2 stars for ambitious Chinese Downtown
1800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
Hours: 11:30am- 10pm Monday-Thursday, 11:30am-11pm Friday-Saturday, 1-10pm Sunday
Prices: Appetizers $2-$8, entrees $9-$17, lunch combos from $5, dinner combos from $9, dessert $3- $5
FYI: Beer and wine. Free lot parking behind building. AX, DS, MC, VS
I grew up in a competitive family. We made everything into a contest: Monopoly, chess, backgammon, grades, kids, jobs. I hold my own on most fronts, but in one arena I have got to say I am thoroughly trounced. With one brother living in Seattle and another in Los Angeles, I admit to severe sibling jealousy when it comes to Asian food. So, when I heard that 3 Chefs had opened near the Arsht Center, I was eager to check it out.
With more than 150 items, the menu is vast and includes Vietnamese fare as well as a “secret menu” written in Chinese without translation (or, it turns out, a translator). Most items fall into the American Chinese category that includes crab Rangoon, barbecued spare ribs and sweet and sour pork. It seems 3 Chefs, which also has menu items in Spanish, is trying to be all things to all people. Two visits are not enough to fully explore the virtues and vices of such an ambitious undertaking, but what we’ve sampled so far won’t earn me bragging rights at Thanksgiving.
Ambience: The spot is clean and pleasant with its gold vinyl chairs, flat screen TVs, black faux marble tabletops and slightly wilting bouquets. For those who prefer outdoor dining there are aluminum café tables on the sidewalk. An enthusiastic waitress whose accent is more Queens than Canton is eager to help, though her knowledge of Chinese cuisine could fit in a fortune cookie.
- Steamed pork dumplings that arrived hot and fast
- Szechuan shrimp with a few plump shrimp and a good selection of rough-cut cabbage, carrots and green peppers, but no discernable heat
- Tiny bok choy the size of my thumb and as green as a well-cut emerald
- Vividly crisp broccoli, shimmering red peppers and crunchy cabbage
- Filling & cheap combo dishes that include tame fried rice, egg roll and soup
- Budget choices for families or groups - many dishes are available by the pint, quart and more
- A surprisingly diverse selection of 20-plus beers, including a Chang, a tasty Thai brew served frosty cold
What Didn't Work
- Rather flavorless mu shu chicken with stiff pancakes and bottled hoisin sauce - no scallions, no spice, no pizzazz
- Egg rolls fried to a golden brown, but doughy in the center and filled with a stringy, flavorless stuffing
- Pho as gray as dishwater and not very tasty
- Soups, especially the neon yellow wonton broth, that look and taste as if they come from a can or cube
- Tiramisu from a box, according to our waitress
- Dense, doughy & flavorless house-made fried donuts
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