Look, lets face it, if you’re vacationing in the Palm Beaches, then you’re probably not there for the food — you’re there, hopefully, to catch some rays and to relax from the pressures of the real world and to escape the brutally cold temperatures of winter, wherever you come from. Still, you gotta eat, and if you are a foodie, going out to mediocre chain restaurants aren’t going to cut it.
Those that know me are well aware that I am an Asian food fanatic — be it Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian, or Indian, I have to eat one of those cuisines at least once a week. At home in the New York Metro area, we’ve got no lack of decent restaurants in these categories. However, there seems to be a major problem with finding legit, authentic Asian food in South Florida. Perhaps it’s because the local aging population prefers a more watered-down, white bread version of these things and can’t tolerate the spiciness, or there just isn’t enough Asian people of any particular ethnicity to sustain a restaurant community down there. The Chinese appear to have gotten a minor foothold, but for some reason they absolutely refuse to serve legit regional Chinese cuisine — even the Cantonese is watered down, American Chinese gloppy bland Chop Suey stuff. And it’s a shame, because over the years I’ve found a few gems, such as some nice Vietnamese places, that served legitimately authentic and delicious Asian food, but only to find on a return visit that the restaurants go out of business. Even when perusing the local newspaper websites such as the Sun Sentinel and Palm Beach Post you come up with listings for restaurants that are defunct more than half the time. It’s enough to make you want to completely give up.
Here are a bunch of Asian places that passed my “Good, definitely worth a visit, I would eat here all the time if I lived down here and I would come back on my next vacation” test. Please make use of them.
Want to know where to score some good noodles or Thai Beef Salad in Palm Beach County? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below.
Saigon Tokyo Restaurant
2902 Jog Rd, Greenacres, FL
Back at home, I’m extremely wary about “dual cuisine” Asian restaurants — those that for some reason, feel they have to offer some combination of Sushi or Japanese food and something else. But in Florida, this appears to be the only way that most Asian restaurants can make a living — sushi is so ubiquitous and popular, and tame enough for the older crowd, that it seems that every restaurant is offering sushi of some kind. Thus is the case with Saigon-Tokyo in Greenacres. But I was desperate of getting Vietnamese of any kind down in the Palm Beach area (most of them had closed down within the last year, leaving very few choices) and we were in the mood for some decent noodles and Pho.
Saigon-Tokyo is actually owned by a Chinese family, with a chef of Indian descent, from Trinidad, who’s been trained to cook at Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants. It sounds goofy, and something that normally would make me a bit worried about the food, but it actually worked out pretty good and the food was definitely tasty.
Summer Rolls, or Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp.
We decided to try one order of sushi, just for the hell of it. This is Wahoo nigiri sushi. Fish was clean, but nothing special. I’d stick with the Vietnamese menu.
Pork/Shrimp Egg Rolls
Egg Roll Closeup
Beef Pho, which I thought was a pretty faithful rendition. Broth was nice and savory with a strong anise taste.
Seafood Noodles, with Shrimp, Crab Stick (surimi) and Squid. We liked this, but we thought the next one was better.
Beef “Chow Mein“. These were pan fried egg noodles with a brown sauce, with just a touch of fish sauce. This was more Cantonese than Vietnamese, but it was still very good.
Shrimp Crepe. We thought this one was pretty authentic.
Chicken with Lemongrass and Green Chile, which we thought was one of the best dishes — strong lemongrass and ginger flavor, with a light white sauce and delicately cooked chicken. Went great with white rice.
Wattana Thai Restaurant
7201 S Dixie Hwy, West Palm Beach, FL
We were recommended to Wattana for Thai food by a local consummate foodie and OTB reader, and were not disappointed — Wattana has been in business since 1988, making it probably the most established Thai restaurant in the entire area.
Pork Nam Sod, which I thought was excellent, with a strong lemongrass flavor.
Curry Puffs, also very good
Jumbo Shrimps with Garlic Sauce, also a winner
Panang Curry with Chicken. Tasty, but for some reason the restaurant didn’t take us seriously when we asked for it Very Spicy. I think this is one of those cases where you have to become a regular for them to make you the really hot and spicy stuff, especially down in Florida where most of their clientèle probably can’t handle it.
Shrimp Pad Thai, which was very good.
Bluefin Sushi & Thai Grill
961 Yamato Rd # 1, Boca Raton, FL
By the end of the week, we were finally ready to eat some decent sushi. Bluefin was on the top of the list for “fancy” sushi places, along with a place called “Tsunami” which was our first choice (and we had discovered had closed down, not long ago). What we discovered was that this was yet again another “dual cuisine” place, but they do such a good job with both Sushi and Thai food, that I think they are probably the destination Sushi and Thai place in Boca Raton. One thing of note is that the Sushi chefs tend to get backed up quite a bit, especially on the weekend, and the Thai kitchen appears to be quite fast and efficient, so it probably makes sense to get some Thai appetizers or to share a Thai main dish as your appetizer when putting in your sushi order.
The “Sushi Bomb” which is kind of like a Futomaki but with several kinds of fish in it, then deep fried, and with spicy sauce and a spicy mayo on top. We loved it.
Sushi Bomb piece closeup.
I forgot what this roll was called but it was similar to a California roll, but had shrimp in it and had some sort of wasabi mayo sauce. We liked it, but not as much as the Sushi Bomb. The ingredients in Bluefin’s sushi overall are pristine, and I liked what I saw on other people’s tables, so I wouldn’t hesitate to order any item at random off the sushi menu here.
Thai Beef Salad, which was excellent and remarkably spicy considering the Boca crowd.
This is a fried shrimp appetizer, rolled in spring roll skins with pork and crab. These disappeared rather quickly and I’d definitely recommend them.
Cellophane Noodles with Pork, which was slightly on the bland side but was rectified by a small amount of Sriracha and Soy Sauce. The ingredients were excellent though and was prepared expertly, so it was a good benchmark for a noodle dish. We ordered this instead of the Pad Thai, since we had Pad Thai earlier in the week.