Best Brazilian Restaurant 2002 | Restaurante do Porto | Food & Drink | South Florida
Just in case you were wondering, the "Porto" stands for Portuguese, as in one of the peoples who settled the Brazilian region oh-so-long ago. Oh, OK, they usurped it. But aside from its obvious (and somewhat dubious) gift of salt cod to the area, Portugal isn't ultimately represented in the cuisine at this authentically ethnic Brazilian eatery. Instead, the native influences and the imported African influences are more widely seen in dishes like moqueca, a fish stew, and picanha, a steak topped with a double bonus of two fried eggs. For dessert, crema catalana is given a tropical influence with passion fruit, but the real passion inspired here will be your own -- a desire to return for some traditional, well-prepared Brazilian fare that takes as much care with quality as a Brazilian teenager does picking out that perfect thong bikini. Now that's serious business.

Face it, herbivores: In these parts, going vegetarian means going ethnic -- usually Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, or Asian. And if the Red Thai Room isn't already at the top of your meatless-dining list, it should be. Heck, the place even writes "Lunch, Dinner & Vegan" on its takeout menus. Said menu also features a helping hand -- a little icon in the shape of a hand giving the "peace" sign -- to guide the fleshphobic to their very own tasty treats. One peace sign means no meat; two means vegan -- no animal products of any kind. And those who are used to finding veggie meals banished to the back of the bus will be happy to spot those little hands all over this menu: three of twelve appetizers, four of six rice/noodle dishes, and 13 of 19 specialties are meatless (all have a couple of vegan options). And the taste? The pat khi mao, with its spicy chili paste, julienned bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and mushrooms, is a great example of the subtle flavor and delicious heat these meat-free meals offer.
Yes, this joint tucked right next to a movie theater does offer beef, lamb, and chicken selections on the menu, but there is no shortage of vegetarian choices. The place is open until 10 p.m. every day of the week, which means a real dinner after a movie is no longer out of the question for vegetarians. Many of the vegetarian selections are actually vegan. Go for lunch and the server will immediately bring a pitcher of cold water and a basket of warm, fresh slices of pita bread with butter. (Why not hummus? Small quibble.) Follow that up with a bowl of hearty, nutty, red lentil soup, and it just gets better from there. There are no fewer than nine vegetarian entrées to choose from, including dolma (stuffed cored zucchini and green peppers), spanakopita (spinach pie), türlü (vegetable medley in red sauce), and eggplant sauté. All are less than $15. So why doesn't this place make it as veggie heaven? The small matter of the rice, which is made with chicken stock to give it added flavor. That'll scare off the vegans -- which leaves more of those tasty stuffed grape leaves for the rest of us.
OK, so Gary Woo is about as Chinese as tortillas. So the place is about as much like a bistro as a convention hall. When it comes down to the fare -- which is about as Hong Kong as, well, New York City's Chinatown -- it hardly matters. This is the stuff New Yorkers' dreams are made of: an endless bowl of crisp, fried noodles with duck sauce to start off the meal, along with a stiff drink from the bistro's fully stocked bar. Plus, just the appetizer list alone, featuring nearly two dozen dumplings, deep-fried seafood rolls, and pork ribs, is the equivalent of a good dim sum buffet on Spring Street. Add in beef chow fun with black bean sauce, eggplant and chicken served braised in a hot pot, royal lobster casserole with the mysterious XO sauce and chef's suggestions such as bean curd, shrimp, and crab meat sautéed in a tiny wok and you'll be hard-put to get the snowbirds to leave the snow peas behind.
While many Chinese takeout places appear to have been built from the remains of a Denny's or Taco Bell, Henry's is an institution. Since 1959, the place has been dishing out Chinese food, from Szechuan to Mandarin to Cantonese, from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 4 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday. All of it is pretty good stuff, though they do Szechuan best of all. Nice and spicy. The reasonable asking price, typically from $5 to $10, makes Henry's a viable option for all but the most low-end budgets. Ask them to make the Szechuan beef or pork really spicy if you're in the mood for the oral version of a nuclear meltdown. But having your stomach lining dissolve from extreme spice and then screaming in agony as the acids digest your body is a pretty nasty way to go. So perhaps you should just understand that, in this instance at least, the Chinese are bigger men than you and that, to many of them, a whole bowl of super-spicy Texas chili es nada. We've had a couple of centuries to perfect our recipes. They've had millennia. Come back when you are ready, grasshopper.
