Best Of :: Food & Drink
Located in the upstairs area of the old Firehouse Four restaurant/bar, and offering indoor and outdoor dining (choose outdoors if possible), this classy and hip addition to the Brickell dining scene owes its acclaim to Barcelona chef Jordi Vallès. Before coming to America, Vallès worked under Spain's Ferran Adrià, the madly creative genius whose culinary inventions have made him a worldwide star. Adrià also trained the supremely talented Angel Palacios, who hired Vallès to work for him at the ill-fated La Broche, the most daring restaurant Miami has ever seen. (Palacios's own Adrià-inspired inventions somehow couldn't find an audience, and the restaurant closed after less than a year.) But at his new home, Vallès's goal is not to shock so much as to surprise. Yes, he employs some of the trademark touches of Adrià's "deconstructionist" cuisine (uniquely flavored foams and ice creams), but they are in the service of the more familiar, such as lobster tails with a dollop of avocado sorbet resting on a "consommé" of golden tomato.
Dogma, a chic little eatery on a rapidly developing stretch of Biscayne Boulevard, is anything but pedantic and boring. The hot dogs are served up in an array of fanciful arrangements, from the health-conscious Athens (which overflows with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and feta cheese) to the decadent Pomodoro (caked in bruschetta and feta cheese). The waitresses are friendly, the trance music piping out of the kitchen is tastefully low-key, and an array of small tables are located mere steps away from the counter. For frequent visitors, try the rest of the menu, which includes chicken and BLT sandwiches, chili, and a salad incarnation of the Athens.
With this, it's a secret no longer. But truth be told, Boaters' Grill has developed a devoted following over the past few years. It is one of two concessions inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, both operated by the David Gonzalez family. First was the casual, open-air, Lighthouse Café, so named for its proximity to that Key Biscayne landmark. The similarly designed Boaters' Grill followed, and drew a more select crowd, mainly because of its location across the island, far from the beach crowds. It overlooks the tranquil No Name Harbor and offers views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. But then tragedy struck: Lighthouse Café burned to the ground this past New Year's Eve. The Gonzalez family and state park officials responded by extending hours of operation for the surviving Grill. The restaurant also added tables, expanded its wine list (concentrating on Spanish, Italian, and Chilean labels), and created both a lunch and a dinner menu. Lunch or dinner, whether it's one of several paellas, lobster, ceviche, or whole fried fish, the preparation reflects the Latin flavor of the place -- and its kitchen, manned by chefs from Cuba, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Today the Grill opens every day at 9:00 a.m. Closing hour Sunday through Wednesday is 9:00 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday it stays open till 10:00 p.m. During daylight hours, diners must pay the park entrance fee, but after sunset there is no charge. So what's the secret? A beautiful setting, a casual and friendly atmosphere, and excellent fresh seafood at very reasonable prices. In fact Boaters' Grill easily could have taken the honors as Best Waterfront Dining, Best Outdoor Dining, or Best Seafood Restaurant. Instead we gave it an award that will be obsolete soon after you've read this.
Chicken wings, before the Atkins diet revolution, were thought to be evil. Munch on them, it was believed, and as sure as the grease on your chinny chin-chin, you'd morph into fat tub. But all that has changed now. Fat ain't all that bad and Fu Manchu's version of chicken wings, fried in peanut oil, are made sans the bready, carb-loaded crust. So here's the skinny. Order the $6.85 appetizer portion of the wings. They are plentiful and served piping -- and we mean PIPING -- hot. Dip them in Fu's superspicy Chinese mustard and you're sure to clear your sinuses and probably burn off a few calories with the heat. You can enjoy your wings in this funky 1930s eatery decorated with cheesy-looking pagodas and murals of gongs and Buddhas.