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Adventures in Asian dining

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

To hear their names, you wouldn't know that GoBistro, Temple Street Eatery and Chow were Asian restaurants. Their menus certainly don't fall into the classic Chinese/Thai/sushi format so popular across South Florida.

Instead, these newcomers to Broward County specialize in Asian food for a new generation. It's not quite Asian street food, although that idea pops up on at least one menu. Fluorescent pink sweet-and-sour sauce is nowhere to be found. Soup appears on all three menus, but it only soars at GoBistro.

The results are uniquely American riffs on Asian flavors.

Ready, set …

GoBistro ★★★½

2035 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 754-263-2826, EatGoBistro.com

GoBistro serves lots of sushi, but if you ask me, the best things on the menu are Gangnam chicken wings ($10) and Japanese noodle soup ($11-$12). Those crisp, spicy wings are by all rights Korean, but the trio behind GoBistro trace their roots to China (Andrew Gong), Brazil (Joao DaSilva) and Thailand (Niti Masintapan).

Masintapan prepares the wings, which are flavorful from the spicy crunchy skin to the moist and intensely seasoned meat near the bone. These may be the best Asian chicken wings I've ever been served.

Sushi is a marvel here, with the rice in rolls used sparingly instead of as a filler. Yakitori ($3-$4) can be had in all its permutations, including chicken, beef tenderloin, teriyaki-marinated strips, and prawn. They're a nice match for any of the 15 varieties of sake. Ahi poke ($12) is excellent, but it needs a cracker for serving.

If you're looking for well-prepared Japanese noodle soup, GoBistro is your go-to restaurant. Gong traveled to Japan to learn the fine points of broth and noodles. While they're right now buying frozen noodles, they hope to one day invest in the $10,000 machine that makes fresh noodles. The broth, however, needs no work. Diners choose between tonkotsu or pork broth, miso, shoyu light soy-based broth or a curry broth reminiscent of Malaysian cuisine.

GoBistro has just 50 seats, with a shallow bar along one wall that they hope to expand. The walls are covered with wallpaper murals of the Tokyo skyline. While service can be hasty, the wait staff and the cooks you see in the open kitchen display an earnestness and pride that makes this my favorite of the three restaurants.

Masintapan prefers not to use the word "authentic" when talking about his menu. Instead, GoBistro respects tradition, he says. "If we like it, we serve it. We don't just serve it because it will sell."

Cuisine: Asian

Cost: Inexpensive-moderate

Hours: Noon-2 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday

Reservations: Not accepted

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Beer, wine, sake

Sound level: Noisy when full

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, boosters, kid-friendly menu items

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Meters and lots

 

A new avenue for Asian street food

Temple Street Eatery ★★★

416 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, 754-701-0976, TempleStreetEatery.com

Temple Street Eatery gets its name from the famous Hong Kong street that houses a popular night market.

The restaurant is mostly Chinese with incredible house-made dumplings ($6.50-$7.50), eight pieces served with a choice of sauce, traditional soy-based or dandan sesame sauce. Order the Buddha mix, and you get to sample chicken, shrimp, pork and vegetable-filled versions.

Co-owner Alex Kuk was born in Florida to parents originally from Hong Kong. His partners at Temple Street are chef Diego Ng, who was born in Venezuela to Chinese parents, and Kuk's aunt and uncle, Christina and Jason Huynh, owners of Christina Wan's Mandarin House, just down the street.

Kuk grew up working at Christina Wan's, but has also worked at Houston's, Sushi Maki and RA Sushi. Ng cheffed at Morimoto in Boca Raton as well as at RA Sushi and Catch in Miami Beach. Their hospitality experience imbues Temple Street with an elevated sense of professionalism, even though you order at a counter and wait for food to be delivered. The staff not only knows the menu, but checks in during the meal. Tables in the clangy 40-seat room are promptly cleared.

"We were looking to bring Asian street food, Asian comfort food to South Florida," Kuk says. "We wanted to create a true Asian restaurant with flavors of China, Japan and Korea. We wanted to create a different kind of Asian restaurant that was warm, welcoming, friendly and not overpriced."

Wonton tacos ($8) are outstanding, with crispy shells filled with poached shrimp, guacamole, lettuce, pineapple salsa and a cream sauce made with the Korean chili-based condiment known as gochujang. Vegetarians love the falafel made from edamame ($5), served with curry aioli, but I found them to be underseasoned. Crispy shrimp ($11), tempura-fried and served with calamansi aioli, tasted like something from an old-fashioned Cantonese restaurant.

The bulgogi rice bowl ($12) has become the favorite of the three rice bowls. I had bulgogi cheese steak sandwich ($10) with tender sliced beef, sautéed carrots, onions, scallions and provolone cheese. Like so much here, the bulgogi seems to be designed for the American palate. Soup with either ramen or soba noodles ($10-$12) can be had with miso or shoyu broth.

Cuisine: Asian

Cost: Inexpensive-moderate

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Reservations: Not accepted

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Beer and wine and sake

Sound level: Noisy when full

Outside smoking: No

For kids: Highchairs, menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot

 

Cold fusion

Chow ★★½

208 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-523-1213, Facebook.com/EatAtChow

Chow has the unfortunate problem of being located in the middle of downtown Fort Lauderdale's unofficial party district, where drinking sometimes takes precedence over eating.

It's owned by the same pair — John Todora and Ian Rose of Creative Kitchen — who created Whiskey Tango and Bull Market, and they've brought a good bit of their boozy hospitality to the new venture. Both men have traveled throughout Asia, but Chow takes great liberties by fusing the flavors of American and Asian food.

Consider the Pittsburgh roll ($12) from the Not So Sushi section of the menu. Thinly sliced steak, french fries and crispy onions are wrapped in rice and garnished with a squirt of Heinz 57 Sauce. A Philly cheese steak roll ($12) is topped, appropriately, with Cheez Whiz. A Hawaiian roll ($12) is filled with pork, pineapple, cilantro, avocado and house barbecue sauce.

Sticks of grilled meat, tofu and vegetables are the only other barbecue items. Filet mignon ($10) and Pacific rim chicken ($10) were bland. They came to the table cold, but guests also receive a mini hibachi grill on which to heat them up. The dipping sauces didn't contribute much of anything to a menu section that needs to be reconsidered or reimagined with better marinades.

Chow's fusion arrives in such dishes as Asian spaghetti and meatballs ($13.50), with pork meatballs, lo mein noodles and spicy Szechuan sauce; and Mongolian beef stroganoff ($15.50), with rice noodles and skirt steak. Thai cashew fajita ($14), sesame-tofu fajita ($12) and Korean bulgogi fajita ($16) are served on sizzling fajita platters with steamed buns on the side. Great idea.

Korean fried chicken ($8 for three drumsticks) was neither crunchy enough nor spicy enough, but the watermelon and jicama salsa was a refreshing foil. Thai Brussels sprouts ($8) are flash-fried and then mixed with spicy peanut sauce and cilantro. I wish the sprouts were a little more crispy.

Cuisine: Asian

Cost: Inexpensive-moderate

Hours: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday

Reservations: All major

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Noisy

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, boosters, menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Meters and garages

jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

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