With so many restaurants now gracing the Miami scene, I decided to do a new take this year on Miami best restaurants of the year with special categories with the standouts in each. There’s also a new section on “go to” places for a casual, less costly meal. I’ve highlighted in blue restaurants I’ve written up in the past if you want to read more.
The most sumptuous décor award goes to Mira Five Stars with its vertical garden walls, opulent glass chandeliers, white grand piano and lustrous wood walls. The food is excellent, thanks to Mirko Caldino, the talented Executive Chef from Liguria who has worked at Putin’s dacha outside of Moscow. …..Le Sireneuse makes the list for its European style casual elegance complete with palm studded dining room, perfect lighting and waiters in crisp white jackets just like in Italy from where it hails (wish the food was up to the decor, go have a cocktail)….Chotto Matte does style in a contemporary way, using custom street art but just the right amount, a dramatic center bar set off by a boulder with soaring palm coming out of it, set against a backdrop of rich, deep Japanese wood and soaring central skylight. The Nikkei menu is solid, and the buzzy crowd is loving it.
Zuma and Juvia (with a new French chef) have been around for awhile, and continue to draw attractive people who like to see and be seen . Party atmosphere and dining spots Baoli and Bagatelle, also attract a crowd who loves to dress up, be part of and take in the buzz. The food is very good at all of them. There’s also Pao at the Faena South Beach that’s sure to be buzzy.
Italian (everyone loves Italian food, thus a special category)
Osteria Baiocco is the first truly Roman and Etruscan restaurant in Miami. They’re often totally booked, proof of a terrific job of recreating the ancient city’s favorites like spaghetti carbonara and filettto di maialino all’Etrusca, slow cooked pork filet made in a red wine reduction with dried prunes, red onions. It has an authentic Italian sensibility in all ways – understated yet stylish, and welcoming , with a crowd that comes for the food and fair prices.
A Different, Totally Fun Experience
Thanks to a reader I discovered one of my favorite restaurants of the year, Chayhana Oasis with its Uzbeki cuisine. It truly transports you to the Caucasus, Russia and Turkey all in one with its décor,cuisine, and singer and dancing on weekends…..El Cielo is food as theater. Owner and head chef Juan Manuel Barrientos is about pushing boundaries, so not surprising he found his way to Basque Chef Juan Mari Arzak and took his evocative menu from there. Be prepared to spend the evening — the menus are exclusively prix fixe and they range from four to 14 courses. ……..And the young at heart, one and only Barton G continues to create WOW dishes, over the top in creativity and always with a touch of whimsy. Good choice for a family dinner with the kids….and of course, there are the restaurants of Jose Andres with his playful, creative, molecular cuisine.
New And All Round Tops
If you read this blog regularly, you’re probably not surprised to read a favorite in all categories is Novikov. I’ve probably been there five times, which is a lot for me as I have to continually try new places. The menu of Chinese and Japanese food is reliably excellent, the crowd attractive, and the décor very handsome. Plus, their prix fixe lunch with the to die for dumplings is one of the best lunch deals in town.
In Miami, a tough place for a restaurant to be consistent, several fine dining restaurants manage to deliver quality cuisine and service in an attractive ambiance year after year. Among those are the Greek Estiatorio by Milos (which by the way has a series of monthly wine dinners); Pied a Terre French restaurant; Byblos for Eastern Mediterranean fare; Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (went there for my recent birthday, don’t miss the lobster mac and cheese and sitting on the balcony outside); and a newer entrant, but also offering serious quality, excellent seafood, and professional service is the Lobster Bar Sea Grille. And how could I not mention Joe’s Stone Crab, a Miami icon, Prime 112 and Prime Fish. I should also mention though haven’t been there this year, other past favorites which were tops including Il Mulino New York and Forte dei Marmi.
Casual, Less $$ Eating
For casual dining at more reasonable cost, my go to places are the Florentine O Munaciello for the volcano pizza; Vagabond for Pan Asian cuisine; Tanuki Japanese restaurant; Ghee Indian in the Design District (also in Dadeland); Palat for Med cuisine (where MiamiCurated had the dinner after the last event); 1-800-LUCKY Asian food hall; Le Chick, delicious fried and rotisserie chicken; Call Me Gaby, the closest thing we have to a Parisian café but the food happens to be Italian; and last but certainly not least BarMeli69, where I have gone numerous times with friends for the Med cuisine and not your usual menu.