Restaurant Review Extravaganza (Week of May 3rd)

Here are some of this week's most noteworthy restaurant reviews from across the country:

Broward-Palm Beach

Gratify

I've got some major beef with the potato chips served at Gratify. These chips, the bar's equivalent of complimentary bread and butter, are crinkle-cut and fried in-house, which is admirable. But they're also sliced so thick that, in order to get them to crisp, the kitchen has to practically burn them. What you end up with is a basket of potatoes either bottom-of-the-fryer brown, or soggy and limp without any sort of satisfying crackle. More >>

Dallas

Hibiscus

The first taste of the baked Dungeness crab dip provoked a moment of quiescence. The silence, short-lived, was followed by ravenous arm wrestling for more. The appetizer dip, served with shards of unleavened bread--think matzo par excellence--was a reward for the tortuous hunt for non-valet parking in the eatery-heavy Knox-Henderson district. Better suited for a party of four or more, the dip was a portent of the meal to come at Hibiscus, an unabashedly New American restaurant. Praise the West and its ability to meld super-sized portions and exquisite tastes! Here was no affected nouvelle shop. Here was American cuisine--with a Pacific bent--and its knack to push boundaries, be they of flavors or waistlines. More >>

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Sara Kerens
"Its chef might have changed, but the food at Hibiscus--in this photo, crispy skate wing with roasted marble potatoes--is worth the price."

Denver

Fuel Cafe

It's not quite spring, but there's hope: Ramps and morels are on the menu. If the weather wasn't so cold and rainy, the waiter could open the glass garage door that separates our table from the patio. Soon, he says. Beyond the patio and the parking lot, everything's dark -- the way it would be in the unlikely event that we were ordering gnocchi at a gas station in Swink or Hugo on the eastern plains. More >>

Houston

Beaucoup Bar & Grill

Searching for a neighborhood joint where I could eat some mudbugs, since they're in season, I called Beaucoup Bar & Grill (3102 Old Spanish Trail, 713-747-5100) to see if they were holding. The sweet, friendly voice on the phone informed me that Beaucoup does crawfish boils on the weekends sometimes, but today was "free gumbo day." Free gumbo? I'm on my way...More >>

Kansas City

Sobahn

Sharon Kwon, who now manages Korean Restaurant Sobahn for her parents, used to be an opera singer.

No one in this family had any restaurant experience prior to opening Sobahn nine months ago. Sharon's mother, Suzanna Kwon, worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 19 years before following her dream to open her own restaurant; she's also the head chef. Suzanna's husband, Paul, had been in the dry-cleaning business. When the Kwons signed the lease on their space, they encouraged Sharon to move back from New York City, where she was studying opera, and start serving stews and marinated meats. More >>

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Jenni Brown
"At Sobahn, the Kwon family dishes out Seoul food."

Los Angeles

Pa-Ord Noodle

We've talked about this before, but the best way to go to a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles may be in the company of the composer Carl Stone, a dude so in love with food that he names his pieces after his favorite restaurants instead of just calling them his third sonata; a man so attuned to the concept of spicy food that he used to carry around a card, written in flowing Thai script, instructing chefs to crank the chiles up to 11. At Jitlada, he once persuaded the chef to prepare him a Southern beef curry so hot that it hurt him to pee for three days (the result of a level I hope never to experience). Even when he is dining with friends who don't necessarily see each Thai meal as the opportunity for a Defcon 2 medical experiment, the food is still pretty hot. He reacts to underspiced food the way I tend to when the wine is corked. More >>

Miami

AltaMare

There was nothing wrong with the old Alta Mar. The comfy room, fresh seafood, friendly service, and affordable prices garnered a rare troika of approval from critics, locals, and tourists alike -- so much so that its off-the-beaten-track locale on Lincoln Road, west of the pedestrian mall, was never an obstacle to filling every indoor and outdoor seat. By all appearances, Alta Mar was turning a tidy profit. So it came as a surprise when owner Claudio Giordano announced last year he would move the business up the block, hire a new chef, and add an e to the name. It was a gutsy gamble that appears to have paid off: The new AltaMare is bigger, busier, and better than ever. More >>