As much as I don’t want to, I finally have to spill the beans about how much I enjoy going to Temple. I’m not at all religious (unless you count my devotion to food). I’m talking about Temple Street Eatery.
It’s not like one of my favorite places is a secret, in fact it’s very popular. My hesitation in sharing it with you is that it might become too popular and become a victim of its own success. However, since it is an off-shoot of the popular Christina Wan’s (it is co-owned with Wan’s nephew, Alex Kuk), I’m going to trust they can handle a little more publicity.
Temple Street Eatery bills itself as a neighborhood dumpling and noodle bar, which isn’t quite correct, since much of the menu expands beyond noodles and dumplings. They can call it whatever they want as far as I’m concerned, as long as they keep turning out the same terrific pan-Asian fare they have since they opened a little more than a year ago.
The concept could be more accurately described as casual Asian fast food. It dishes out classic Asian dishes with global influences. One example of that focus is my favorite dish on the menu; edamame falafel. Ground edamame beans replace chickpeas in the classic recipe. Fried to order and available as an appetizer, side dish or as a sandwich (served in a pita), these crunchy balls of goodness, give way to a soft interior bursting with flavor, the curry aioli accompanying them just adds to the joy.
Other appetizer options include fried wonton “tacos” stuffed with shrimp and guacamole, garnished with gochujang cream, pineapple salsa and a variety of dumplings filled with a choice of ground chicken, pork, vegetables or minced shrimp. Available steamed or pan-fried and served with a choice of sauces. If you can’t decide which dumpling you want, opt for the Buddha Mix, a sample of one of each. As with other sections of the menu, daily specials often augment the menu offerings. If the mini-beef arepas are a special be certain to take advantage of adding them to your order. Rich, shredded beef tops smashed corn meal patties. Yum!
Entrees come in the form of rice, noodle or soup bowls. My favorite rice bowl is bibimbop, with marinated beef sautéed with onions, carrots and scallions served atop a generous portion of rice (a choice of brown or white) and topped with a fried egg. If you’re opting for the bún rice noodle bowl, you’ll be treated to a cold dish featuring two kinds of rice noodles topped with a choice of lemongrass chicken, tofu or pork (sub shrimp for a couple of bucks more) with pickled vegetables, marinated bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, cilantro and cucumbers in a nuoc cham vinaigrette. Soup options include miso with a choice of ramen or soba noodles, pork belly, scallions, bean sprouts and a seasoned hard-boiled egg or the wonton, which features nearly a dozen dumplings, ramen noodles and bok choy floating in an incredibly rich chicken broth. Any of the bowl dishes will serve as a filling meal and all average around $10.
If you prefer sandwiches, you can go for a bulgolgi cheesesteak; featuring the same shredded beef as on the traditional dish, topped with sautéed onions and provolone cheese or the Katsu Burger; a panko-crusted patty that is at least two inches thick. While it’s not a true example of the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, Temple Street’s banh mi is damn good, with lemongrass chicken or pork, pickled daikon, jalapeño, cucumber and cilantro aioli (ask for some fresh cilantro as well).
Salads are available in entrée and side potions ($8/$5). The Buddha is a good bet for a vegan with mixed greens, carrot, cucumber, cherry tomato, red onion, radish, pickled vegetables and peanut dressing. Meat-eaters can add chicken, pork or shrimp for a few dollars more. For something heartier, check out the Southeast chicken salad, which pairs shredded chicken, jalapeño, cabbage, mint, cilantro, radish, red onion and fried shallots.
With the exception of the edamame falafel, I’ve been underwhelmed by the side dishes. The Asian slaw is forgettable and the lemongrass fries tastes like plain old fries (and at $5 is pricey for the small portion). In addition to fountain drinks, Temple Street also offers a pretty good selection of sake, wine and craft beer, with budget-friendly happy hour prices from 5-7 p.m.
At Temple Street you order at the counter and they bring the food to you. My one pet peeve about the place is that when you pay by credit card, they flip the screen around and the cashier watches as you select your tip option. Since you haven’t been served your food, how do you know what to tip? Or should you even need to tip? I don’t tip at McDonald’s and the only difference in the service at Temple Street is that someone delivers the food to my table instead of handing me my tray. Does that really deserve a tip?
I can’t close out this column without commenting on one of Temple Streets’ main assets; people watching. The place in constantly filled with very attractive people, both behind the counter and populating the tables. A friend of mine says he always has the feeling that he’s sitting in the break room at a porn shoot! No doubt that will also be the case for Kitchen Four Twenty, opening next door to Temple Street Eatery. It is also owned by Christina Wan and when the new spot opens (if it hasn’t by the time you read this), it will offer focusing on modern American classics, serving breakfast and lunch in a diner-like setting.
Temple Street Eatery
416 N. Federal, Fort Lauderdale
To read more of Rick’s restaurant reviews visit SFGN.com/Food