My Broward/Palm Beach Restaurant Wish List

Key on the wish list: Artisanal foods like the pizza at Pizzeria Oceano.
Key on the wish list: Artisanal foods like the pizza at Pizzeria Oceano.

After Tuesday, I'll no longer be the Restaurant Critic here at New Times. But you can bet I'll still be eating out at plenty of restaurants around South Florida.

Just like any other consumer, I get excited by the prospect of new restaurants and where the scene here might be headed. Sometimes, that direction gets me down. But at other times, I see glimmers of hope that make me look forward to what else these two counties might offer in the future.

So, before I go, a parting wish list of what I'd like to see more of in the restaurant scene.


More Ethnic Restaurants with Unique Menus

The

great thing about where we live is our tastes are so broad and

varied because the people who live here are so broad and varied. There

are some great ethnic restaurants around South Florida, and I love

seeing new Indian, Thai, and Japanese restaurants pop up. But the last

thing this place needs is another restaurant serving the

same green curry or tuna tataki you can get anywhere else.

The best places are the ones with unique menus that offer a more

nuanced taste of their homelands. Poll Florida's foodies, and you'll

find their favorite Mexican places are joints like Taqueria Dona Raquel and Tacos al Carbon; when they eat Chinese, they're heading to Silver Pond or Toa Toa.

These places don't just serve the same old identical menus as every

other ethnic restaurant -- they incorporate unusual flavors and

authentic tastes, giving us a portal into their culture.

Less Reliance on Big Name Chefs

I can't count how many times I've

seen a big name chef brought into a restaurant, only to drop off after

a month or two (paging Holy Smoke's). Or they lend their name to a place, and have very

little to do with the actual day-to-day work. Luckily, I think most consumers are

getting wise to these stunts and are looking past them now.

Keep it Small

My

favorite restaurants to eat at are places that feel intimate and

special, not food factories where dishes are churned out with abandon.

So many restaurants shoot towards big volume and expansion before they

even make their first sale. Thinking big is OK, but, for me, thinking small is

better. I love restaurants like Bamboo Fire and Le Patio,

where the

owners are living out their American Dream in a modest way. You can

feel the effort put into the food and experience, which in turn makes a

meal there feel that much more special. There are personalities behind

each restaurant, and sometimes they can be pretty interesting.

More Emphasis on Ingredients
It's sad that so many

restaurants have pantries that look like a Cheney Brothers catalog. But

every day there are more and more out there showcasing local

ingredients, fresh Florida seafood, and made-from-scratch flavors.

There are so many great local purveyors of produce and meat now, and

more restaurants are starting to showcase vegetables from vendors like

Loxahatchee's Swank Farms. Even when it's not local, the best food

comes from great ingredients -- ingredients that chefs and owners take

their time to source.

Slow Food That's Affordable
The artisan spirit behind

movements like Slow Food is blooming in South Florida, which is the

trend that needs to continue to grow the most. I'd love to see more

chefs take cues from places like Rack's, Sakaya Kitchen, and Pizzeria Oceano,

where everything that hits the tables is made fresh daily, with care

and attention to detail. Both restaurants change their menus often with

what's fresh and available; both hand craft things like their own

pickles and bread, and slow roast meats and source ingredients locally

with an eye towards showcasing natural flavors. These places keep food

simple, real, and made-from-scratch, and because they're not buying

expensive prepackaged goods, they're able to keep prices low too.


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