A Day In Miami

18Mar09

Miami Part 1: Day

Having recently returning back to Burlington from a lovely spring break vacation in retirement-laden Southern Florida, I feel obligated to write about one of the most pleasant food endeavors of recent memory. I traveled with my girlfriend to Florida, spending 5 days on Hallandale beach – relaxing, sleeping, reading, swimming, and getting some much needed sun. Prior to embarking on our sun-soaked escape, I contacted my friend Jake from high school, a senior at the University of Miami, to see if we could get together one day. We ended up driving down to Miami, and despite the horrible traffic, we made it there with most of the day to spare. Being the prototypical tourists we were, wanting to get a feel for the more generic, trendy, and lavish Miami scene, we decided to spend our day on South Beach. Walking to the beach from our far away parking space, the three of us spotted a tiny Israeli café on one of the side streets we were gliding through. My girlfriend, having recently traveled to Israel in January deiced that she was in dire need of some Shwarma. Shwarma is a staple middle-eastern fast food dish. A sandwich like pita wrap filled with various meats (beef, pork, lamb, goat, or chicken), topped with zesty tahini sauce, and freshly cut lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Having not eaten since the early morning I was certainly game for some Shwarma, and what seemed better than this hidden Israeli mini-restaurant. Walking in this place was a treat. We were the only non-Hebrew speaking patrons, though no glares were give as we were promptly seated. The whole process was quite fast, “Three Shwarmas, and three Maccabees, please”. Maccabee is one of Israel’s few domestic beers, which I had never had – but Hey, when in Rome…or should I say when in little Italy.

Our meals arrived in what seemed like 2 minutes, fresh, steamy, and deliciously pungent. We had not specified what kind of meat we wanted, and to my pleasure we were served chicken Shwarma. Its not so often that I eat Shwarma, but it was truly delectable. Perfectly curry-seasoned chicken bits tossed with fresh vegetables, tahini sauce, and side of freshly cut French fries put a smile on my face. We washed our pitas down with the beers, paid the check, and were off to the beach. Unfortunately I forgot, and foolishly did not write down the name of this gem of a café. But it will definitely be in my memory of “good eats,” and hopefully I will some day find my way back.

South beach is truly a spectacle. It seemed like there was a Porsche, followed by a Ferrari, and a Bentley two cars back on every single block. Well dressed, tall, beautiful people roamed the streets, each with some apparent purpose to make their boyfriends jealous or catch the eye of some sort of surely sleazy talent scout. I felt like I was in Los Angeles. The beach scene was typical. More beautiful people, lots of drinking, amazing sun, clear skies, and blue ocean. We stayed for what seemed like hours, soaking in the sun and taking the occasional dip. We left once the sun had vacated, and a homeless man started peeing on the nearby sand. As we were battling the horrific traffic trying to get back to Jake’s house, he decided to make a reservation at his favorite sushi restaurant for later in the evening – Matsuri. Sounded great to me.

Miami Part 2: Night, Matsuri

Matsuri 5759 Bird Rd Miami, FL 33155
(305) 663-1615

We finally arrived back at Jake’s house eager to shower, collect ourselves, and drink some more beers. What the hell am I doing in Vermont. His back porch is the paradise I so often dream was my everyday reality. A heavily, and diversely wooded yard with exotic looking trees and bushes is what he looks out to everyday. Meanwhile, I look out my window and see hard, icy snow banks and grey sky’s. Godamnit. Enjoying the crisp Miami night on his porch we realized it was 7:30, time for some sushi. Jake was relentless in his praise of this place, though I was naturally skeptical. We arrived half-drunk, underdressed, famished, and tired from the long sunny day – the maitre’de seemed less than impressed. Nonetheless, we had a reservation, and the 45 minutes wait did not apply to our clever asses, thanks Jake. Matsuri seemed like a typical, popular, and highly regarded sushi restaurant. The long and narrow dinning room was very crowded. The walls there plastered with photo-mat quality bamboo forests, a pleasant and refreshing touch. We were seated on an end table, closets to the sushi bar. I am continually fascinated with sushi bars. They appear so simple, though the food produced is so carefully crafted and unpretentious, yet visually stunning. Furthermore, sushi chefs are right there in front of your face. They can’t afford a high pressured freak-out, or bad day drama to get in their way. They need to constantly remain calm, composed, and on point – ready to pump out countless tasty fish filled rice concoctions.

Jake ordered a plethora of appetizers and one unagi roll (eel), while my girlfriend and I were going to play it simple – the Matsuri Combination A, two salads, two miso soups, and lastly two pieces of octopus sushi. The Matsuri Combo came with 12 pieces of assorted (chef’s choice) sashimi, 6 pieces of assorted sushi, and a tuna roll. Still maintaining our day long buzz, and sitting on a rather thin wallet, we neglected to order any sake. Sushi without sake?! Some might ponder the atrocity, but try being a student on vacation then come talk to me. Despite the rather unpleasant demeanor of our server, our food arrived quite fast, good luck today I suppose. The combo platted looked phenomenal. We were dying to start inhaling the fabulous looking rectangles of fresh, raw, and aesthetically stimulating fish. Though, prior to our feast, Jake insisted on us trying a piece of one of his apps, Beef Sashimi Carpaccio. This dish was similar to a typical Carpaccio, though with a revitalizing Japanese twist. Raw (sashimi style), paper thinly sliced beef, topped with a rich yet subtle teriyaki glaze. Very, very good. But enough play, now onto the sashimi.

The chef’s choice for our Matsuri combo sushi portion was two pieces of Toro sushi (raw fatty tuna), two paces of Maguro sushi, (raw lean tuna), and two Ebi sushi (cooked shrimp). The sashimi included two Toro, two Maguro, two Hamachi (yellowtail), and two Hirame (halibut). Eating our sashimi was an invigorating, orgasmic, almost out-of-body experience. I’m not sure whether the day had truly taken toll on our stomachs and minds, or this was in fact the best, freshest, most scrumptious fish we had ever tasted. I tried to savor each bite, though eating every beautiful chunk of raw fish was better than the last. I could absolutely not slow down, my belly wanted more. With some miraculous form of self-restraint, we managed to saved the best for last – two pieces of both Toro and Maguro sashimi. The deep maroon blood-like color of the maguro is a beautiful specimen of Japanese cuisine. It just looks and tastes so damn good. Rich, but somehow light, refreshing, and full of flavor. The tuna seems to simply dissolve in your mouth. We had one of each (how democratic), and the main course had unfortunately come to a close. Followed with some green-tea ice cream the and a little ginger to clean the palate, we left Matsuri feeling blessed to have just fooled the seas gods into letting us pilfer some of their most prized specimens. After much debate, my girlfriend and I came to the conclusion that what we had just partaken in was the consumption of the best sushi of our entire lives. Now, I say confidently, that we both have a fair amount, and even a reputable amount of sushi experience. I don’t know whether it was just the day we had, that particular night (it was in fact a full moon), or whether Matsuri is actually that good, but I say with firmly that Matsuri served the best sushi I have ever eaten. Truly excellent. If you are ever in Coral Gables be sure to check it out. My only concern is that I now fear my next sashimi endeavor will simply not live up to what we ate at Matsuri. Time will only tell.

I apologize for not providing any pictures for this review. I was not intending on writing about Matsuri, though it was so good I just had to.

Matsuri Rating: 5-phones

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