Duck confit at La Fresa Francesa

New, delicious and well priced restaurants for lunch in Miami to add to your list . Plus, a summer dinner special from one of my favorite restaurants in town, Mandrake (pan Asian food and “a stunner”). This and more in Eating News for July.

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Mandrake offers summer dinner special


If you’ve been wanting to try hot spot and “stunner”,  Mandrake in South Beach (and one of my faves), now is the time. There’s  a summer dinner special which gets a jump on Miami Spice. The three course dinner for $39 plus tax and tip has a choice of three appetizers, entrees and desserts, plus a glass of sparkling wine. I had one of my always “go to” dishes, the scrumptious lettuce salad with crispy gnocchi and caramelized pecans and tried the pan seared organic chicken with ginger soy sauce, edamame puree and baby corn. The chicken was moist and flavorful, and loved the edamame puree. My son had the signature mandrake maki with crab, salmon hamachi and tuna and the grilled black angus beef tenderloin which he enjoyed. The special is offered Mon-Thurs 7-9 p.m. For my earlier review and more images, click here.

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Via Emilia Garden

The charming couple, Chef Wendy Cacciatori and wife Valentina Imbrenda, owners of popular Via Emilia 9 in South Beach and more recently of Nonna Beppa in Tribeca, opened their newest addition, Via Emilia Garden at 3500 N. Miami Avenue. As with their flagship, the food is from the foodie region of Emilia-Romagna, the home of  Parmigiano, Balsamic vinegar and proscuitto. The new outpost enjoys a more spacious setting and charming garden with a retractable wooden roof. The décor is contemporary with an open kitchen, a butcher area where guests can choose their preferred cut of meat, small gourmet market, and a pasta making station with fresh pastas and raviolis made daily.

Pasta making station at Via Emilia Garden


Certain to be a topic of conversation are 20 framed collectible Nike sneakers from Italy’s popular street wear retailer, Slam Jam, priced at $10,000 a pair (available for purchase). Signature dishes include Tortellini in Brodo (tortellini in broth), featuring hand-rolled tortellini stuffed with prosciutto di parma, parmigiano, mortadella, beef and pork.; a favorite of mine — The Basket from the Emilia Romagna, a charcuterie board with prosciutto, mortadella, pancetta, parmiagiano, stracchino cheese, gnocco fritto (fried dough), and marmalades; and  Cotoletta alla BologneseChef’s Filet. Everyone is bound to find something (or many somethings) to their taste with the extensive menu that is also full of vegetarian options.


Service is friendly and prices are reasonable. Via Emilia Garden , (T.786-216-7150). It’s open for lunch and dinner. Reservations can also be made online .


Bacon wrapped dates at La Fresa Francesa


Finally made it to La Fresa Francesa Petit Café thanks to Francophile friends who know their French food. The cuisine is French bistro prepared by its French chef, “with a little inspiration from the city’s regional Cuban cuisine” – from seared foie gras and escargots to cheese and charcuterie plate, coq au vin, hanger steak,  and crepes.


The décor is what you might see in the home of an eccentric friend and the music is low, so you can talk. It’s in a strip mall in Hialeah. It does no promotion, prospering on word of mouth and a loyal clientele who return frequently. We shared the arugula, pecorino, cashew, red chili and lemon salad. Each of us had a duck leg confit with parsnip puree and pear mostarda. Our friends had the seared foie gras and the roasted quail with veal, bacon, butternut squash puree and honey.

Nutella crepes at La Fresa Francesa


Dessert was a crepe with dulce de leche. Everything was delicious. Appetizers, to be shared, hover in the low teens and entrees range from $23 to $34. La Fresa Francesca, 59 W. 3rd Street (T.786-717-6886). Open for lunch only Tuesday and Sunday; closed on Monday; Lunch and dinner the rest of the week until 10 p.m. Reservations are essential on weekends.



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Ayesha Indian restaurant in Midtown


Ayesha Indian restaurant has opened its fourth in Miami, joining its sisters in Key Biscayne, Palmetto Bay, Coconut Grove (called Saffron@Grove), and now Midtown. We happened upon it when friends mistakenly went there instead of Maska around the block. Deciding to try it with friends, we went for dinner and were rewarded with traditional, authentic Indian cuisine at the hands of a chef from Mumbai. There were large groups of Indian families, colorful wall frescoes with Indian themes and a Bollywood movie playing on a single TV. The four of us, who also included a fellow food and wine writer, started with samosas and a new dish for me — Medu Vada which are lentil donuts with different kinds of chutney and sambar.

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Ayesha Indian restaurant in Midtown


Both were excellent. Then it was on to chicken saag , one of four varieties, and Nilgiri Lamb Khorma, a green lamb curry for Mr. W. Our pescaterian friends split the Malabar fish curry, a specialty of the South of India. Fish is made with ginger infused coconut curry, fennel and Indian spices, teaming it with rice. We all shared the garlic naan with a welcome touch of cilantro. All the dishes were a hit, and we all said we’d be back. Unlike many Indian restaurants, dishes are not big enough to share. Dinner for four with a bottle of wine, large beer, two appetizers, three entrees, bread and rice came out to $80 per couple including tip. There are several lunch specials under $20 including a protein, two vegetable side dishes, Indian salad, rice, naan and dessert.  Ayesha,3250 N.E. 1st Avenue., #120 (T.305-549-5237).

LIght bite: Shake Shack devotees in the Brickell area will be happy to hear their newest output is now open in Mary Brickell Village.



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