It’s increasingly difficult in Miami to find quality restaurants with ambiance, very good food, good service, and solid value. An exception is the MIMO section from the high 50’s to 70’s on Biscayne Boulevard. There are a number of my favorites there like Osteria Baiocco, Bar Meli, and O Munaciello. And now there’s a welcome addition to the list there – Phuc Yea, for fusion Vietnamese and Cajun cuisine. It’s an addition to a lot of people’s list judging by its being almost full on a Wednesday night in May.
You may have heard of Phuc Yea as the popup used to be very popular for Vietnamese food in Miami. Co-owners Cesar Zapata, also executive chef, and Aniece Meinhold turned it into a permanent restaurant, adding Cajun ingredients and preparations to a traditional Vietnamese menu. The 4000 square foot space has two full bars, a lounge, garden seating, an upstairs dining room and parking. The décor is a personal expression of where they’ve been and where they’re going. Street style art murals of Ani and Cesar’s family portraits provide a focal point along with Asian influenced stencils, a nod to their heritage and New York upbringing. It’s cool and laid back, “the East Side New York comes to Upper East Side Miami” as my millennial son described it.
The menu features a large selection of snacks and starters including rolls & bao buns, noodles, inbetweens, and green stuffs. Entrees are divided into “land animals” and “for the pescatarians”. Portions are well sized, and definitely made for sharing. Some of the dishes are traditional Vietnamese, others have Cajun touches, and still others like the wildly popular Crawfish Boil are pure Cajun.
Start with one of their fun cocktails whose citrus and mint flavors really complement the food. We enjoyed the Lady Boy from Hanoi, a cucumber martini with Ketel One cucumber mint vodka, green Chartreuse, cucumber, cilantro and lemon essence. Another good choice is the slightly spicy Tear of a Tiger’s Eye, an eastern sour with Old Grand Dad bourbon, Toki Japanese whiskey, house made almond orgeat, lime, tiki bitters and – get this – a flaming lime!
Dishes not to be missed are the classic summer roll, a riff on the traditional Vietnamese spring roll, plump with roast pork along with shrimp, cucumber, herbage, rice noodles, hoisin and crispies (6 pieces for $12); and the signature crispy imperial roll “cha gio” with shrimp, pork, crab, woodear mushroom, carrot and jicama ($10). Both were super tasty, and we loved the accompanying sauces too. Other faves were the smoked pork riblets, so tender they literally fell off the bone, and the soft shell crab bao bun with generous pieces of crab.
My son, Mr. Picky (wonder where he got it from?), liked the green papaya salad that had more complex flavors than most, and a welcome crunch, and the creative Cajun fried rice with crab,shrimp, andouille, Chinese sausage, pineapple and egg.
Next time I’d like to try the cast iron roasted lemongrass Cornish hen, and the wok tossed gulf prawns with choice of garlic butter or Cajun, corn, andouille, potato and crispies.
Phuc Yea is open for lunch, dinner, and brunch. Lunch is served in the street level dining area. It’s a reduced menu featuring a selection of noodle dishes, Vietnamese sandwiches on a baguette and a choice of delicious pho soups (not to be missed). Three’s also a buzzy happy hour Monday through Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. (main bar only) with dollar oysters, classic cocktails, wine, beer and light bites.
Prices are very reasonable. Snacks and starters are in the low teens; main dishes mostly in the twenties. There’s a large beverage list of cocktails ($13-$15), international beers, sake and wine. Glasses of wine start at $12; bottles at $43.
Phuc Yea is open Wednesday through Monday, 7100 Biscayne Boulevard, T.305-602-3710.