Sometimes this diner is so busy writing reviews for the latest hot restaurant in town, she forgets about those tried and true standards where she regularly dines. These tend to be healthy restaurants that aren’t too hard on the pocketbook. One such of these workhorses is Lan Pan Asian Cafe, the cute little joint that resides on the bottom floor of Dadeland Station.
Helmed by Chef Johnson Teh, with twenty years cooking experience, Lan Pan offers a blend of interesting Asian dishes in a casual atmosphere. Tile floor, lime green walls and blue hanging globes decorate this contemporary spot.
There’s also a sushi bar to sit at for single diners and a bubble tea walk up for those enamored with the sweet and sticky treat in a glass. The bubble tea combines large black tapioca pearls with either traditional tea flavors (like jasmine) or blended fruit flavors, such as mango, lychee and pina colada for four dollars. According to their website, this is the only location in Miami to get bubble tea. It is served in clear plastic glasses, with large straws to slurp up the pearls.
This diner has been once for dinner, where the prices seem to jump, but the real deal here is the lunch specials. Offered Monday through Saturday, from 11:30 to 3 p.m., the specials offer an array of Asian dishes and come with miso soup, a salad and a California roll. Brown rice is available for the roll at a one dollar upcharge.
There’s a wide variety offered for lunch, from sashimi, to curries, to grilled salmon. This diner invariably returns for the delicious chicken and shitake mushroom dumplings ($8.95), steamed and served with a tangy garlic dipping sauce. The tender, but toothsome dumplings with ground chicken come with a little side of pineapple relish. The relish has fresh chopped pineapple, chopped cilantro and spicy green pepper, making it a perfect counterpoint to the dumplings.
This attention to detail at Lan Pan Asian is shown throughout the meal. The miso soup is brought out steaming hot, with the milky miso swirling to reveal tofu chunks and seaweed slices. China sushi spoons would be preferred to the stainless steel soup spoons, but this is a small complaint.
The California roll invariably tastes fresh with thick slices of surimi and avocado; it comes on a plate with a lovely little salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, grated carrots and cucumbers. A creamy cilantro vinaigrette is served on the side. A side dish of bean sprouts marinated in rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, with sesame seeds, provides an unexpected pop of flavor to the meal.
This diner has tried many of the lunch specials including: the grilled salmon ($9.95), Thai basil chicken ($8.95) and tamarind shrimp ($9.95). All were good and for the price – between nine and ten dollars- can’t be beat. The food always tastes fresh with a good balance of flavors and the portions are large.
On a recent visit, the red curry beef ($8.95) was sampled, with chicken substituted for the beef. The large portion offered chicken chunks in a sweet and spicy broth made with coconut milk. Sliced red peppers, onions, spinach, snow peas and sweet potato chunks rounded out this hearty dish with a variety of textures. It was not overly spicy, but had a little kick to it. The only complaint was some white rice to soak up the broth would be appreciated.
Service here is efficient and quick, making it a perfect spot to duck in and out of for lunch. Many of the diners are shoppers, but there are also tennis players who come after a match, business types meeting for lunch, and new moms out with their babies.
There is sometimes a wait to be seated, but it usually goes quickly. Fair warning: this place gets packed during the holidays.
Lan Pan Asian Café is the perfect reward for shoppers to sit, rest and refuel after battling the crowds at Dadeland Station. Lunch is quick, healthy, and delicious and normally under ten bucks. Where else can you get that in Miami?
It’s the reason this diner will keep returning to this neighborhood gem.
They also do take-out and they now have Belly, a loyalty program, so every time you dine, you get points. Ah, it’s so good!
Lan Pan Asian Café
8332 S. Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33143