Clayton Says: So this past Saturday me and Dan decided to try yet another restaraunt, this time one suggested to me by a coworker named Carlos. He suggested we try Amazona's Latin Grill, stating they had Venezualen food there. So, wanting to try real hispanic and latin flavors, we went. Now Dan was going to be the expert here, as the boy is Puetro Rican and has a full blooded latino mother. I was going to be the dude with no experience with the food for a change.
So we get there, walk in, and the first thing I notice is how they seem to be going for a "intimate" dining setting, with dark colors, small tables and booths, and the like. Then you hear the blaring latino music and that setting is shattered like some much glass on the ground.
We were told to seat ourselves, so we took a booth that had no hanging light. I then noticed that for some reason the booths before ours and behind ours had lights, but ours only had a track light. Odd setup if you ask me, but I digress.
So we get our menus which are basic lamenated doubled sided things. We order an appetizer to get started, and I stick with some water. Now, I do have to mention the service here. While they waitstaff was friendly they were kind of inattentive. The girl who took our order and brought our drinks walked past our table 5 times in a span of 10 minutes. During that time my water glass was empty. Never did she glance in our direction. And it was not like the place was busy. There were maybe 3 tables full.
So our appetizer came, and here is what it had:
Two croquettes, two tequeños, two patacones and one potato ball served with cilantro & garlic cream. I am going to break down what each one was like:
1. Tequeños - I must admit I prefer this way to do a cheese stick!
2. Croquettes - Not bad, but apparently they should have been firmer. They were kinda soupy.
3. Patacones - I was told that this is a venezualen treat. It was very soupy and tasted mostly of the pink sauce, which was like ketchup to me.
4. Potatoe Ball - I gotta laugh. This tasted just the ones I get from Publix sometimes. Had the same consistancy too.
Overall, an average appetizer. So we are then asked what we want for our meal. I go with something called the Venezualen Burger, and I am told that this how they eat burgers in that country.
Here is what the Venezualen Burger had on it (I kid you not):
½ pound beef, cheese, bacon, fried egg, avocado, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes sticks, garlic sauce, cilantro sauce, ketchup, mayo & homestyle pink sauce
Note that it never mentions green peppers (this is taken from their online menu). Mine had Green Peppers, and was missing the Avocado...I THINK. See the issue witht he burger is I could only taste 2 things: Ketchup, and Garlic. Thats it. Look at that list! You would think that bad boy would be flavorful and tasty. But no. It has 2 flavors. Despite being this huge messy thing. Oh, and apparently a burger that stands a good 7 inchs tall is street food. INSANE.
Finally I ordered a dessert: 4 Milk Cake. Kinda like Tres Leches only with 4 milks! This was the best part of the meal, but I am not sure if they made the dessert since it was prepacked in a little plastic container...
Overall, I want to try better latin food but I cannot recommend this place. I give a 4/10, below average rating.
Dan Says: So here's the way my experience went.
The front windows were tinted and a bunch of sticky graphics were slapped across the windows. I shrugged and stepped inside.
The ceiling was black. This kinda made the place look smaller. I looked at the menu and when I saw it (and my friend's) I noticed that the leading on the print was a little too small for the menu to be comfortable to read. Also, their ID was smeared on the page with the color running. The signs against the register/kitchen seemed grainy and pixelated. There was inconsistent lighting placement in the restaurant. I think I heard Clay mention that we didn't have enough light while we were eating. But enough about me getting "furious" at the building itself.
On the bright side, the restaurant staff spoke Spanish fluently, and the menu items were appropriately named and well described.
I tasted the appetizer. The chicken croqueta inside was soupier than I was used to in Spanish cooking. My family's Hispanic so I have something to compare this food against. It just seemed thin. The cheese stick was commendable, since it used a completely different approach to typical restaurant cheese sticks and instead used a flaky crust instead of an ordinary fried, breaded one. The plantain that was supposed to be stuffed with a piece of pork was actually just a small strand of pork, and when I bit into it I was assaulted with the taste of ketchup... The potato ball was what I was used to in stores like Medina's down in Bumby. It was essentially a papa rellena.
When the time came to order drinks I ordered a papaya juice with milk added. I noticed as it was being prepared that it was a sort of sauce packet tossed in a blender, essentially. I didn't like the fact they did that in a non-chain restaurant with "30 years of culinary experience," particularly because papaya is capable of being grown locally in Central Florida and does yield fruit. My Grandma had one for years. The drink tasted somewhat metallic. Use the real damn thing.
For the main dish I ordered the paella. The dish took 20 minutes to complete, which I was perfectly comfortable with since things like this take time. When the dish arrived it seemed to be presented well. The mussels and peppers as well as shrimp were presented in a radially symmetrical design. It sat on top of another larger dish where I could place the shells and shrimp tails, telling me that the dish was planned well. But that's where the praise ended.
The rice was uncharacteristic of traditional paellas I tasted in both home cooking and in restaurants south in Miami and Coral Gables. It was too dry (rice in paella is typically very moist and often gooey) and tasted like Uncle Ben's or Success Brown Rice. There was no toasted rice at the bottom, either, another characteristic of paella that was absent. I also encountered something of a show stopper. 2 of the mussel shells were shattered in places, so that meant that somewhere in the dish I was going to have a bite of some nice hard shell. And that I did!
About halfway through the paella I bit down on hard shell fragments; 3 occurences to be exact. Mmmmmm.
I spent a good 10 minutes searching around for the fragments without spitting the food out I was chewing since that would've looked rather offensive to the staff who had an unobstructed view of me. After I finished eating it I felt rather uncomfortable.
I did not order dessert.
Maybe I'm holding all this to a higher standard because of my background with these foods. I was really hoping that this restaurant would meet my expectations in Spanish foods, but it fell short of them. I am not interested in returning.
Dans Score - 5/10
AVERAGE SCORE - 4.5/10
2 hours ago