“Shrimp, Lies & Vinaigrette”
(restaurant review reprinted with the permission of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Feb 20, 1991
Unicorn Village: 3595 NE 207th St., in Shoppes at the Waterways, Aventura (933-8829).
The Unicorn Village restaurant promises much: too much. For a “health food” restaurant that pledges “value in natural food” one would expect a host of freshly steamed vegetable dishes, fluffy brown rice, flaky delicate fish and in general, the best of nature’s bounty prepared in a pure and sincere way that is true to the natural taste of vegetables, fruit, fish and free-range poultry.
Instead, the natural simplicity of everything is covered in a gargled goo of dark and dusky side- and after- tastes that mask flavors to such an extent that we passed much of our dinner playing “Name that veggie” and “Flora or fauna?” As a former macrobiotic vegetarian, I expected to be familiar with at least the concepts underlying these dishes, yet I still had to refer to our menu several times for explanation, only to find the descriptions inaccurate and full of unpleasant surprises.
“Our Bistro Salad” ($7.95) was drenched in a sludge of “sun-dried tomato vinaigrette” over what the menu calls “tomato-basil pasta quills.” In reality these battered, plain pasta quills had tomatoes and bloated, “blackened” basil leaves on the side. Add to this wilted, broken spinach; tasteless black olives; soggy, oil soaked artichoke hearts; mesquite0tasting grilled julienne of chicken; and feta cheese (not mentioned in the menu) and you have a revolting mélange of colors and tastes. This is a sick version of a leftover cobb salad.
The shrimp in our Calypso shrimp cocktail ($6.95) had sickly sweet smell, even though the accompanying tropical fruit salad was mostly fresh, with an interesting touch of tomato and cucumber. The lentil “chowder” ($1.95) tasted suspiciously like Progresso, and the Black Bean hummus ($3.95) is yet another foul mismatch that shrouds the unique flavor of each bean in a pastiche of dryness. This is served with another pretender, “whole wheat sesame nori chips:” which look amazingly like slivers of pita bread, razor sharp on end and soggy on the other.
We chose instead to concentrate on the garden salad, served with every hot entrée, and the honey-mustard dressing, (one of three choices). The herb butter was delicious for covering the slightly stale bread. (Sometimes the best things are free.)
Seconds after we had finished, the entrees arrived and the game of “Name that veggie” took on a new significance. For some reasons, Unicorn has chosen to serve its entrees with super0complex vegetable side dishes that my date and I refused to touch after one bite.
The Thai-style turnips, which came with my lime-basted filet of dolphin ($13.95) were pungent with the smell of coconut, coriander and curry, yet without their taste because the spices seem to be added too late in the cooking process. The brown rice tasted first of garlic and then the ocean-?!?- and was inedible. The meager serving of filet was rubbery yet dry, and did not fulfill the Unicorn’s promise of “value,” nor did the 4-ounce glass of carrot juice for $1.45.
The grilled natural turkey sausage ($12.95) also came with a disturbing side dish-walnut sugar beets, beaten to the consistence of cranberry sauce and heavily syrupped. Much too heavy and no joy. When one things of all the possibilities with fresh, organic vegetables, one wonders what the cooks are up to. Why disguise food in its natural state?
A Reese’s Twist Frozen yogurt shake ($2.50) with chocolate and peanut butter was satisfying for dessert, but chocolate is a drug and doesn’t belong in this restaurant or this shake.
There was a time when the Unicorn was a mellow restaurant where you could order fresh, grilled local fish and made0to-order salads and top it off with freshly squeezed carrot juice.
Now, waitresses bang dish covers on your table as they dash to serve the table next to you or grab money off the next table. The waitress actually tried to put words in my mouth (when all I wanted was fresh food) in an undisguised effort to hurry my order, after I had waited 10 minutes for service. And rush! It is, with entrees whizzing out of the kitchen – dish covers still on – seconds after each course. There is nothing fresh about the Unicorn except perhaps the wait people’s attitude.