Mongolian-style hot-pot dining originated centuries ago, when embattled horsemen repurposed their shields and helmets into pots for preparing meaty stews over open flames. Over time, this modality of cooking has been adopted and remixed as a communal dining event throughout Asia, and the chefs at The Hot Pot put their own spin on it with their family-oriented dinners. Servers first lay out tables banquet-style, arranging plates of raw meat, seafood, veggies, rice, and noodles around centerpiece boiling pots of homemade broth, which comes in flavors ranging from Thai-influenced hot and spicy to a chicken and vegetable house broth. Tablemates joust for morsels of flank steak, mussels, and tofu and then settle the pieces in the simmering broth until they’re tender. But the bubbling cauldron doesn't have to be the focal point of the proceedings; The Hot Pot also prepares a fresh seafood boil and Vietnamese entrees.
Noodles’ kitchen shares traditional flavors from across Asia with a menu of diverse dishes that trace their roots to China, Vietnam, and Japan. Customizable rice and noodle bowls give control to the diner instead of the cold hand of fate by tossing their choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, or vegetables with a variety of sauces, from savory teriyaki to zesty orange peel and citrusy pad thai. They round out the repertoire of classic recipes with asian beers and sake.
Chef Tuan Truong and his wife, Lien Pham, cook what they know: yellow curries and pho soup from their native Vietnam. But that’s only the beginning. The ambitious duo also draws culinary inspiration from countries across Asia, from the fiery coconut curries of Thailand to the marinated barbecue beef of Korea. Whether their recipes detour to India or Indonesia, the couple works exclusively with organic vegetables and housemade sauces, favoring spices such as fresh cilantro, fragrant lemongrass, and hot chili peppers. They fold tender cuts of beef, chicken, and prawns into a variety of curry, rice, and noodle dishes while pots of tom yum soup bubble on the stove. To craft the Saigon crepe that was lauded by the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald, the skilled chefs cook the light batter “until its edges are crisp and lacy,” then stuff it with a mélange of chicken, prawns, chinese mushrooms, and bean sprouts.
Diners sip on warm sake out in the bright dining room, where lanterns made of red, pink, and yellow paper dangle from the ceilings. An accommodating wait staff bustles about the booths and tables, suggesting dishes and taking note of special dietary preferences, such as a fondness for extra spice or a request that all vegetables be cut into the shape of favorite farm animals.
When Tropical Acres Steakhouse first opened in 1949, a green palm tree festooned its simple menu of seven steaks, chops, and sandwiches. Today, the Studiale family tops tables with a vast menu of T-bones, porterhouses, strip steaks, and filet mignon seared in a bustling kitchen alongside pork chops and veal cutlets. Chefs ladle sauces whisked with horseradish and dill or lemon and capers over shrimp, scallops, and fillets of fish such as snapper and wild-caught salmon. Dark wood columns and beams encircle the dining room's tufted booths and wall-inlaid tanks filled with colorful fish and treasure chests billowing bubbles of steak sauce. Tropical Acres also caters events from luncheons to weddings with light or formal meals, and it hosts celebrations for up to 250 guests in a refined banquet room.
The "Desi" in Ellie's Desi Kitchen refers to the diaspora of people from South Asia settled in all parts of the world?a fact reflected in the diverse range of dishes in the restaurant's menu. Guests chow down on an eclectic spread of steaks, chicken po' boys, veggie stir-frys, fluffy naan bread, spicy curries, and their specialty, a spicy chicken sub. The decor also reflects the cosmopolitan flavor of the bill of fare. Wall scrolls of flowers and birds hang over tables laden with American ketchup and mustard bottles, while a photomontage places Machu Picchu, the Roman Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal side by side?just like they are in real life.
La Cocina Puertorriquena's specialty is mofongo, a traditional Puerto Rican dish made of mashed fried plantains. Chefs use that recipe as a foundation, preparing more than 20 varieties of the dish with chunks or pork, skirt steak, and breaded shrimp. They also showcase a variety of other traditional specialties, including roasted meats and fried whole snapper. On Saturday nights, servers clear away tables to make room for live musicians and dancing until 1 a.m. The restaurant’s walls proudly display the Puerto Rican flag, which should never be nibbled on, despite its mofongo taste.