In Part 1 of our "Deal or No Deal?" series, we explained how Miami Spice can represent a good deal at some places, but not so good at others. The question we ask of each eatery: Should a $50-plus dinner, in this specific restaurant, be considered a bargain?
First, let's discuss the $50 figure: Nobody makes it out of these deals spending less. That's $35 Spice price plus tax and tip (whIch brings us to at least $45), and we add another $5 to cover either beverage (like, say, bottled water) or parking (even metered parking costs at least $4).
Second, regardless of what shameless PR flacks and restaurant owners would have you believe, the average working-class person considers $50 to be a lot of money to spend on dinner. So I don't accept the idea that only chicken or churrasco can be served, and that days need to be limited. I don't accept the notion that $50 should only get you a no-frills dining experience. That's bullshit.
With that in mind, today we look at Spice menus from those eateries oriented toward the Orient: Asia de Cuba, Bond St., Hakkasan, Kung Fu Sushi, Philippe, Mr. Chow, and Sushi Samba.
Deals? No deals?...
Bond St. Lounge
The offerings aren't wildly exciting -- choice of miso soup, house salad, or fluke ceviche for starters; spicy crispy shrimp, beef teriyaki skewers, goat cheese crab cakes, salmon skewers, or kanpachi jalapeño for second course; ice creams, green tea crème brûlée, or banana crêpe for dessert. But a platter of edamame is placed on the table as an opening gesture, and there is a third course of sushi/ngiri -- prior to dessert.
Diners are offered a pair each of chicken and vegetable dumplings for the first course, choice of hot-and-sour soup or sweet corn soup for the second course. Next comes either crisp sea bass, silver cod in XO-Marmite sauce, sweet-and-sour pork, Szechuan shredded rib eye beef, or a stir-fry of scallops and pumpkin in black bean sauce. Choice of hand-pulled noodle with wild mushroom or salted-fish-and-chive-fried rice is the starch, followed by jasmine-scented fruit soup with lemon verbena sorbet. A separate all-vegetarian menu is also offered; dim sum serves as the lunch Spice menu. Not offered Friday and Saturday nights, but still -- this menu defines the generosity of spirit that Miami Spice is supposed to be about.
Asia de Cuba
Family-style portions means a party of two gets to choose two appetizers, one entrée, and one side. Good selection of starters, but entrées are based upon salmon, chicken, pot roast, and tofu. The pastry chef selects your dessert. Not available Friday and Saturday nights. Split a salmon entrée for $100? No, thanks.
Kung Fu Kitchen and Sushi
The appetizer is choice of salmon tartare, a Kung Fu crab stick roll, or seaweed salad. Entrée choices: General Tsao chicken, pepper steak, or pad thai. Ice cream or molten lava cake is dessert. The only plus is that it's offered every night. Still, I hear the birds outside my window going "cheap, cheap."
It's served family-style, with each diner allowed to choose one dish from each course. The first course offers either water dumplings, squab with lettuce, chicken satay, or Mr. Chow noodles. Next is choice of steamed sea bass, ma mignon, velvet chicken, or green prawns, all served with rice and vegetable. Dessert is sorbet or ice cream. Not available Friday or Saturday. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz..........
Seems as though the Chows really aren't very different: Guests start with choice of lettuce wraps of chicken, beef, or vegetable; vegetable spring roll; salad; or chicken or beef satay. Main course selections are velvet chicken, Chilean sea bass, Beijing chicken, or crispy beef. Dessert is vodka-flavored sorbet or ice cream. Not available Thursday or Friday. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz..........
Diners choose a small-plate starter of either a yellowtail sushi roll, sautéed shrimp, or salmon tiradito. Large plates are either pork belly, churrasco, or charred squid. Pork belly and squid are nice appetizers but make for chintzy main courses. Desserts seem promising: sesame cake with chocolate passion fruit ganache; orange flan with cocoa crumbles; apricot shortbread with vanilla ice cream. These items aren't offered on the regular menu, but similar items don't add up to much more than $35. Not available Friday or Saturday.