Intimacy is all about eliminating distractions -- forgetting the day at work, ignoring the mass of people around you, creating a funnel of focus. The senses must remain alive to the one you're with, but the surrounding static needs to be squelched. The restaurant in a chamber just off the raucous pub at King's Head is just such an oasis of dimly lighted calm. The dark wood walls are like a black hole that suck disharmony into their very grain. The waitresses at King's Head know how to take an order, deliver it, and let you dine in peace. No "How are we doing here?" every five minutes. If you've a conspiracy to concoct, a proposition to put forward, or a confession to divulge, slip right in.
You expect good food and good service when you go out to eat, but how often do you get entertained just by reading the menu? The Try My Thai minichain not only has the most interesting variety of Thai food in South Florida; it also has the best names for its dishes. They prepare the requisite pad thai, but the menu is chock full of dishes like Evil Jungle Princess (chicken or beef in a slightly spicy coconut curry sauce), Golden Arches (baby-back ribs designed to look like the McDonald's arches), the Biggest Mermaid (a seafood stew with clear noodles in a chile and lime sauce), Kiss Me Squid (named ironically for the garlic sauce), and Lost on the Reef (no one there remembers how the name came about). You can get either Macho Gator (the hottest dish in the restaurant, seven stars on a five-star scale, the staff claims) or Foster Care Alligator (developed when the restaurant first opened ten years ago without much money -- one of the early investors owned an alligator farm, and the Foster Gator dish was born). We love Three Amigos Tofu because there's nothing Mexican about the dish; it was named for the three different tastes in the sauce: sweet, sour, and wine. The delightful menu hints at another Try My Thai strong point: customer service. Last time we were at the Fort Lauderdale location, with a party of eight adults, our reserved table was in a room that was overwhelmed by two families of screaming kids. The waiter quickly changed our reservation to the quieter room so we could enjoy our food in peace.
This two-country restaurant has a double-sided menu big enough to hide behind. Three oversized laminated panels feature more than 200 dishes: Chinese on one side and Japanese on the flip. With plates almost as big as the pages that describe the dishes, you won't need more than fortune cookies to end the meal with. Seating options are tables, booths, and the sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs work. The five dozen sushi choices include dancing eel roll, crazy roll, spider roll, and birthday roll. You're warned twice about spicy food noted with red ink and stars; obvious choices like dynamite roll, spicy tuna roll, and red dragon will kick-start your palate. China-Tokyo will add flying fish eggs to any sushi roll for a buck. The list of Chinese offerings is long, but it's mostly standard fare: moo shu pork, broccoli with garlic sauce, kung pao beef, lemon chicken, happy family, fried rice, chow mein, and chop suey. That said, the food is fresh, well-seasoned, and served in large enough portions to guarantee a doggy bag for tomorrow's lunch. If you read the Chinese section all the way to the end, you'll find the one unusual section: lamb with broccoli, lamb with scallions, spicy lamb, and basil lamb. Most of the dishes are under ten bucks; you'll pay a little more for teriyaki and the sushi and sashimi combinations.
If what Thucydides writes is true, then the Greeks certainly do "cultivate the mind without loss of manliness." But men of Broward and Palm Beach, take heart: There's also no question, as proven by Taverna Milos, that the Greeks cultivate the stomach without loss of appetite -- manly or otherwise. Indeed, no shame exists in pointing to a fish, laid out on ice, rather than catching it yourself. No harm lies in requesting the kitchen sear it quickly with lemon and thyme rather than starting up the ol' grill back home. No embarrassment could possibly appear in eating the whole damn thing with undisguised gusto and then ordering a skewer of chicken served over rice pilaf or a lamb gyro to wash it down. We understand. After all, what's the mind without brain food?
Do a little dance, make a little tzatziki, get down tonight. That's the motto at this risqué Greek eatery, where the staff clambers onto tables to dance and the crowd, usually the worse for wear on ouzo, follows suit. Too bad the clientele isn't as talented as the hired help. While some of the waiters are a pleasure to watch serve up the moves, the patrons often provide more photo ops -- and subsequent bribery attempts -- than not. Still, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye to the snooze factor, a.k.a. bedtime.

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