Sushi Maki owner Abe Ng opened his latest project, Pao Town, to much fanfare last week, and Short Order was there to taste some of the first dishes coming out of the kitchen.
The short menu is divided into four sections: mains, salads, buns, and sides. It's a survey of Asian cuisine, bringing in elements from across the region, though Ng describes it as mainly Hawaiian.
Most fried rice these days is a dried-out disappointment. The scrambled egg is overcooked and the protein is dry or rubbery. Pao Town's version is a good variation, using jasmine rice, an upgrade from the standard short-grain. Bacon adds fat and smokiness, while pineapple rounds out the dish with a touch of sweetness.
Pork-belly buns deliver the popular cut of pig in a steamed clamshell bao. Pickled vegetables -- which include cucumber, daikon, and carrot -- along with cilantro sprigs, provide a fresh pop to complement the pork fat and starch.
Sliders filled with tight pucks of American Kobe beef are rich with fatty flavor but come on too large a bun. The use of the word Kobe, which seems to be used here as a marketing tool, has largely fallen out of favor. Kobe is a place in Japan, as Champagne is a place in France. The slider is topped with sweet caramelized onion with wasabi ranch, adding a touch of spiciness.
Undertaking the creation of a jazzed-up hot dog is serious business in Miami, and Pao Town does it just fine. This is, after all, the spiritual home of the perro colombiano -- a mutated albeit delicious hot dog slathered in five kinds of sauces (all I can ever remember are pink sauce and pineapple sauce) topped with crisp potato strings. Ng's "Korean dog" is beefy; spicy, thanks to kimchee slaw and gochujang; and crisp, thanks to potato sticks -- with a bit of richness provided by avocado spears.
We're betting Pao Town will be a popular spot for the Gables crowd. It's situated right off Miracle Mile, a corridor flooded with chain and Thai restaurants, and will enjoy plenty of business from the lunch crowd.
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Whether it will grow into an Asian-fusion empire to rival Sushi Maki remains to be seen.
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