When I was looking for lunch in Hialeah, several of the city's best food writers pointed me in the direction of Molina's Ranch Restaurant, a neighborhood favorite that serves consistent, high-quality Cuban food. The menu is so large that a local abogado advertises in it.
So, where do you begin? I suggest the tostones rellenos de camarones ($12). There's a lot of talk about sustainable seafood. For a completely different fish in the sea of discussion, I like my seafood sustained in tostones. This irresistible dish features shrimp stuffed in little edible baskets of double-fried unripe plantains.
The restaurant, though fantastic, is definitely not the best place for a limited lunch break. After ordering and waiting for what seemed like an eternity, while everyone around me was eating the most delicious food, I changed my mind and said, "Para llevar." Getting fried food to go is never ideal, but I was in a hurry.
Out came a piping-hot Styrofoam container in a plastic bag. The contents were so hot and seductive that seconds later, I ate one shrimp-filled plantain in the parking lot and two more while driving.
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They were perfectly starchy and lightly sweet, but it was the fresh little shrimp inside the edible cup that stole the show. As you would eat an artichoke, I carefully pulled off pieces of the outer layer of fried plantain in anticipation of what the center held. The sweet and succulent little shrimp in a tomato, onion, and green pepper sauce were housed in a basket pressed with double-fried green plantains. Take that, underwater-basket-weaving class!
The real key to this dish is its form. It's the perfect handheld meal for driving while eating or passed as an appetizer at a party. The menu at Molina's is vast and requires time to peruse, but if you want a dish to start you off right or provide some fuel as you
multitask think of what to order next, begin with this appetizer.
Follow Carina on Twitter @CarinaOst