Thursday, May 21, 2009

Joe's Stone Crab

I apologize for neglecting my blog for more than a week. I've been vacationing in Miami and the Keys!
Remember when I challenged Florida to knock Hong Kong's Rainbow Seafood Restaurant off its pedestal for best seafood? Well, Miami seafood restaurants are formidable competitors. I thoroughly enjoyed eating my way through the city and surrounding areas, but I couldn't sustain the high prices of Miami dining establishments; even affordable Cuban restaurants became taxing on my vacation budget. I ended up eating pizza, ramen noodles, and cold lunch leftovers in the hotel room for dinners so I can prowl for less expensive gourmet lunches.
The one time I had dinner at a restaurant in Miami was on my first night at the famous Joe's Stone Crab at the southern tip of South Beach. We headed to the restaurant around 6:00 PM, and got a table quite easily. By the time they brought the bread basket over, the place was packed.
Joe's Stone Crab
The bread basket is a delight. I'm all about variety, and this little basket hit the spot. The oregano and sesame dusted croissant roll ("roll" because it's only shaped like a croissant but had none of he flakeyness of a croissant) and the onion rye roll were exciting to eat, which is uncommon for dinner rolls at most establishments. Don't get me started on the recycled, stale rolls that accompany your entree and is charged when you take a bite in Vienna!

Oregano and Sesame Seed Dusted Croissant Roll, Onion Rye Roll, and others

I've read that some people don't think stone crabs are worth the prices at Joe's so I felt like ordering 7 Select Stone Crab Claws at $37 was mighty risky. I didn't regret it one bit. I love crab, and usually fresh dungeness meat puts a smile on my face. I nearly sprained my face when I took my first bite of the stone crab claw. If it weren't for the exhorbitant prices, I would have an insatiable appetite for these babies. The stone crab claw meat is firmer than the dungeness. The stone's little fibers of flesh are more compact, but the meat isn't tough because of its creamy, buttery taste and texture. Obviously it takes little preparation to dress up fresh stone crab claws, but Joe's mustard sauce enhances the sweetness and creaminess of the meat. I knew that if I were to repeat any dish in Miami, it would be these claws.

7 Select Stone Crab Claws (choice of 8 medium, 7 select, 5 large, or 5 jumbo) with Mustard Sauce

Most of the diners focused their dinners on the cold seafood platters. I saw no point in doing the same when I can go to a seafood market in Florida and order a bunch of cooked & chilled fresh seafood for half the price. The Lobster Macaroni and Cheese appealed to me because I like high-end takes on comfort food. I expected measley amounts of lobster meat...Yes, I'm very much a glass-half-empty person. Well, my mistake; I think they used a whole lobster tail! Mmmmmmmm. Mom and I couldn't finish this dish because we could barely finish her cioppino. We ended up eating cold lobster mac & cheese for breakfast the next morning! Decadent and delicious! For a heavy dish, the execution was light. The macaroni could easily get bogged down by the bechamel, but the crunch from the toasty bread crumbs helped to mitigate the strong taste of the cheese.

Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
I forced mom to order the Seafood Cioppino because it was a way for us to have a cooked seafood sampler that actually tests the establishment's cooking more than a chilled seafood platter. You can only critique a chilled seafood platter's freshness and the restaurant's presentation...maybe the number of lemon slices provided? C'mon.
The cioppino was awesome. It contained stone crab claws, mussels, shrimp, a Florida lobster tail, grouper, and clams. I enjoyed sucking the flesh off of the stone crab claws from the cioppino because the meat is puffed from the added juices of the broth. This definitely rivaled my seafood meal in Hong Kong. You can tell that it took the chef substantial time and effort to make this dish by the depth of flavor in the tomato broth. I can't seem to think of the English word for this nuanced taste at the moment, but it can best be described in Chinese as 鲜 (xian1). fails to provide an accurate English synonym: savory, fresh, rare, clear, distinct....maybe all of those words rolled into one.

Seafood Cioppino-Stone crab claws, mussels, grouper, shrimp, and Florida lobster tail in a spicy tomato broth

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