El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Elbuda napkin

The word fusion is one of the most misused terms in culinarydom. More often than not, a restaurant will tout itself as a fusion restaurant when in fact all it does is offer two or more cuisines on the same menu. An Chinese restaurant, for example, might also offer some Thai dishes, or maybe a sushi selection. That might be considered diversification, but it isn't fusion.

Fusion occurs when two or more items come together to form something different, something unique.

And as you might deduce from the name, it isn't putting together similar Asian cuisines, though it does work with pan-Asian dishes, but rather a melding of Latino and Asian. The results are refreshingly distinct.

So you might have Chimichanga Eggrolls or Peking Duck Nachos. Or Congri Fried Rice. It's inventive, and even better, most of it works.

Sticky Rice

Written by Scott Joseph on .

sticky rice

I love rice.

Even though I have limited real estate on my kitchen counter, my rice cooker has a permanent dedicated space. Food processor, mixer, slow cooker -- all relegated to the pantry or even the garage. But the rice cooker is used too often to put away. I've been known to make a full meal out of rice with just butter, salt and pepper.

So a new restaurant called Sticky Rice certainly got my attention. I'll admit, though, that I was a bit wary. That's because Sticky Rice moved into a small space on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district that in a very short span of time has been home to at least two (and I think three) really disappointing restaurants.

But those memories faded during my visit to SR. The food is good, the staff, though not especially warm or fuzzy, work hard, and the overall experience is positive.

Kona Grill

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Kona plate

Silly me, I was expecting Hawaiian, or at least Polynesian. I mean, what else should one infer from a name like Kona Grill?

And there are a lot of Asian and Pacific Rimmy kinds of dishes on the menu. There are sushi offerings and the requisite poke bowls, some egg rolls and some stir-frys.

But of course the first thing I spot on the large menu is Jambalaya. The second thing is a Cuban Sandwich. So immediately I'm thinking WTF, which stands for What's the Theme?

Rasa Asian Street Food

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Rasa soup menu

The Asian street food trend has expanded quite a bit. Thanks, Hawkers! Mamak, which like Hawkers is in the Mills 50 district, has made new fans. Now, Rasa Asian Street Food brings the concept to Restaurant Row.

Rasa is the latest project of Sunny Corda, who also owns the estimable Mynt in Winter Park and Saffron Indian restaurant a couple of doors from Rasa.

Corda, who invited me on one of my two visits, said he spent two months in Malaysia researching some of the dishes he serves at Rasa.

Mia Supermarket

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Mia Market

This may be one of the best things to ever happen to a Winn-Dixie.

The W-D that had occupied the corner of East Colonial Drive and North Bumby Avenue was closed and has been taken over by an Asian food store called Mia Supermarket. It’s a fascinating place to wander about.

I first visited it when I decided I wanted to make kimchi. There were certain ingredients — kochakaru (Korean red pepper powder) and saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) — that you just can’t find at your local Winn-Dixie. Or Publix for that matter.

I couldn’t even find those items at a couple of the older Asian markets in the Mills 50 district. So I gave Mia a try, and I’m glad I did.

Not only did they have the kochakaru and saeujeot I needed for my recipe, they also had a trove of fresh produce (including the daikon that the kimchi also called for) and aisle after aisle of exotic ingredients (at least to a typical Westerner) that had me thinking about trying other Asian recipes.

Baoery Settling In To Thornton Neighborhood

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Baoery Buddha

Went back to Baoery recently. Baoery, of course, is the Asian Gastropub from Thornton Park Restaurant Group and led by executive chef and partner Greg Richie.

When we last visited, in November, shortly after it opened in the remodeled Cityfish space, there was an unfinished, half-baked look to the place. It’s fully baked now, and the space looks terrific. It’s a comfortable spot, very casual, and it’s a great place for people watching, especially on the patio, even more so when there’s an event that brings out hordes of people, young and old (but mostly young) to stroll the streets.

The food was never half baked — or wokked or broiled or whatever. But even that seemed better this time.

King Bao

Written by Scott Joseph on .

