Over the past few months, the Miami New Times food blog, Short Order (shortordermiami.com), has listed 100 of the finest dishes in the 305. This week, we excerpt ten of them for your epicurean pleasure.
Huevos rancheros at Sra. Martinez. Any of the dishes on Sra. Martinez's à la carte brunch menu are sure to please, but the huevos rancheros stand out for a slew of reasons. The bottom layer comprises black beans that undergo a two-day process of soaking, draining, and seasoning with the likes of pepper, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and bay leaves. Set on top is a crisp tortilla with eggs cooked just enough so the yolks aren't runny, sauce with a base of San Marzano tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco, cilantro, and sliced avocados. The result is a $9 plate of rich tastes and textures.
Fried green tomatoes at Whisk. Although Florida technically can be considered a Southern state, anyone living in Miami knows we're far removed from anything resembling the American South. Thankfully, we have Whisk to keep us in check. The gourmet restaurant serves homestyle meals using local and organic products to give us the classiest comfort food in South Miami. Take, for example, the fried green tomatoes ($5.95). Served with herb buttermilk dressing, this lightly fried appetizer beats your average mozz sticks. The tart, unripe tomatoes bite back at you in the best way, while you find yourself scooping every last drop of the smooth buttermilk sauce. The plate comes with only five tomato slices, so you might not want to share.
Spicy octopus at Katana. Spicy octopus salad can seem daunting if you've never tried the eight-tentacled creature, but it's well worth it if you are feeling adventuresome. Katana serves its version cold, with very little to dress it up. The light sauce is not spicy-hot, but rather piquant, giving the slightly chewy octopus great flavor. The small plate costs only $3.50, but chances are you won't be able to stop after the first.
Fish and chips at Churchill's Pub. The presence of a kitchen at Churchill's Pub in Little Haiti comes as quite a surprise to those familiar only with the pub's skinny-jeans-and-Converse-wearing, Operation Ivy-listening aesthetic. However, those of us who have nursed a hangover at the bar during daytime hours are privy to the fact that Churchill's serves some damn good food. The fish and chips (AKA fries) dish is a glorious standout. The bar is owned by an Englishman, meaning the fish is made according to true British tradition using beer batter and only salt and pepper for seasoning. Somehow that beer (we're not allowed to reveal which brand) makes a hell of a difference, producing a coating that is beautifully golden and fluffy yet still crisp. The fish is perfectly cooked, resulting in moist, tender flakes. And Churchill's serving of long, skin-on, flawlessly fried chips — which should be a model of what fries are supposed to look, feel, and taste like — could be a meal in itself.
Sweet Caroline at Mr. Good Stuff. One would think that finding a good arepa in Miami would be easy. Not so, at least not outside of Doral. That's why we love Mr. Good Stuff, a food truck with a menu made up almost exclusively of stuffed arepas, or lunas. The fillings are creative, but they wouldn't be nearly as tasty without their white-cornmeal cradle. The Sweet Caroline — a crisp arepa stuffed with sweet-and-tangy pulled pork, coleslaw, and cheese — is messy but hits the spot.
Local farmer's delight at 1500 Degrees. This ain't no freakin' salad, that's for sure. The "local farmer's delight" ($20) is listed on the menu as "seasonal vegetables and specialty grains," but this plate packs much more. The offerings vary depending on seasonality and availability, as is the way with everything at 1500, but diners can expect a prismatic selection of more than a dozen items. The night we tried this entrée, it came with shaved asparagus, Anson Mills polenta, roasted garlic, corn, a roasted tomato, myriad mushrooms, bok choy, edamame, potatoes, and purple and orange carrots, but the chefs have been known to throw in some broccoli rabe, English peas, wild ramps, cauliflower, eggplant confit, baby onions, fennel, and fava beans. Yep, even vegans are crushing on executive chef Paula DaSilva and her crew.
Grilled scallops with pickled plum at Zuma. Any meal at Zuma, the contemporary Japanese restaurant located in downtown Miami's Epic Hotel, is a feast for the senses. Diners leave this high-end robata grill and sushi restaurant feeling "Zuma-fied," and the hotate no ume shiso mentaiko, or grilled scallops ($16), are no exception. The perfectly grilled mollusks melt in your mouth, and just as the acidity of the tangy pickled plum hits your taste buds, the mentaiko butter smooths it all over, making way for a clean and fresh shiso ending. We only wish there were more scallops on the plate, because these little gems disappear much too quickly.
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Samosas at Thali Indian & Thai Cuisine. Thali is a new entry on Washington Avenue in South Beach. Owner Denis Nazareth of Mumbai offers a menu packed with a plethora of items from the namesake countries. The peerless samosas are two cleanly fried pockets bursting with mashed, spiced potato flecked with onions, peas, coriander, and tidbits of boiled potato. A smidgen of salad — along with two dips: tamarind and mint — comes on the plate. The price: an extremely reasonable $4.99.
Meatball at Prime Italian. One pound of meat really sounds like too much, but when you bite into Prime Italian's massive meatball and that Kobe beef melts on your tongue, you decide one pound is just enough. At $30, it's definitely an overindulgent appetizer, but finding a meatball this good is such a rarity that it's worth the splurge. Baked in a brick oven, this bad boy comes covered in creamy bufala ricotta and soaked in a chunky sauce. With a bounty of basil on top, it's like a salad — a steamy, meaty, delicious salad that will knock your socks off.
McBelly at Pubbelly. Of all the pork belly dishes at Pubbelly, this decadent little sandwich is the best. A thick slab of pork belly, kimchi, pickled cucumbers, and thinly sliced onions are served on a soft bun that's drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. It's a pleasure — a guilty one — to eat the $6 McBelly. Order two and call it a night. You and your palate will be very satisfied.
By Riki Altman, Ily Goyanes, Margaux Herrera, Lee Klein, Alexandra Leon, Paula Niño, Christina Staalstrom, Liz Tracy, and John Zur.