BEST PUERTO RICAN RESTAURANT Miami 2005 - Carmen the Restaurant
700 Biltmore Way
305-913-1944 Miami's better ethnic dining establishments present solid renditions of fan favorites, whether egg rolls, thin-crust pizza, Middle Eastern combos, or arroz con pollo. Rarely, however, do these places think outside the box. Carmen Gonzalez takes her native Puerto Rican cuisine out of its box, disassembles it, adds New American and Nuevo Latino ideas, puts everything back together, and then gives it a shake. Boom! Out comes an original menu of fresh, brash, expertly prepared food peppered with Puerto Rican ingredients and pride. Lobster/avocado terrine teams with crisp plantain fritters; adobo-rubbed pork plumps up mini-designer sandwiches; and whole grilled pompano marries a modernized mojito. Mofongo looks like the old mofongo's better-looking kid sister. Chocolate soufflé -- well, not very island-oriented, but it's a dandy nonetheless. The real link between chef Gonzalez's cooking and that found in a typical Puerto Rican household is this: Everything at Carmen's is made from scratch, even the ketchup and pickles. It's safe to say you won't find finer cuisine, better service, a more elegant dining room, or a savvier wine list at any Puerto Rican restaurant this side of San Juan.