Best Of :: Food & Drink
When Rashné Desai took over Stephans in March 2001, she immediately updated the heavily Italian menu of her predecessor. Her idea was to offer presentable gourmet food and sell it fast as take-out or eat-in. (Located in Miami's Design District, Stephans has 30 Berliner-style tables on the second floor and sidewalk.) A delicious sandwich, drink, and cookie; or soup, quiche, and side (try the rosemary-roasted vegetables and fresh bread from Spain) should price out at ten bucks or less. Rashné learned her stuff at Dean & DeLuca in SoHo before that food-and-wares store went corporate and lame, and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC, where she studied with Gaulist master Jacques Pepín. After that kind of training you know the rules so well you can break them. So Stephans presents the best of various culinary disciplines: a black forest ham sandwich on a baguette with French Brie, crisp lettuce, tomato, and olive oil; pasta with roasted chicken, fresh basil, garlic pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and shaved Parmigiano; the Ultimate Supremo of imported prosciutto, Genoa salami, hot capicollo, and fire-roasted peppers; or curried turkey chili. Presentation is half the battle. "When you work in restaurants," says Rashné, "you're down in some basement kitchen with a lot of smelly people. Here we make food meant to be consumed fast and that looks really good." Call it eat couture.
C'mon, an overpriced sushi joint? We only have about a hundred of those, so why reward a new one? Well, friends, try out Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's dishes and then come back and tell us it wasn't worth every penny. So what if some whine about the décor. People! Style over substance has been Miami's cement shoes for too long. And so what if the super-fresh sashimi melted in your mouth so quickly and deliciously you almost forgot you just ate it. And who cares if chopsticks were used as weapons for the very last crumbs from the black codfish with miso. It doesn't matter. What does matter is this: Miami finally has a Matsuhisa masterhouse to return to over and over again for more of the same. For the first time in a while, a restaurant has opened that can truly contend with the best of the best.
A delicate rose fashioned from slender blush-pink slices of tuna. Carefully carved thin strips of cucumber wrapped around crab stick, avocado, masago, and shrimp. Wooden boats bursting with artfully arranged squares of fish. How fresh is it? Take a glance behind the sushi bar. If the huge white tuna slumped across the sink, ready for carving, is any hint, very.
Chocolate is not a bad or dangerous thing. Chocolate is good medicine for the brain, the blood, the sweet tooth. And the Sweet Tooth's chocolate is very good, made on the premises. From chocolate hearts and cherries to truffles and luscious creams, feast your eyes (did we mention chocolate improves night vision?) on the velvety array of goodies at this well-equipped chocolate clinic. The selection is so stunning, especially on holidays, you may be temporarily paralyzed. The Sweet Tooth people know how you feel and have thoughtfully prepared all kinds of beautiful and therapeutic gift baskets and boxes.
No, it's not really about the drinks. You've had those before. And it's not really about the décor, which is clean and fine but not spectacular. It's also not about the specials, because there aren't really official hours for happiness here. It's about the only reason people seek out happy hours to begin with: the scene. What? On Miracle Mile in the stuffy Gables, you might sneer? Yup. There's a new dawn in that part of town and it's raising a toast at the new Houston's after work. Good mix of cocktails, ages, ethnicities, sexes, economic positions. The men and women behind the bar are friendly, as are the people sitting next to you. Starting late in the afternoon on Friday often you won't find a stool or even standing room, so the party spills out into the street. If you need further proof this isn't the Gables of old, consider: Once you've downed your after-work libations, you can move on to other attractions. Huh? Life after 8:00 p.m. in the City Beautiful? Yes, truly a new dawn.
This is truly the hole-in-the-wall that has it all. Almost indistinguishable from the other storefronts along this part of North Miami Avenue, Clive's makes its mark at the cozy counter set up with great Jamaican favorites like curry goat, oxtail, and cowfoot. With ample food packed on a five-dollar special, this is a can't-miss deal every afternoon. The chicken is cooked to diner perfection and the curry is a smooth blend that avoids the fire-alarm spices of other native cuisines. The mood is laid-back, with a pleasant Mrs. P taking good care of the customers and a small radio pumping out reggae sounds. You just may catch Clive's fan Lenny Kravitz taking in the scene. Clive's is great for take-out but just as nice for a midafternoon stop to take it easy.