Little Havana just got its second unlikely Thai/Japanese anomaly on its main thoroughfare. The months-old 2B Asian Bistro joins the cheery Mr. Yum just down the block. The face man for the new blonde, bamboo and art-strewn space is Bond Trisransri. Or, maybe I should say hair man. Trisransri’s distinctive, vertical do, tinted sunglass, tight suit and friendly manner add a colorful stroke to this a just-add-sake success story on Calle Ocho. Sure, it seems odd to see the dramatic dude chatting on his cellphone on the sidewalk next to Maximo Gómez Park where ‘‘viejitos” play dominoes while puffing on cigars.
As surprising as the location is the consistency of the fare at the very buzzing 2B, which the colorful Bond says “stands for the brothers and Bond.” No, this is not the subtly spiced cuisine that I learned to adore when I traveled through Bangkok and Phuket, but rather a good rendition of a more two-dimensional but still tasty version. Ask for hot sauce and extra fish sauce if you crave more layers. Here dishes tend to be a bit bland but still clean and alluring, with lots of fresh vegetables and zing.
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The menu, thankfully, is as tiny as the space. With some $25 entrees, prices too seem more like Collins Avenue than Calle Ocho. But service, for sure, bears no resemblance to the hipster, too-cool-for-school, eye-rolling types that give the Beach such a bad name. Here, young, eager and devoted staffers, including an omnipresent Bond, make sure guests are coddled and contented. While everything is fresh, bright, nicely arrayed on cool-looking tableware, the best dishes are the simplest.
Ambience: With some 40 seats inside plus room for expansion outside, it is intimate — despite blaring club music that feels more like South Beach than “la pequena” Havana
- Long-handled, deep-fried wontons filled with finely diced shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and water chestnuts
- Perfectly crisped duck hacked into bite-size pieces for stuffing into hot puffy buns and acceneted with fresh jalapeño, tufts of cilantro and slivers of scallion and carrot
- Light and puffy rock shrimp with semi-spicy mayonnaisy yuzu sauce
- Heart- and belly-warming curries – tangy green, sultry reds and a warm-as-momma’s-hug yellow curry loaded with chunks of potato and carrot
- A fantastic whole deep-fried halibut with a sweet and sour sauce
- Thinly sliced hamachi loaded with jalapeño
- The garlicky lobster and shiitake roll with lots of yuzu
- An improving wine list that actually rates somewhat better than the most generic of Asian restaurants with a dozen bottles priced gently from $24 to $39.
- Hot, freshly cooked doughnuts with thick dipping sauce of condensed milk and lots of crushed peanuts
- $10 lunch specials
What Didn’t Work
- Pricey, fried lobster rolls
- Cream cheese sushi concoctions
- No-rice low-carb sushi offerings
- A filling but dusty pad Thai
- Salty edamame from frozen beans
- A scorched deep-fried spring roll with more noodles than shrimp or pork