2.5 stars for Southeast Asian Eats at Lantao on South Beach

 

2.5 stars for Southeast Asian Eats at Lantao on South Beach

lantao_ribs

Victoria Pesce Elliott

It’s easy to forget that we live in one of the hottest beach destinations in the world. Well, that is until Memorial Day comes around and those of us who live in Miami Beach head for the hills — or retreat to the family room with Netflix and pizza. But, if you feel the need for a little stay-cay, pop into Lantao Kitchen in the Surfcomber Hotel some afternoon or evening. The Kimpton Hotel’s sexy new hideaway is a fun local’s find.

Servers could not be nicer, and the mini menu a delight. The chef, Ferdinand “Freddy” Ortiz Jr., learned his way around Asian ingredients during a long stint with China Grill, including Asia de Cuba. You can tell he is having fun riffing on the classics here.

Ambience: The space is simply furnished with wooden tables, its low ceilings slung with white wicker lanterns and one corner wrapped by linen banquettes that add pops of orange and aqua. Better yet, ask for a seat poolside.

What Worked

  • Spicy street noodles with deeply complex coconut broth, tender chicken chunks, snappy little shrimp and fresh ginger
  • Rock shrimp puff-fried in light-as-lace tempura batter and served in crisp Bibb lettuce leaves with a creamy but legitimately spicy sauce, baby cilantro sprouts & slivers of hot chiles
  • Filling, not greasy pad Thai loaded with sweet baby shrimp and thinly pounded strips of white chicken meat
  • Satisfying cabbage salad filled with explosive flavors, including crisped shallot rounds, a zingy lime vinaigrette, slivers of red onion and codfish in a sweet miso glaze
  • A $15 lunchtime bento box
  • A fantastic banh mi “Miami style” - beef, pork belly planks, fantastically piquant, pepper-spiced mayo and loads of fresh cilantro and pickled vegetables
  • Pliant pork buns
  • Flaky, tightly-rolled cigar-size blue crab rolls with crisp cabbage, carrots, scallion and enough crab to actually taste like what it is
  • Sweet, bright, ponzu sauce
  • Addictively tasty, sweet & tender Korean-style barbecued pork ribs (pictured)
  • Exquisite, hand-muddled cocktails
  • A "good enough" choice of wines and imported beers
  • Four huge scoops of creamy, house-made cinnamon ice cream sandwiched between thin, fried planks of flaky dough topped with dulce de leche and sweet nibs of crystallized ginger

What Didn't Work

  • Charred squid salad with bitter eggplant
  • Dishes meant for sharing that come out with three items, making it tough for a couple to neatly divide portions
  • Servers needing more training
  • A kitchen that needs to work on its timing

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