Casabe 305 Bistro: High-Priced Health Food on Coral Way

Tucked inside what appears to be a small home along Coral Way near 17th Avenue, Casabe 305 Bistro looks like somebody ripped a cottage out of Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, gave it a three week juice cleanse in San Francisco then dropped it off in Miami with a Latin menu in tow.

The focus here is natural health food with a Latin twist. Ingredients found in Asian cuisine - tamarind, miso, hijiki seaweed and enoki mushrooms - are scattered throughout a well-balanced menu. The only part about that may leaving you confused are the high prices: $15 for tilapia, brown rice and vegetables. Nearly $20 for four shrimp on a bed of couscous. $34 for a New York strip steak. All of it may make you again question how practical it is to have a world where everyone eats local, organic, 'real' food.

The original Casabe Bistro was in Choroni, Venezuela, a coastal town where he still has a home. The Coral Way restaurant opened in March. Texera acknowledges the high price. The Friday lunch rush appears to be a well-heeled business crowd.

"I'm not an investor, I'm a health food chef," Texera says. "I can make more or less money as long as I'm doing what I like I'm happy."

He declines to name who his produce suppliers are here in South Florida, only that they're in Homestead, as well as Weston in Broward County. Proteins come from Strauss Farms in Franklin, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, cookbooks like "Vegans Know How To Party" sit on the shelves helping to enhance Casabe's health-conscious credentials.

Nonetheless the food here is good. A tilapia filet comes well seasoned and properly cooked. It is flakier than the store bought, farmed tilapia's to which we've become accustomed. It doesn't release water like a saturated sponge when you chew it.

A squat disk of couscous isn't mushy. Those four shrimps, not the largest you'll see for $20, are coated in a flavorful peanut sauce that actually tastes more like peanuts and less like soy sauce and MSG.

Casabe is a well thought out restaurant delivering good food. However it and other restaurants that offer 'local' 'natural' ingredients, at a premium price, seem to draw a line in the sand that separates a world of seasonal goodness from one being crushed under high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.

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