Two things make a restaurant one of Miami Spice’s best deals. The first is that the restaurant's menu is prohibitively expensive for most diners throughout the rest of the year. But a chef willing to experiment with new creations for Spice is just as worthy of a visit.
The best restaurants either give you valuable glimpses of their menu or whip up entirely fresh creations to sample. It’s an opportunity to try one of the pristine catches jetted to Milos daily or the Prime Fish dish that usually costs more than an entire Spice menu. Or you can go for the charcuteries you’ll see courtesy of Aaron Brooks at Edge Steak & Bar or Roel Alcudia at the Cypress Room.
Sometimes it’s simply the opportunity to dine at an icon like the Biltmore’s Palme D’Or, which is truly one of Miami’s grande dames. If you must get your Miami Spice on at one of the more than 180 participating restaurants, here's where to do it:
Considering how much money his Prime One Twelve earns, you could hold a grudge against Myles Chefetz for putting only a piece of his Prime empire on this year’s list. At Prime Fish, the atmosphere is far more subdued than its tabloid-magnet siblings, but that doesn’t mean the Spice menu (offered for dinner Sunday through Thursday) has lost any of its heft. It’s easy to get more than your money’s worth here. On the regular, the tuna poke retails for the ever-dangerous “market price,” while main plates like the swordfish schnitzel topped with a fried egg and the Alaskan king crab lasagna go for $38 and $40, respectively. The best tables are on the patio, where you can watch the valets endlessly park and retrieve Ferraris and Bentleys.
Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis
The two months of Spice are the rare time when this über-pricey Greek spot in SoFi becomes accessible to the public. The rest of the year, it plies all manner of seafood flown in from the Mediterranean, and some catches, like the skorpina, sell for nearly $60 per pound. The Spice menu here (offered for lunch and dinner daily) presents a few tough choices. They begin with appetizers, where you’ll debate whether to order the grilled octopus served with wild mushrooms or the crisp zucchini flowers filled with herbs and cheese. For your main, the obvious choice is the Mediterranean sea bream, but no one would blame you for choosing the broiled lamb chops.
Chef Rolf’s Tuna’s Seafood Restaurant
Bearing any unforeseen menu changes, this is one of the very few Miami Spice restaurants offering whole fish. Not only that, this North Miami seafood spot offers a dizzying array of options. Potential starters are lobster bisque, oysters Rockefeller, and oysters Moscow (with sour cream, horseradish, and caviar). If you must, there are also bacon-wrapped scallops and the goofy-sounding but predictably good tuna nachos on friend wontons with wasabi, sriracha, and soy. Pause for an intermezzo of mango sorbet with a splash of champagne before you dive into your choice of rack of lamb, New York strip, veal Oscar with lobster tail and béarnaise, and, of course, that whole catch.
The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions
Here you’ll have to entrust your fate to chef Cesar Zapata. The fish that will be offered for the crudo or ceviche on the Spice menu (lunch Thursday through Saturday and dinner daily excluding Monday) will change regularly, along with a meat special and dessert. No worries, though — the crudo (or ceviche) is one of the four options that will be served family-style after you’re seated. The Southern-style banchan includes deviled eggs with pulled pork, Georgia peaches with stracciatella cream, grits 'n' mushrooms, and roasted asparagus with a lemon cream and beurre noisette.
Since chef Philippe Ruiz’s 2011 departure from the Biltmore Hotel’s most elegant restaurant, Palme D'Or has been run by Gregory Pugin. He spent years traveling the world helping French culinary icon Joël Robuchon expand his every-growing empire of Michelin-starred restaurants. Here, Pugin specializes in tasting menus that can run well past $100 for nine courses, which makes the Spice menu (offered for dinner Tuesday through Saturday) a can’t-miss meal. Start with homemade squid ink capellini sautéed with calamari, artichoke, and chorizo. Follow it with a seared duck breast and leg confit with nectarine and sweet potato. Scallops with a multitude of corn preparations, beets, and lemon sauce are another choice, but don’t skimp on dessert. You’ve come all this way and gotten dressed up, so spend the extra $7 to end your meal the proper French way, with an assortment of cheeses from the restaurant’s ever-changing offerings.
The River Seafood & Oyster Bar
Despite being in the middle of Brickell’s massive billion-dollar construction zone, David Bracha’s River Seafood & Oyster Bar still seems to burst at the seams every evening. It’ll be harder to secure a table once Spice (offered nightly) kicks in with choices ranging from sea urchin polenta topped with a 60-degree egg to spiny lobster flatbread. Sea scallops a la plancha with celery root purée, lemon butter, and paddlefish roe is the obvious entrée choice, but it’s the desserts here that are more enticing than most others. There’s the peanut butter mousse with a sea salt and peanut butter brittle or a "slice of summer sundae" with buttermilk ice cream, bourbon peaches, sugar cookie, pecans, and butterscotch. Start planning your parking strategy now.
The Cypress Room
The Cypress Room is by far Michael Schwartz’s classiest (and priciest) Design District restaurant. Here, the James Beard Award winner entrusts his locally sourced philosophy to chef Roel Alcudia, who enhances every ingredient with precise executions and smart flavor combinations. The Spice menu (offered for dinner Monday through Friday) includes a vegetable terrine served with tangy goat cheese and toast. Add it to your to-do list. So too is the pork chop served with grilled leek and romesco. It’s also the perfect time to have the Cypress burger, among the city’s best and always fun to eat over a tablecloth with white-glove service.
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Edge Steak & Bar
Chef Aaron Brooks is a master of meat. So you would expect his Spice menu to include a house-made country terrine and favored cuts of beef such as rib eye doused with a thyme peppercorn jus. It’s closest sibling on the regular menu — an untrimmed boneless rib eye — goes for $36, so there’s no shortage of value here. As Miami’s token Australian, he of course has to serve lamb, which he slowly roasts with olives and preserved lemon and offers atop creamy polenta.
Miami Spice runs from August 1 through September 30 and offers diners prix-fixe lunches for $23 and dinners for $39 at 181 participating restaurants around town.