Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 10:10 a.m.
The countdown (T-minus seven days!) until Miami Spice has officially begun, and if you're getting a migraine by simply looking at the participating list of more than 150 restaurants and trying to devise a game plan for the next 61 days, don't fret – we've got you covered.
There's no reason to endure the year's best restaurant promotion alone. While you stay tuned for that, we're breaking down Miami Spice by neighborhoods, beginning with South Beach, where 75 eateries will dish out three-course prix fixe meals at reduced prices ($23 for lunch and $39 for dinner).
What follows are the five best (and worth dealing with traffic, tourists, and astronomical valet prices) Miami Spice menus in Miami Beach. Plus, all of them are available every night (so you can Spice it up on date night), with the exception of Macchialina Thursdays because of its summer $10 pasta night, which is probably a better deal anyway. Offering a range of delectables, from a raw bar platter laden with dressed oysters to handmade pasta and fresh sea bream straight from the Mediterranean, these restaurants are putting on their Miami Spice game face.
Courtesy of Michael Mina 74
Michael Mina 74
Michael Mina's subterranean digs are worth a visit year-round, but especially during Miami Spice, when chef de cuisine Thomas Griese has the chance to be playful and inventive. Don't be surprised if menu items change throughout the promotion. For now, however, the winning combo here is the summer crab roll with crab three ways (Alaskan king crab, jumbo lump, and snow crab), cilantro, and warm buttered ponzu; bay scallop ditalini pasta with basil pesto, pine nuts, and aged Parmesan air; and churros with dulce de leche.
Oysters for Spice
Courtesy of Lure Fishbar
Where else can you get a raw platter consisting of four dressed oysters, two shrimp, and two middleneck clams followed by pristinely cooked yellowtail snapper with mango-jícama salad and boniato cake, along with one of the best slices of key lime pie in town, for $39? Only at Lure Fishbar and only during Miami Spice. The New York transplant offers one of the best raw bars in town and impeccably cooked seafood, as well as a seductive selection of sushi maki, lobster rolls, and lobster bucatini with uni crema. The Spice menu includes salmon tartare from the menu, or indulge in a slew of new offerings, ranging from tempura shrimp with spicy sesame mayo and chives to shrimp risotto with confit tomato, scallions, chorizo, cilantro, and uni crema. Is meat more your beat? There's a skirt steak à la Miami with congri, leek chutney, spicy guava reduction, and yuka tostones. Pro tip: For dessert, ask your dining partner to get either the milk 'n' cookies or chocolate peanut butter ice-cream sandwich for dessert and share that and your must-have slice of key lime pie.
You know you want pasta.
Courtesy of Macchialina
Have you had Michael Pirolo's creamy and heavenly polenta? What about his handmade, beet-filled mezzaluna crowned with hazelnuts and bathed in brown-butter ricotta salata? Or Macchialina's decadent yet velvety tiramisu with chocolate crumble and espresso granita? If the answer is no, head to the rustic Italian joint on Alton Road for this exact lineup during Miami Spice. Other options include local burrata and Mediterranean octopus for appetizers; caccio e pepe, baby meatball cavatelli with porchetta and pecorino, yellowtail snapper with corn purée, or veal marsala with mushrooms as an entrée; and vanilla panna cotta with pistachio crumble or zeppoli with chocolate and hazelnut for dessert. No matter which combination you order, you're saving some dough, which you can use to return Thursday (the only night Miami Spice isn't offered) for $10 pasta night.
Conor Hanlon has lots cooking for Miami Spice
Absolutely nothing from Andrew Carmellini's the Dutch Miami Spice menu is on the regular menu, and that — along with the fact that chef de cuisine Conor Hanlon is hands down one of the most underrated chefs in the city — is exactly what makes it a must-try. Sure, if you want to go with the Peruvian jalea of calamari, local fish, and shrimp for your appetizer, there's a $5 surcharge, but it's well worth it. If you're pinching pennies, you still have equally tantalizing options such as chilled cucumber-melon soup with crème fraîche sorbet and baby heirlooms; cumin-roasted carrots with creamy dill yogurt, crisp quinoa, and garden herbs; and country-fried chicken wings à la Berbere Ranch to satisfy your taste buds. Entrées get even more interesting with sweet corn and green onion mezzaluna with Parmesan and ancho chilies (add Maine lobster to the mix for only $10); fried Florida wahoo with smoked summer tomatoes; and marinated grass-fed pinchos de carne with gold bar squash and zucchini/creamy-goat-cheese polenta. And because sugar wizard Josh Gripper is the man behind all of the Dutch's desserts, expect your expectations to be surpassed with his toasted almond semifreddo with roasted apricots and basil granite or milk chocolate candy bar with strawberry compote and peanut butter ice cream.
Sweet sweet ending
If you dine at Estatorio Milos any other time of year, carabinero will set you back $95 a pound. (The succulent deep-sea prawn species from the Eastern Atlantic is well worth the price if you're a banker or lottery winner, though.) But if you visit the SoFi fish market and Mediterranean restaurant during Miami Spice, you'll get an unbeatable deal. No, you won’t get to suck the head of the aforementioned carabinero (or even enjoy much of the exotic catch sitting pretty over ice in the back of the restaurant — be sure to check it out, though), but you will get to choose between a Greek salad, "Greek ceviche"-style loup de mer sashimi, charcoal-grilled octopus, salmon tartare, or lightly fried zucchini flowers filled with Mediterranean cheese and herbs. And that's just the beginning. The fun continues with a fresher than fresh (fish is brought in twice every day) Mediterranean sea bream, a colossal lamb chop, or honjake salmon. There's also a grilled vegetarian plate with "real Greek mint yogurt," haloumi cheese, and couscous. Milo's doesn't skimp on dessert either. For a sweet ending to an already-sweet deal of a meal, choose between the real Greek yogurt with thyme honey (it's delicious) or karidopita (translation: Greek walnut cake) with homemade honey ice cream. Decisions can be so difficult when both choices involve honey.
Follow Carla on Twitter and Facebook.