I spent my college years at the University of Miami frequenting Lan’s Pan Asian Café for lunch, dinner, and the inevitable bubble tea cravings. This small establishment is a stone’s throw away from UM at Dadeland Station. It is inconspicuously placed on the first floor across from Michael’s.
“Pan Asian” usually signals to me that an eatery is unable to cook their cuisine authentically and can only make it taste like some semblance of “Asian” food. An example of this kind of pan Asian eatery would be Stir Crazy. I’m sorry to those of you out there who truly love Stir Crazy, but their food is definitely NOT authentic. However, Lan’s is quite different, and instead serves a variety of dishes from a variety of Asian cuisines from Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, to Japanese. It is not just a hodgepodge of flavors in one dish, but rather each dish is a portal into a different country’s cuisine.
For my birthday, we trekked all the way to Coral Gables from West Palm Beach for dinner shabu shabu style. Yes, I realize shabu shabu is usually eaten when it’s cold outside and it’s never truly cold in Florida…but give me a break here! Before we got to the main course, we started off with a Lan’s salad. It’s a simple salad of field greens, but what sets it apart is its ginger vinaigrette. This dressing is amazing! I, for one, hate salads, but this dressing is so light and flavorful that I just can not stop eating this dish. I really wish they would bottle and sell this dressing to the customers. I would eat a ton of salad at home if only I had access to this delicious dressing.
Another highlight out of their appetizers is the crispy calamari. The calamari is dry rubbed with spices, lightly fried, and garnished with scallions and a mango sauce. This is yet another dish which defies my rules for food. I hate mixing sweet and savory together. It is my opinion that fruit of any kind does not have a place in a savory dish. However, this sauce is spot on and compliments the calamari perfectly. The spices added give the calamari a kick that no other batter I have ever encountered can rival.
Now shabu shabu (or as I refer to it, hot pot), is not on the printed menu. However if you call in advance and talk to the owner, she can set it up for you. If you aren’t familiar with shabu shabu, it’s basically the Japanese equivalent of fondue. You are given a basic soup stock and you cook a bunch of raw food within the stock.
The server brought out a portable burner as well as a pot of broth. The broth by itself tastes like miso soup broth, sans the miso. However you add flavor and dimension to the stock by cooking the vegetables, meats, and seafood in it. We were brought out several large plates of pork, chicken, kobe beef, vegetables, noodles, tofu, and seafood.
The presentation as well as the selection of proteins and vegetables was absolutely stunning. I especially had a soft spot for the kobe beef and enoki mushrooms. My boyfriend, being the wonderfully thoughtful man that he is, requested beforehand that if at all possible that kobe beef be included in the selection of proteins for the dinner. If you have never tasted kobe beef before, let me tell you that it is to die for! The tenderness and flavor of the meat is out of this world.
For dessert, I always finish with their signature passion fruit crème brulee. I have yet to taste a crème brulee as delicious as the one at Lan’s. Neither Runyon’s in Coral Springs, Dada’s in Delray Beach, nor the Breaker’s in West Palm can come close to the heavenly taste of this crème brulee. This crème brulee is on a tier all of its own with its delicate balance between the sweet caramelized sugar coating and the slight tartness of the passion fruit custard. Not only does this dessert garner acclaim for its taste, but also for its lightness. None of the desserts at Lan’s are heavy desserts. So even after an extremely filling meal, do not pass up on dessert (you’ll be sorry if you do). As my friend Holly said,” I never want to put anything else in my mouth ever again.” *sigh* …And now I’m having cravings again.
Lan Pan-Asian Cafe
8332 S Dixie Hwy
South Miami, FL 33143