Small Bites

For those pairing a starter with an entrée, there are less-filling (and less than $10) items: a vivid "shrimp enchílado," ravioli of the day, or piglet shanks with a lemon-wine sauce. Other entrées are plenty filling: The filet mignon ($15 for eight ounces, $18 for ten ounces) dinner includes moist mashed potatoes infused with bacon; the lobster ($14) includes rosemary potatoes; the rack of lamb ($14) comes with a lively slaw made from corn and four colors of bell pepper. Our favorite aspect of Mundi remains the coffee and dessert; we've eaten at other restaurants and then headed over for java and sweets many times. Chef Carlo recently added "Nona's Apple" (a sugary treatment topped with raisins and walnuts) and "Banana Delight" (with a crme brùlée type of topping). Both, as well as many other desserts, feature vanilla ice cream that is absolutely out of this world.

Macaluso's, 1747 Alton Rd, Miami Beach; 305-604-1811. Open Tuesday through Saturday 6:00 p.m. to midnight, Sunday 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. It's not an Italian restaurant. It's Italian American, what people in New York's burbs (like Staten Island, where chef Michael D'Andrea grew up) commonly call a "red-sauce joint." But that's no diss when the sauce's tomatoes are naturally sweet D.O.P. San Marzanos. And other ingredients boast the same high quality. The dried pasta is De Cecco (and always cooked al dente, not overcooked and mushy). Cured cold cuts, like the San Daniele prosciutto, are Negroni. Olive oil is top quality, first cold-pressed extra virgin. The favored cheese is Locatelli Pecorino Romano -- so aromatic that the term imported doesn't begin to do it justice; in fact just one sniff exports you to southern Italy. Recipes, from the chef's grandmother, are tasty renditions of simple, honest, homey fare, like rigatoni with broccoli rabe; generously ricotta-stuffed ravioli with fresh peas, chicken, and mushrooms in a lemony white sauce; and an excellent -- and never precooked -- veal cutlet. One warning: The chef is not happy to alter Grandma Macaluso's recipes. So, dieters, fuhgeddaboutit.

Maiko, 1255 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 305-531-6369. Open Monday through Thursday noon to midnight, Friday noon to 1 a.m., Saturday 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., Sunday 1:00 p.m. to midnight. One of South Beach's oldest sushi bars is still one of its most traditional -- no Nobu-like nuevo Latino/Japanese fusion items and (we're thankful) minimal tacked-on Thai: only two tasty tom yum soups with shrimp or chicken, a few forgettable red curries, and the winner, Singha beer. Otherwise the menu reads much the same as it did in the early Nineties -- except the prices, some now double. The scrumptious sashimi appetizer, once customizable with the diner's choice of fish (say, all hamachi) for the same nine bucks, now ranges from $11 for the chef's mixed assortment to upward of $14 for custom plates; hamachi runs a stratospheric $18. But there are welcome changes too, like a "King California Roll" that substitutes real Alaskan crabmeat for the usual loathsome surimi that sushi bars commonly call crab. The salmon remains especially buttery and the hamachi supersilky. In terms of freshness and taste, Maiko remains a cut above the neighborhood competition.

Location Info

Map

Chuck Wagon Restaurant

7628 SW 117th Ave.
Kendale Lakes, FL 33183

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Dade

Costamar Restaurant

18250 Collins Ave.
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160-2727

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: North Dade

IL Mundi

46 Curtiss Parkway
Miami Springs, FL 33166-5219

Category: Restaurant > Latin American

Region: Doral

Macaluso's Italian Cuisine

1747 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: South Beach

Maiko Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar

1255 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: South Beach

Raja's Indian Cuisine

33 N.E. 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33132

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Downtown/Overtown

Old San Juan Restaurant, 1200 SW 57th Ave, Miami; 305-263-9911. Open for lunch Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. The menu at this sophisticated, moderately priced family-style restaurant touts many favorites of the expatriated, and its old-world charm gives the impression it could be located in the middle of the historic neighborhood after which it's named. Puerto Rican cooking is defined by a mix of indigenous tropical ingredients occasionally boosted by bold dashes of Spanish spices, a pairing clearly evident in morcillas con guineas or blood sausage with boiled plantain. The $8.99 lunch buffet is a boffo way to enjoy island specialties ranging from garbanzos with pigs feet to piñón, a sort of plantain lasagna. Selections change daily, but the buffet consistently offers three different meats, four starches, and a couple of rice dishes (brace yourself for some serious carbo-shock). The traditional mofongo, a plantain mash, is treated with reverence and served with chicken broth for dipping. You can try it plain or in tandem with lobster and octopus, but most prefer the version riddled with crisp pork rinds. A petite take-out shop in the back allows you to bring a little of the island home with you.

Raja's Indian Cuisine, 33 NE 2nd Ave, Miami; 305-539-9551. Open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Décor is unassuming at this downtown lunchroom -- it's basically a hole-in-the-wall, albeit a clean and cheerful one -- and most of the roughly dozen dishes served daily are steam-tabled, not made to order. Still, since most Indian food is relatively slow-cooked rather than quickly stir-fried like that of most other Asian nations, it survives steam-table simmering quite well. Raja's $4.69 combination platter is among downtown's tastiest lunch options, and there are three South Indian house specialties found neither on the steam table nor in any other Miami-Dade Indian restaurant: dosai, uttapam, and idli. These mouthwatering ground-rice pancakes are served with a choice of several stuffings and/or toppings (the rolled potato-filled masala dosa crêpe and the thicker onion-packed uttapam are particularly good) plus sides of sambar (a soothing vegetable-packed puréed lentil dhal) and spicy/sweet coconut chutney; among the few made-to-order items, they are well worth the ten- to twenty-minute wait.

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