As far as I know, there wasn't a full moon last night -- I didn’t accidentally rub my big ass against a lamp, resulting in a magical genie oozing free with a pocket-full of wishes to be used at my disposal. Hell didn't freeze over, pigs never flew, and as far as I know, I’m still using tired clichés in order to drive a point.
So how the hell did my broke ass finagle her way into a classy joint like Chef Allen's (19088 NE 29th Avenue, Aventura, 305- 935-2900) for dinner and cocktails?
To be honest, I’m not completely sure.
Okay, so maybe I am sure. Maybe it’s because ever since chef Daniel Serfer stepped foot inside Chef Allen’s kitchen five years ago, he took it upon himself to spruce up the place -- swapping warm tile for carpeting and updating the wine-rack heavy bar with a more modern, minimalistic flair. Not to mention he helped to revamp the menu while dropping prices in an attempt to attract more late 20-somethings, like himself, to a restaurant he’s been going to since he was a little boy. Or maybe, just maybe, I made a deal with the devil (cliché #5) in which I got one great meal at Chef Allen's for an eternity of peeling mangos for the restaurant’s staff. Don’t believe the latter? Fine. Then don’t check me out in the corner of their stainless steel kitchen, through a large picture-window, peeling away, in a burlap sack, occasionally being whipped.
But what I am sure of is that the food and the drinks at Chef Allen's are refreshing and fresh, so much so, that most produce comes from the Redlands and, to quote Chef Serfer: “I've served fish here at 6 p.m. that was swimming in the ocean at 7 a.m.”
Well, shit! Excuse me for being fresh, but ain't that motherfucking something? (cliché #6)
Before our first course of coconut crab dip ($6) and dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon (to quote Homer Simpson "Mmmmm" followed by gurgling noises), Phillip, the restaurant’s delightful general manager, brought three drinks to my table. The first was a pomegranate martini (eh), the second was a mojito made with champagne (ewe), and the third was a mango martini (Ooo!)
The Mango Martini: Simple, thick and splendid. This drink concocted by Phillip in a brain-fart type of manner which involved him randomly realizing that the restaurant he worked for -- which is known for utilizing Miami’s profusion of locally-grown mangos -- didn’t have a mango cocktail. A batch of mango-infused vodka later, he had created one of the restaurant’s most outstanding drinks, which, as an added bonus, has that silent but deadly ninja quality that I so deeply adore.
After a second course which included crab cakes made with blue crab, summer kimchee, and crisp panko tzatziki with tasty chunks of pineapple ($12), Phillip introduced us to an excellent wine pairing – Gewürztraminer (say that three times drunk) which tastes very much like a Riesling. The wine cut through the flavor of the crab cakes quite nicely (BTW, do order the sparkling dessert wine with your dessert, it’s like drinking water, or milk -- with alcohol), but, c’mon, I need my booze!
Swooping in with my next course, swordfish with wood-grilled pineapple and stir-fry tomato salsa ($25), Phillip brought over a drink he was working on.
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The Guanábana Caipirinha: The guanabana is a weird looking fruit. Native to Mexico, it kind of looks like a pineapple, but green, with no funky sprout on top, and much more intimidating spikes on the skin. But the flavor is delicioso, tasting like a hybrid of banana, pineapple, and coconut. At Chef Allen’s they make a sorbet out of it and for this drink (not on the menu yet, but I seriously urge you to request it) they melt the sorbet and add sugared rum to create a caipirinha that’ll hit you so hard, you might end up singing “uuuuuuuh, guanabana, guanabana” Master P-style like I, and the rest of my table did, by the last slurp.
This time, being that it’s apparent that I enjoyed these drinks, instead of a food-comparison, I’m leaving you with a tip: If you can gather 200 lbs or mangos and bring them into Chef Allen’s, they’ll thank your generosity with a free five-course meal. So start sneaking into your neighbors’ backyards now!