Makoto

9700 Collins Ave. Bal Harbour, FL 33154 • (305) 864-8600 makoto-restaurant.com

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It’s rare for mall food to surprise and delight, but then again, it’s pretty rare for a mall to have the flagship restaurant of Morimoto’s former sous chef. Also, to be fair, we aren’t exactly talking about your Gap, Banana and J. Crew kind of mall. It’s more like Bottega Veneta, Moncler and Chanel. Which makes for some nice opulent people-watching.

But don’t get scared off by the price tag just yet, because Makoto is probably the most affordable thing in the place. And while the cost of the food is reasonable, the restaurant itself is priceless. Easily among the top three Japanese meals I’ve ever had.

Here’s why. Every single dish was presented and tasted like a work of art. The kobe carpaccio with jicama melted in your mouth. The ceviche with watermelon ice and wasabi peas was the most inventive ceviche I’ve ever laid lips on. Even the Japanzanella salad was the most interesting panzanella salad I’ve ever had, made with flash fried cubes of rice as the croutons.

And while it’s hard to say any one dish was my favorite, because everything was so tremendous, the short rib noodles were my favorite. Served with a healthy dose of raw red cabbage on top to give it crunch, the contrast of flavors and textures with the buttery soft meat and noodles was simply a stroke of genius. And speaking of strokes, if I keep eating this way I’m probably going to have one, so stay tuned for a few healthy reviews in the near future.

As for now, however, let’s talk about volcano cakes. Not necessarily an ultimate per se, but a damn fine showing. Filled with a layer of crème anglaise, because why not? And placed next to a dome of vanilla ice cream topped with wafer cookies sprinkles because regular sprinkles are obviously for philistines.

5 teeth

i Trulli

122 E 27th St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 481-7372itrulli.com

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I have no idea how many Italian restaurants there are in New York City, but by my count there are about 500 too many. Too many places coasting by on the New York Italian reputation. Getting by with pasta and sauce on a plate and calling it authentic because they serve it up with an Italian accent. But last I checked, speaking Italian and cooking Italian are not the same thing.

And it’s places like these- places like I Trulli that really piss me off. I mean why does this restaurant continue to survive while a MUCH better spot like Ciano (RIP), closes down just a few blocks away? It’s criminal! And it’s our fault. All of us. For giving them business. For perpetuating the lie and buying into the expectations of what we think we are about to eat as opposed to the actual food we are chewing in our mouths.

Just start by ordering their mini calzones and you’ll see what I mean. In a blind taste test I guarantee you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from the frozen supermarket variety.

The fawned over short rib on Yelp also fell short. And I can only explain the hype by referencing another critter with four legs, sheep. People who hear short rib and then assume that it automatically must be incredible. Well it’s not. It’s overcooked and underwhelming. The caprese salad, while not bad, was not exactly memorable either. And the octopus was so blah I nearly forgot to mention it (went back and just added it).

Even the best dish of the night, the duck ragu was nothing even close to the epic swooning that you’ll read online. It’s certainly good, but the only reason it stands out is because everything else is so mediocre around it.

The surprise of the night (primarily because of lowered expectations) was actually the lasagna of all things. Good sauce. Good balance. Nice contrast of textures with the ever-so slight char on top, the way mama used to make. Well, not my mama, but if I had an Italian mother, this is the way I’d imagine she’d make it.

And of the various desserts we tried, the highly recommend beignets were highly unworthy. Instead, go for the apple crumble. Not very Italian, but it was easily the best thing on the dessert menu.

So now you know what to get if you go. But please, please, please don’t go. I don’t care if it’s too hard to get into the truly great Italian spots. That’s because they’re worth it. Pick another genre of cuisine and try back another night. But let’s bring some Darwinism up in this bitch and truly weed out the weak ones. Sure accessibility and affordability are nice things to have… in Wichita. In New York we live and eat by a higher standard. But if we continue to compromise, we will turn this city into a giant outdoor mall filled with Starbucks and Gap on every corner… Oh no! It’s already starting to happen!!!

2 teeth