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Sakaya's Serious Culinary Thrills; Gibraltar's Seafood, Setting Rocks, Service Rocky

Lee Klein thinks Sakaya Kitchen "exemplifies all that is worthy" in the trend of "new generation of ethnic counter-service eateries." The "concise menu" features "casual Asian/Southeast Asian fare," and everything is made from scratch, including the curing of meats, pickling of vegetables, and preparation of ssams, ssamjangs, and such. As with many of today's "new" fast foods, the cooking process tends to be really slow." Pork buns involve 24-hour marinated bone-in-Boston butt that's then roasted for eight more hours. End result "tastes like a scrumptious cross between pork belly and brisket," Klein says, and advises "Take the pork buns as a starter, and then take more in a container to go. If you live nearby, you might be tempted to get them often." Egg rolls are "finger-lickin' good" and "addictively delectable." Ditto on the Korean chicken wings. "More kudos for the baby-back ribs." Side dishes were just as good and green beans were "alluringly gingered." The new Dim ssam Sunday brunch still has some kinks, but "is thorougly distinct from those served elsewhere," and thanks to the "show-stopping, mind-blowing banh mi bao," brunch "would be the best $45 meal you've had in a while," if you ate ten of them at $4.49 a piece Klein says. Bottom line: "Serious culinary thrills without the frills."[MNT]

Victoria Pesce Elliott takes slight issue with the newly reopened, renamed Gibraltar on Grove Isle, saying that "while the place is not exactly offering up an experience fit for the gods, the stunning private island is now supporting some of the best cooking it has had in years." Kudos to chef Jeff O'Neill because, despite his "surprising gig," there, "there's no question O'Neill does tasting and inventive things with seafood and has notable skills in sourcing ingredients and pairing disparate textures in flavorful ways." As for decor, the dining room is "handsome," but as with the space's former incarnation, "the best seats are outdoors overlooking the bay. The romantic, tiki-lit settting really does steal hearts." Food was a mixed bag for VPE, who liked the black mussels, the "pristine crudo of glistening king coho salmon," the "fleshy local black grouper paired with earthy veal cheeks," "an impressively flavorful hot smoked salmon loin," and "impressive hand rolled-garganelli," among other things. She didn't love the "stale pretzel bread," "dishes arriving cold," "absent staff that often delivered the wrong dishes and got stuck on basic descriptions," "an unfortunate, hotel dining room," "cold and murky coffee," and a wine list of "mostly American grocery store labels marked up 3-4 times retail." Final tally? Two and a half stars. []

Sakaya Kitchen

3401 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33127 (305) 576-8096 Visit Website