgelike, creaking, and blotched with ancient water stains on the walls, Taurus nevertheless exudes a three-martini-lunch charm.
Appetizers were few and insignificant -- a shrimp cocktail was flavorless, the five shrimp watery as if just thawed. A cup of lentil soup well stocked with the legumes proved to be too salty, with no other vegetables to provide texture or color relief.
Nor did a sirloin burger look promising, perched on an onion roll that featured only three dots of onion, ruffled potato chips, a tomato slice, lettuce, and a pickle on the side. But evidently one mustn't judge a burger by the company it keeps. This was a prime, juicy example of the American classic, cooked to order medium-rare.
Taurus features a different lunch special each day, which means that if you go with your gut set on meat loaf or turkey with all the trimmings, you might have to settle for beef stew. Not to worry: Accompanied by white rice, the stew was hot and perfectly done, chunks of beef tender and free of fat. Carrots, potatoes, and an occasional piece of broccoli dotted the meaty landscape. Good stuff, if a bit heavy for lunch.
Speaking of heavy, I haven't had the courage to step on the scale lately. But I can tell by the way my jeans fit (i.e., they don't button) what next year's summer project will be: picking up the pace on that treadmill.