Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nava's Grill - Hollywood, FL

Located at the mouth of the main entrance of the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood Florida is a little middle eastern/Israeli diner nestled next to an "arcade" and porn outlet. We walked in as a large group walked out, patting their bellies and grinning. Simultaneously carrying on a heated conversation in Hebrew with a co-worker, wishing the large, happy group a farewell and welcoming us was the owner, a fiery Israeli woman who exuded all the warmth and strength of an army of mothers. Attentive and friendly, the service was outstanding.
The owner is a bit over the top. She tells us she never forgets the face, and sometimes "that's not so good". She asks if we are Jewish. She knows that I am (you can tell just by looking at me, I guess.) and answers for me. She tells us about how her food is all kosher but the rabbis are mad at her because she's open on Saturdays.

The decor is sparse and chintzy. It has cheap looking tables, a waiter's station crammed in the corner and a wall with a half finished mural that's vaguely Middle Eastern or possibly Italian. The owner is all the atmosphere you need.

Prices are fair, most dishes are about $10. The food was made with care, served extremely hot and seasoned perfectly.

As good as the food is, the menu leans towards the strange for a middle eastern grill. The owner tries to please too many kinds of patrons perhaps, by adding mysterious entries such as yucca fries and plantains. Maybe they are done well, but I wouldn't go to Nava Grill for Latin food.

Immediately after we ordered, we were given 3 kinds of luncheon salad: an egg based potato salad, a purple cabbage slaw and a sour white cabbage slaw. All three were unique and really quite good. Everything was crisp and fresh.

I ordered the hummus and falafel app which was served with two hot fresh grilled pita breads. The pita bread was INCREDIBLE. It was soft, moist and sturdy.

I also tried the kafta kabob pita sandwich, which is ground seasoned lamb. It was mouthwatering. Literally. I drooled a little when I tasted it.

I will definitely go back to try some of the Israeli food on the menu: bourekas, malawach, (breads/pastries) shaksuka, (a tomato based baked egg dish), cholent ( a long simmered strew prepared to get through the sabbath) and some other things I've never heard of.

As ancestrally Jewish, it's probably a shame I never really bothered until now to get to know Israeli foods. I visited Israel once when I was 4 years old but only learned to love hummus during that visit. I think it's about time I got to know it and Nava's Grill seems like a great place to start.

Only because I didn't get to try much and I STILL think Kease's by the beach has the best falafel:

**** (4) Heey, that's pretty good!

Nava's Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi Bar (Wilton Manors, FL)

"Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.... and such small portions"
- Woody Allen, Annie Hall

I am always wary whenever I see a "sushi and thai" place. China and Thailand are distinctive countries with different cuisines and if you aren't good enough at one to make a go at a restaurant, adding the other never seems to help. Galanga is no exception.

To be fair, I did not try the sushi. And after this experience, I never, ever will.

At the moment, I am on a serious and focused hunt for both a new good high-end sushi joint and a good Thai place in eastern/central Broward area. I read many good reviews of Galanga and was excited to finally try it. We came early, about a half an hour into diner service. The restaurant was completely empty. The place was nicely decorated, but it couldn't quite hide that it was a reclaimed IHOP. It had exposed air piping in it's steeple shaped ceiling, a look that worked. Unfortunately, the piping and vents were dirty and in need of a thorough dusting.

Appetizer - Money Bags

We ordered for an app the Money Bags ($6). The menu states: chicken, crabmeat, corn, sweet potato in a golden bag (crispy rice paper) and peach chutney. My dining partner recalls these little dumplings from his childhood on Staten Island. Arriving at our table were 5 gumball sized slightly over fried wantons stuffed with sweet potato and a small shred of chicken next to a small cup of sweet rice wine vinegar with a few scant cubes of floating red onion and cucumber. They were tasty, but small and not as advertised. There was no peach chutney anywhere to be found, and I'm only 25% sure I encountered one kernel of corn. They were very much like the ones in Staten Island, however. And while they weren't exactly as advertised and a tiny portion, they were tasty.

Main Course - Pad Thai & Delightful Duck

I ordered the Pad Thai ($14) and my dining partner had the "Delightful Duck"($23). His was a crispy, lightly southern fried 1/4 duck next to a molded cup of white rice, green beans, sloppily chopped zucchini and carrot sitting in a shallow, watery pool of orangish brown tamarind sauce. It was okay.

My Pad Thai was drowning in watery peanut oil, thickened slightly with a pinch of cornstarch. The noodles were tiny shreds of broken rice noodles. The peanut shavings gave it a muddy and gravely consistency. It contained 2 shrimp(!) and an entire poorly fabricated dried chicken breast.

The portion was huge. I got about half way through and started feeling notsogood. I figured it was all of the oil, so I asked the waiter to wrap it up for me and I'd take it home, drain the oil and try to eat some more. After all, I spent $14 on it. I guess I didn't say it loud enough because the waiter threw it away. When I asked him about it he seemed really surprised and sorry, but didn't offer anything to remedy the situation. I was really pissed off about having $7 worth of Pad Thai tossed away but I guess he did me a favor because about 25 minutes after the meal, I found myself doubled over in stomach pain. He would have done me more of a favor by never having served me in the first place.

Quick Summary

Ambiance: Modernly decorated, dirty ceilings, suspicious that it was a former IHOP. The music was cheesy, mindless, mid-90s and modern vocorder driven techno club pop.

The service: It was hard to get their attention sometimes, even when we were the only customers in the place. The waiter threw away my left overs, half my plate.

The price: Pretty darn high, App was a rip off.

The food: Not as advertised and I'm darn near certain it made me ill.

I really regret having to give a local business such a poor review but:

* (1) Never, ever again!

Galanga Thai Kitchen & Sushi on Urbanspoon