Makoto

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

11makoto002

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

The Ultimate Pulled Pork Sandwich

TU-0509 Pulled Pork Sandwich

The Dutch – New York, NY

I’m sure everyone South of the Mason-Dixon line will beg to differ on this one, but I’ve had my share of Southern and Texas-Style pulled pork sammies and none of them hold a candle to the one they make at The Dutch. First of all, because the pork isn’t the usual dry, shredded crap. It’s moist and the chunks of meat have substance to them, bringing their own juices to the party as opposed to just the sauce. But let’s not get hasty, the sauce is by all means the key to greatness and The Dutch sticks the landing mos def. A spicy BBQ sauce that slaps your mouth upside its head and says, “Pay attention!” And my mouth was riveted. Oh, and the red cabbage slaw the comes on top of it is the perfect creamy, mustardy counterweight. My tongue still has dreams about it.