You’ve read earlier about my choices for the best desserts of 2015 and now it’s time for my best dishes of the year. Probably one of the most interesting new developments in 2015 is that the restaurants or eateries are spread out all over town — from the predictable South Beach and Brickell to Wynwood, MiMo (Biscayne Blvd), Sunny Isles, Downtown and Aventura, which shows how the Magic City is really coming into its own on the restaurant scene. Note that the dishes are not listed in any special order.
1 Il Mulino, Sunny Isles
In this restaurant that has a way with classics, my dish of choice is the totally decadent ravioli ai porcini with champagne truffle cream sauce. It was rich and creamy, yet not overpowering, so the flavors came through.
2.Quality Meats, South Beach
This New York import soars with its steakhouse fare. The gem is the 24 ounce Tomahawk Rib Eye, the real deal. Made for sharing, it was super tender, perfectly charred and flavorful, and comes with tableside carving that is bound to get onlookers (it did with us).
3.Timo, Sunny Isles
Primarily attracting a neighborhood clientele, this chef owned Italian restaurant shines with the branzino. Though the Med fish is a regular menu item in the top restaurants in town, here it’s better than anywhere else I’ve had it – cooked in parchment paper with lemon confit and basil butter. The filet was swimmingly fresh, succulent and perfectly condimented.
4.Bourbon Steak, Aventura
The notable dish starred as part of a honey themed menu, celebrating the bee colony and cultivation at the Turnberry Isle Resort. The standout was the honey-fennel pollen seared snapper with salt baked sunchokes ,also called Jerusalem artichokes ,which were roasted and then seared in aged honey butter .
5. Coya, Brickell Avenue
Choosing a favorite dish at Coya, one of my go to restaurants, was tough. Their corn sundae made my best desserts of the year list, and their ensalada de maiz (corn salad) is pretty terrific. But my prized pick are the mushroom anticuchos. Forest mushrooms with a thin coating of aji rocoto pepper are charred on the robata grill and sprinkled with parsley then served on a bamboo skewer. They’re chewy and rich, and had me craving more.
6. Coyo Taco, Wynwood
The super casual eatery is packed every night with good reason — terrific tacos. Though every taco we had was delicious, a fave is the hongos, a medley of mushroom with cheese and the famous huitlacoche, the corn fungus that is one of the staples of Mexican cooking, and difficult to find here. Chef Scott gets it fresh from a farm in – would you believe, Florida .
7. Db bistro, Downtown
The best burger in town, also worthy of this list, is the signature specimen of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants . The secret is a combination of 7 ounces of ground chuck filled with short ribs which have been marinated in wine and braised for 12 hours. To this is added some black truffles (worth $700 a pound) and foie gras in the center, and all of that pan seared. And oh that brioche bun, made in house in what Chef Jason Smith said is a labor intensive process. The bun maintains its shape with the onslaught of the meat’s juices but soaks up enough to give extra flavor in the biting. It’s garnished with frisee and tomato and has a horseradish aioli, Dijon mustard and tomato compote on the side.
8. Essensia, Miami Beach
If I had to give an award to the Miami chef who does the best job with vegetables it’d be Essensia’s Executive Chef Venoy Rogers III. Top honors goes to the unique tempura avocado, sections of creamy avocado lightly fried and served with cilantro lime creme fraiche and piquant tomato chipotle jam that they should bottle. A close runner up is the megene salad, a novel melange of slivered tomato, red grapes, candied pistachios, Maytag blue cheese, all in a champagne poppy seed vinaigrette.
9. Marion, Brickell
Best salad of the year goes to new French brasserie Marion from the owners of Baoli. The eponymous signature Marion Salad is not only delicious and satisfying, but beautifully presented on a long wooden plank. It includes proscuitto San Daniele, bocconcini, heritage tomatoes, avocado, black olives, cantaloupe, smoked salmon and fresh figs. Teamed with a glass of white wine, a perfect lunch (only served at lunch).
The chef owned Mina’s stars with its Middle Eastern and Med cuisine. Appetizers are a high note, though the piece de resistance is the moussaka. The Greek “lasagna” is made with eggplant instead of pasta, potato, béchamel sauce and beef ragout. It’s lighter than the classic version and makes you want to learn how to make it at home.
11. Pied a Terre, South Beach
If you’ve read the Ask Karen section, you know that the answer to the question of which is the best “insider” restaurant pick in Miami is fine French restaurant Pied a Terre. Everything is always uniformly excellent, so choosing one dish was a tough call. But choose I did. The dish is open sea scallop ravioli infused with ginger, lemon leaf broth and coconut foam, and lobster oriental twist – Maine lobster with champa chai sauce. Added to this is a mix of 9 spices from India (a little in the style of Massala), flavorful but not hot- and all accompanied by mini artichokes and snow sea turnips.
12. Jaya, South Beach
You’ll be hearing a lot about Jaya from me as it’s now one of my favorites. You’ll be thankful that The Setai has returned to its Asian roots with this new restuarant concept inspired by the historic silk and ancient spice trading routes. Here’s another case of choosing the best dish, a serious challenge. That being said, I opt for the Vietnamese Pork Belly Bao for its exquisite blend of textures and tastes. The bun is soft and a tad chewy while the pork belly has the right bit of crunch, is rich and flavorful. it’s served with grilled peach, cilantro and features Chinese barbecue sauce.
Photography by William Oberheiser