King Bao bao

I’ve heard that it’s protocol to bow to a king. The king isn’t always deserving, but there’s that whole “off with his head” thing the king has up his sleeve, so it’s probably best to just go with it.

But at a new storefront eatery in the Mills 50 district, the king baos back.

King Bao is the latest to step up to the current trend of serving bao, the Asian taco-like food delivery devices fashioned out of puffy steamed dough that resemble overweight, pale tortillas.

Just like any other bread, the dough itself isn’t the main feature; it’s what goes inside that counts.

King Bao’s menu has just two main sections: baos and tots. Because if there is any other food item that is currently as trendy as bao it’s totted potatoes.

There are eight bao on the KB menu board and offer a thoughtful representation of most popular proteins, including a couple that do not come from an animal. They range in price from $3 to $3.75.

For seven bucks or nine bucks you can get a combo with two or three bao, respectively, plus a drink. (There’s an upcharge for a seafood bao, but the menu doesn’t say how up.)

I went with the three for nine option. I ordered the Hogazilla, the Kickin Chicken, and the Glen Rhee Bao.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Baoery pork bao

Bao are big.

They’re suddenly everywhere. Well, OK, that’s an exaggeration, but they’re showing up on enough menus to declare them an honest-to-Buddha trend. In the past week, I’ve eaten at two restaurants themed on the steamed buns: Bao in Ft. Lauderdale and Baoery, an Asian gastropub in downtown Orlando’s Thornton Park. The latter, from from chef Greg Richie and Thornton Park Restaurant Group, which also owns the nearby Soco, replaced Cityfish.

But why bao now? Part of the proliferation, I’m sure, is that the dining public enjoys exotic foods, especially those that aren’t too adventuresome. Asian dishes are particularly popular, and anything associated with street food is extra attractive. Bao are small but filling, and they can usually be gotten for a low price even as the restaurant selling them can claim a good profit margin.

And they can be pretty damn tasty, too.

Morimoto Asia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Morimoto dining room 1

Now that Morimoto Asia has been open several weeks, following a very splashy and high-profile grand opening, I thought it was time to stop in at the Disney Springs restaurant and experience the it at full throttle. So I headed down with a few friends to try what is arguably the hottest new restaurant in town.

For the uninitiated — or those who don’t follow challenge cooking shows — Masaharu Morimoto is a star of the programs Iron Chef in Japan and its spinoff Iron Chef America. He has several restaurants that bear his name around the world, including in Mumbai, New Delhi, Philadelphia, New York and Mexico City. Those restaurants are named simply Morimoto and feature the chef’s signature Japanese cuisine. (The nearest Morimoto is in Boca Raton.)

The Disney Springs restaurant is Morimoto Asia to distinguish it from the other restaurants. Technically, the restaurant is operated by the Patina Restaurant Group, which also has the two restaurants at Epcot’s Italy pavilion as well as others throughout the country, including Lincoln at New York’s Lincoln Center. My sources told me that the Disney restaurant started out to be a genuine Morimoto but that the chef became disenchanted with the bureaucracy and chose to continue under a licensing agreement. 

(For other photos and a video of Morimoto Asia before it opened, click this link.)

So don’t visit Morimoto Asia expecting to see the Iron Chef, um, ironing. He’ll undoubtedly visit from time to time, but he has left command of the kitchen to Takao Iinuma. (And let’s be fair: You’re not likely to see Morimoto at any of his other nine restaurants on any given night, either.)

Teriyaki Madness

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Teriyaki Madness bowl

Ordinarily, this is the type of place I would probably take a pass on, another franchise location among the thousands — yes, thousands — that already litter the Central Florida foodscape. But something about the press release announcing the opening of Teriyaki Madness made me take notice.

The Colorado based franchise is being brought into the area by Brevard Achievement Center, a nonprofit agency with headquarters in Rockledge that offers programs and services to assist people with disabilities. According to the press release, BAC decided that one way it could assist its clients — and generate income, to boot — would be to purchase a fast-casual restaurant franchise. Besides being a revenue source, the business could provide on-the-job training, not to mention employment, for people with disabilities. That’s smart thinking, and that’s the sort of organization that I would like to support.