It’s that time of year when I look back at the best dishes in Miami of 2019. Here’s my five star list. If you want more information on any of the restaurants and the full review, look in food category at the top of the blog. Happy drooling! Note, there aren’t steak dishes as I’ve had many a great steak, too tough to choose a standout.
This neighborhood hot spot is packed for lunch and dinner with a repeat crowd, hungry for the Med cuisine and swimmingly fresh seafood. The chef, Xabier Oteiza , hails from the Spanish Basque country and works magic with top quality ingredients. The Italian owners furnished this small casual restaurant as if it were a boat, with the typical colors of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. Outdoor seating too. (Note: I haven’t written this up yet).
The Dish: Everything is always delicious but my top pick is a langostino on a bed of arroz meloso made with fish stock and seafood cream. It transported me to Spain where they’re the experts on seafood and the perfect rice accompaniment.
Maska is the work of Hemant Mathur , the first Indian chef in the US to get a Michelin star. Owner and Executive Chef Mathur of widely acclaimed Devi and Tamarind restaurants in New York City, features his contemporary Indian cuisine.
The Dish: Lucknowi Galauti Kebab, kneaded lamb balls, saffron paratha bread, and cilantro aioli. The complex flavors, adeptly orchestrated, transported me to India. A close second is Malal Supreme Chicken, a tandoor specialty.
Myn-Tu, an extension of iconic ultra lounge Mynt, is a restaurant with a club like decor, what they call a “dinner party experience”. It features French Vietnamese food.
The Dish: A selection of appetizers, too tough to choose one. They are all exceptional, starting with a signature Saigon Nems Mynt, similar to an egg roll but so much better. The fried wrapper was sublime — light, crispy and crunchy. In fact, the kitchen has a brilliant touch with crispy. The Asian Tacos with lobster or tuna and yuzu tofu avocado were the most refined tacos almost ever, except for the $25K taco I had at the Grand Velas Los Cabos. Also highly recommended is the Crispy Betsy, a light wafer made of wonton with yellow tail tuna and aromatic truffle aioli.
If designers Versace and Christian LaCroix were to collaborate on a restaurant with an Asian inspiration, the look of Mandrake would be the outcome. Then add in culinary alums of NOBU, Blue Ribbon Sushi and Chotto Matte, and you have the delicious dining part of the equation.
The Dish: My favorite here is the whole fish tempura, a 1.5 pound fish with sweet and sour, ginger scallion sauces. It’s crispy on the outside and moist inside and the sauces are the perfect complement.
This latest top addition to top restaurants in Coral Gables has all the right ingredients – quality products, handsome décor, lovely outdoor dining area, and very good service. Perry’s, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, started as a meat market in Houston. From there it went on to open its first restaurant. Their specialty is their wet aged prime beef prepared on an infrared broiler at 1700 degrees and topped with signature steak butter with fresh herbs and garlic. Judging by the oh so fresh sea bass we had, their seafood is also first rate.
The Dish: This new Coral Gables entry has two standouts — the Vegan green tartare, a welcome variation from the all too common tuna or salmon tartar This version was made with zucchini, asparagus, cucumber with avocado pistachio mousse and served with cauliflower tortilla chips. The fresh vegetables were a taste explosion — crunchy, nutty, crisp and flavorful.
Another standout was their deservedly famous pork chop. The seven finger high, 36 ounce pork chop from the loin is rubbed with seasoning and cured, then roasted on a rotisserie with pecan wood for four to six hours. Next step, it’s glazed, caramelized, and topped with a signature sauce. It’s then served tableside as three experiences – baby back ribs, center cut loin and the “eyelash”, the most marbled and tender part. OMG, was it delicious.
Miami needed another top restaurant specializing in Chinese cuisine. And we got it with Hutong which came here via Beijing, Hong Kong, London and, most recently, New York. The Northern Chinese fare is exciting, different in presentation and taste, and downright delicious. And then there’s the handsome, original decor.
The Dish: Peking duck that comes in two parts and is prepared tableside The first course features the pancakes with the usual accompaniments and a large plate of the thin sliced succulent pieces of duck with crispy skin on. The second course is tiny pieces of chopped duck with lettuce leaves for making wraps.
This recent newcomer to Miami is an import from Brooklyn. It’s all about barbecue, and what barbecue!
The Dish: Lamb banh mi served on a terrific baguette. It’s juicy, the meat tender, and with just the right amount of spice. The filling was pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, and hot and sweet sauce. Second place and close behind is the brisket sandwich.
On a trip to Tampa I tried the Cuban sandwich at Hemingway’s restaurant whose owner, Felicia Bacalle, was the 2018 winner of the competition for the best International Cuban Sandwich Festival. After trying it, I dubbed it indeed a “winner”.
The Dish: Her secret? Bone in house roasted pork shoulder and a mojo made from fresh sour oranges, garlic and oregano together with jamon dulce, pickles and melted swiss cheese. Delicious.
Amare is a collaboration between restaurateur Gino Iovino, owner of award-winning restaurant Girasole in Atlantic City, along with Franco Ricatti and Chef Cosimo Cassano of Bacco Osteria, the Michelin-starred concept in Puglia, Italy. There’s outdoor seating in a garden like courtyard. Indoors, the handsome blue and red color scheme with blue and white tiled floors complement a wall display of ceramic plates and shelves lined with ceramic and glass vessels, echoing the hand blown water glasses. Everything except the water glasses are custom made.
The Dish: Favorite pasta along with a fave dish of the year is Casarecce. It’s Tuscan kale pesto made with brussel sprouts, mushrooms and toasted almonds. OMG, it was sublime – so flavorful and rich tasting, surprising that it only had a touch of cream. Another standout is the Carpaccio Mare, filet mignon dressed with sliced asparagus, cherry tomatoes, parmigiano and artichokes. The dish was lightly warmed which I hadn’t seen before, bringing out the flavor even more, and then drizzled with Laudemio Frescobaldi, called the “Ferrari” of olive oils.
Venezuelan Chef Carlos Garcia and his staff are creating something special at this popular, casual Brickell restaurant with an open kitchen that features stool seating for a close-up look at the culinary magic. Chef Garcia has a way to turn what could be a solid but nothing special dish into something memorable.
The Dish: Fried whole red snapper with corn hallaquitas and cole slaw with avocado. The fish was super fresh and perfectly fried, the hallaquitas a perfect complement, and the slaw had a light touch set off by the avocado on top. A close second was the crispy brussel sprouts with cucumber and jicama salad and shishito sauce, the most exciting preparation of brussel sprouts of the year (and a year when it seems to be on every menu).