Best Colombian Fast Food Restaurant 2007 | KokoRiko | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Best Colombian Fast Food Restaurant


George Martinez
"Welcome to Kokoriko," said a smiling young employee in a bright-pink-and-khaki uniform as we entered this brightly lit fast-food restaurant. Just as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and all of those other multinational fast food chains have invaded the world, KokoRiko has infiltrated America. KokoRiko has been Colombia's largest fast-food chain since 1969; the first U.S. franchise just opened right here in Miami. "Local Colombians love KokoRiko," says the employee. "On the weekends we have a line out the door and down the block. It is unbelievable, and the funny thing is they wait for three hours sometimes. "Try special number three, which includes two pieces of rotisserie chicken served with a side of rice and red beans ($5.89). They also serve beer — Heineken and Coors Light only. "Can you guess where we are opening our second U.S. KokoRikoç" asks the employee. "Los Angelesç" She shakes her head. "New Yorkç" "No, Hialeah!" she giggles.
Put together two of the tastiest food items on the planet — freshly made pasta and lobster — and you have one reason why this tres French Coconut Grove cafe is a bright new addition to our local dining scene. Take a creamy-dreamy force of Maine lobster; pipe it into pillowy half-moon ravioli; then sauce a bunch of them with a silken, bisquelike sauce redolent of everyone's favorite crustacean — what's not to likeç Equally likable is that a portion large enough to stuff one or (with an additional small salad or appetizer) satisfy two costs all of $13.95 ($11.50 for lunch). And you have the pleasure of dining in an utterly charming, thoroughly unpretentious restaurant where the food is as good as it is a good value.
Chef Alvaro Beade hails from the rich culinary region of Castilla y Leon in Spain, and so do many of Ideas's ingredients (and ideas). The wine list, for instance, is laden with lush Leonese labels from Toro, Rueda, and Ribera del Duero. Mediterranean seafoods are flown in too, like lubina (sea bass), dorada (sea bream), and the calamarilike cuttlefish. Roasted piquillo peppers, courtesy of the Ebro River Valley, get piped with bacalao and drizzled with cognac sauce. We're not sure where the crackly-skinned suckling pig comes from, but we do know it is sumptuously simmered in its fat for three hours before getting finished in the oven — and that it is unspeakably, lip-smackingly good. So are consommé of Serrano ham, carpaccio of king prawn, veal cheeks braised in red wine, and a 35-ounce, bone-in rib eye steak for two. Yet a finish of saffron-soaked pineapple carpaccio capped with scintillating lime sorbet just might sound the highest note of all. Cuisine this delicious and authentically Spanish doesn't come cheap (entrées are $28 to $36), but the price includes entertainment by way of a picture window in the elegantly appointed dining room that allows diners to peer into the glistening kitchen and watch the gastronomic goings-on. Does your favorite Spanish restaurant have all thisç We didn't think so.
If Piedmontese identical twin chefs Nicola and Fabrizio Carro were actually on a stage accepting this honor, one would hope they would display the sort of humility exhibited by classy Oscar winners. Maybe start off by acknowledging their awe at just being up for consideration in the same category as respected Italian restaurants like Escopazzo, Osteria del Teatro, Macaluso's, and Romeo's Café — after all, Quattro just opened up this past year. Then they might offer a little backstory about how they just recently arrived in this country, and their struggles with understanding English, dealing with the logistics of importing fresh fish from the Mediterranean, and so forth. Banter is always appreciated. Nicola could call Fabrizio a cheesy guy, and Fabrizio could respond, "Yes, I love taleggio, tome, pecorino sardo, and all the other cheeses culled from our country that we serve at Quattro." Come to think of it, maybe they'd be better off getting a professional writer to help them with their jokes. Anyway let's assume that a short film would have been shown as they made their way to the stage, with quick-cut highlights from the Northwestern Italian menu at their hot hot hot Lincoln Road eatery: fontina-fluffed ravioli drizzled with butter and white truffle oil. Veal tenderly braised with cipollini onions and vermouth. A New York strip steak. The gastronomically gifted brothers would be remiss not to mention Monferrato vintner Nicola Schšn, who has assembled Quattro's expensive, all-Italian, 300-bottle wine list (including vibrant varietals from Molise and other relatively unplumbed regions). No one could blame them if they put in a plug, like pointing out that they are open for both lunch and dinner, and that, although they are in the "expensive" category, most main courses run around $23 to $27 (although they go up to $53). The music is starting to play ... time to wrap things up, boys. Hold the trophy in the air, thank Miami New Times, and take your bows.
An Italian rice specialty made by stirring hot stock into rice, half a cup at a time, until all the liquid is absorbed. Carol, for $100....What is risottoçThat is correct. Okay, Alex. I'll stay with Holy Arborio for $200.He said, "People really know me in Coral Gables for my risotto. We make the best."Who is chef Willy Hernandez of Caramelo RestaurantçRight again. You know, this Dominican-born chef was heralded for his culinary skills at other Gables establishments such as Giacosa, Casa Rolandi and Café Vialetto before he started working at Caramelo. Sticking with Holy ArborioçYou bet.Goat cheese, shredded apple, and salmon carpaccio.What makes up one of Caramelo's most popular risotto specials du jourçGee, Carol, you really know your risotti! Last selection in this category: Earthy porcini mushrooms, meltingly rich foie gras, a salty peck of Parmigiano-Reggiano. For $500....What is the one heavenly risotto that is always on the menu at CarameloçCould you be more specificçWhat costs $32 and is the single most delicious risotto prepared in MiamiçCorrect! Time is up, and Caramelo — er, I mean Carol is on top. We'll be right back....

Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant

Luna Cafe

Inevitabilities of life include war, death, taxes, and the opening of fun, affordable, family-friendly Italian restaurants by the Belante clan. Luna Café is the latest venue from the family responsible for Bella Luna, Trattoria Rosalia, and Carpaccio, among others. Why do they keep starting up dining establishments? Because they're so damned good at it! Luna Café's atmosphere is comfortable; the service more professional than at much more expensive places; the menu's soups, salads, pizzas, pastas, antipasti, carpaccio, risotti, fish, chicken, and meats universally appealing. The Northern Italian fare, including standouts such as pasta e fagioli, lasagna, and a blistering wood-oven roasted chicken, are terrifically tasty, prodigiously portioned, and miraculously priced — pastas top out at $14, entrées at $22. Wait a minute — we have to make an update. Luna Café is not the latest Billante venture. Vivi Ristorante just debuted at First Street and Ocean Drive. Guess a South Beach branch was inevitable.
You feel like jumping off the roof of your downtown office. No, you feel like jumping off the roof wearing a vest made of spikes, so you can take out as many people on impact as possible. The thought occurs to you only in passing. You doodle a basic outline of the spike vest on a blank memo sheet, ball it up and throw it away. Spiking people to death is wrong. Another thought soon pops into your head: pear milk shake. So delicate and syrupy sweet. Once you put that sweet creamy potion to your lips, you'll be in love with the world again. So you duck out of the office. You dash up NE Second Avenue as fast as your legs will carry you. You burst into this odd, out-of-the-way little joint you've passed a million times, hand over a couple of bucks ($2.50, actually), and ascend to a wonderful, peary cloud of sweetness. Ahhhh....
In France, a bistro is a homey (and often family-run) everyday eating/drinking place, serving down-to-earth fare at prices that match. Unfortunately le bistrot has lost a lot more in translation than the final "t." Today's American bistros can be almost anything, including pretentious and pricey. At the three Valderrama sisters' friendly neighborhood place, however, the "bistro" part of the name is as genuine as Mama Lila (their Peruvian grandmother, and inspiration). In the kitchen, head chef Elisa and sous chef Lili turn out honest, eclectic fare that's basically contemporary American, with influences from the Mediterranean, Asia, and Mama L. Standout dishes include jalapeño, chicken, and cheddar soup ($3.95/5.95); and Lila's chicken salad, a succulent, nut-crusted chicken breast sliced on a mix of greens, grapes, and muenster cheese, with a tangy-sweet onion dressing ($9.95). In all dishes, everything is house-made, from the imaginative salad dressings to the luscious mayo on the sandwiches. And you get a lot of food for little money. Out front, sister Rosa's welcome makes everyone feel like regulars, and something from the small but thoughtfully selected and well-priced wine list induces a similar warm glow. French it's not, but a real bistro it is.
This charming roadside stand has fresh fruit and gourmet snacks, but its most faithful customers — kids and parents from Pinecrest Elementary next door, tourists on their way to Fairchild Tropical Garden, commuters from Old Cutler Road — come for the smoothies and shakes. For less than $4 they refresh themselves with icy concoctions in flavors like key lime pie, mango coconut banana, or banana honey. They sit at the plastic tables outside, relaxing in the shade and watching the cars go by. For a brief moment, heat and hassle are eliminated by merely sucking on a straw.
New Yorkers of all descriptions have been coming to Miami for decades to flee their bitter winters, so why wouldn't big-time Big Apple chef/restaurateurs do it too too? One of the latest such snowbirds is Christian Delouvrier, who has reprised the upscale bistro formula of the original Large Pippin Goulue, in Manhattan, at this outpost at the tony Bal Harbour Shops. While the new location's menu is more limited than that of the original, what Delouvrier does here, he does very well indeed. Of course there's not much a restaurant needs do to oysters on the half-shell, except serve the freshest sweet-briny bivalves possible. Which Goulue does. It also does an elegant foie gras and properly lusty variation on salad Lyonnaise as well as dead-on steak-frites. None of this comes cheap — witness $21 foie and a $32 half-order of risotto — but it's still reason to send our thanks to Old Man Winter.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®