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3 Stars for Jamon, Jamon, Jamon; Excellent Value, Freshness at Chow Down Grill

Victoria Pesce Elliott doles out a star for each of the Jamons in Jamon, Jamon, Jamon, saying, despite its name(s), it's "not all about the pig," doing "fantastic seafood, too, as well as exceptional rice dishes." For VPE, a meal here is "all about the arroz. Finding a plate of authentic Spanish rice can be a real trick in this town, especially at a good price." Which made it all worth the 45 or so minutes she waited "for those luscious grains of Calasparra rice to absorb their delightful flavors." In addition, the good included "well excecuted fried snacks,," gambas a la plancha with an oily, garlicky sauce and earthy mushrooms," "crispy and oozingly rich golden, bechamel-bound croquetas," "succulent roast sucking pig," and "a perfect classic paella Valenciana." Not so good? Only one thing: "A plate of razor clams that smelled as old as the restaurant," and "cafeteria quality glassware and plates." []

Lee Klein thinks Surfside's Chow Down Grill is a "great idea," and if chef/owner Joshua Marcus "had been first on the scene, food writers would likely refer to China Grill as Chow Down Grill on steroids." Crab Rangoon "wasn't bad, but we much preferred the steamed dumplings . . .the lush doughs here are delicious." Noodle dishes are made on the premises and "like so much else here, the rice is distinctively fresh." Says Klein, however, "I wouldn't go with the pho--the beefy broth was overwhelmed by too many basil leaves, the noodles were too mushy, and there were no slices of beef."

For entrees, chicken breast was "giant, juicy" and "enhanced by a thin, spicy, well-herbed green curry sauce with subtle coconut notes." Also "impressive": a "generous portion of Black Angus strip steak," and tofu, which "came assertively grilled" and paired with a Szechuan sauce that had "far more piquancy" than the Mongolian BBQ sauce he chose for the steak. Sweet and sour sauce "lacked the dynamic contrasts typically associated with [it]." In fact, Klein says you may not even need to order sauce for your protein thanks to six squirt bottles of sauces brought to the table "meaning you can Jackson Pollock your way toward pleasure."

Sandwiches with "banh-mi-style garnishes" were "creatively concocted," with "fantastically rich dressing made from pureed pate de foie gras," and "delectable" 24-hour braised beef filling. Contrary to "one old-time Chinese restaurant axiom," desserts were "excellent." Verdict: Klein says he'll be back. "The key words here being future visits." [MNT]

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