Twenty Miami Restaurants to Watch in 2016 and 2017
Courtesy of the Anderson
3195 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 786-899-0336; facebook.com/33kitchenmiami.
The man behind the Asian-influenced Peruvian food at 33 Kitchen in Coconut Grove is Chilean-born chef Sebastian Fernandez. He worked at the Coral Reef Yacht Club for 14 years before leaving to open 33 Kitchen with his Peruvian wife, Leslie Ames. The restaurant's name is a nod to the Grove's zip code, as well as the number of vertebrae in the human spine. It's also Fernandez's favorite number. The menu is divided into hot and cold tapas, each with about a dozen options. From the cold section, try the causa limena, a signature Peruvian potato dish made here with purple mashed potatoes, seared tuna, and microgreens. The final touch is a coating of creamy and spicy ají amarillo sauce, which the chef makes from scratch. It's utterly delectable and beautifully ties in all the elements. From the hot section, grilled octopus with an olive cream sauce and bonito chips is perfectly crisp and tender. For dessert, there's a delightful bread pudding. It's not quintessentially Peruvian, but neither is 33 Kitchen. It is, however, a great addition to Miami's dining scene.
709 NE 79th St., Miami; 305-757-3368; theandersonmiami.com.
When Magnum Lounge closed in October 2015, the Upper Eastside neighborhood mourned its loss. Magnum was more than a bar. For years, it was a place of all-inclusive community: Gay, straight, young, and old were welcome. As long as you liked your cocktails with a side of music, you were part of the family. Now, the Anderson has opened in its place. The bar and restaurant, a partnership between Broken Shaker/Bar Lab's Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi and the Workshop's Jourdan Binder, is a harmonious blend of nostalgia and newness. Instead of razing Magnum, the team has embraced the kitschy club, keeping its red naugahyde booths and the piano. Outside, the scene changes into a tribute to Caribbean bars. The theming still fits with the '80s vibe — during that decade, reggae burst into the mainstream following Bob Marley's untimely death.
3540 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove; 305-640-5862; arietemiami.com.
Chef Michael Beltran and co-owner Jason Odio's Ariete returns an air of refinement to Coconut Grove not seen since the days when industrialist James Deering caroused on its shores. The 72-seater in the space that long housed Calamari is where you can now find foie gras served with crisped plantain and tea sandwiches lined with velvety egg salad dotted with trout roe. But there's something more amid the elegance offered by this young chef who has trained under Norman Van Aken and Michael Schwartz. The Little Havana native twists bits of Cuba into every dish. The chicken livers are whipped with dark Zacapa rum. Beltran's sauces — elegant and luscious — are bound with whipped calabaza, just the way his grandparents taught him. A meal ends with a ginger-infused meringuito, and you won't stop thinking about the sweet treat until the next time you're at Ariete.
Bachour Bakery + Bistro
600 Brickell Ave., Miami; 305-330-6310; bachourbb.com.
If you've been to Paris, Rome, or New York, you might have been enchanted by a visit to a local pastry shop. Rows upon rows of delicate, beautiful confections are on display. When you finally choose your one delicious item, it is carefully boxed and secured with a bow.Bachour Bakery + Bistro captures the delight of a trip to a fine European pastry shop. Located in Brickell World Plaza, the collaboration between beloved pastry chef Antonio Bachour and chef Henry Hané is a most welcome addition to the neighborhood. The cream-filled brioche is a standout, as is the Nutella croissant. Don't think for a second that this bistro is all about the sweet side of things. Chef Hané's menu meets Bachour's high standards. The lunch menu is filled with soups, salads, tartines, and sandwiches — all given as much thought in eye appeal as in taste.Tartines, French open-faced sandwiches, are made with Chef Bachour's bread, baked in-house daily. The smoked salmon is chef Hané's take on a lox and bagels. Smoked salmon is chopped and served with crisp capers, crème fraîche, and egg snow. Leave room for one of Bachour's desserts — these gorgeous presentations are mini works of art.
Beaker & Gray
637 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-699-2637; beakerandgray.com.
Beaker & Gray is perhaps Miami's most ambitious casual restaurant. A hip crowd floods in for chicken nuggets cooked sous vide and libations spiked with house-made bitters and syrups. The place comes courtesy of chef Brian Nasajon — a onetime philosophy student — and Ben Potts, who swapped investment banking for bartending. Nasajon makes use of modernist cooking techniques at almost every opportunity. Seemingly simple plates are dotted with fluid gels, but his simplest preparations work best. One dish, unassumingly called "grains," is a nutty, toothsome heap of bulgur, red quinoa, and black barley doused in a concentrated tomato water that captures the fruit's delicate sweetness and fluttering acidity. Combine it with one of Potts' skillfully crafted cocktails and you'll understand why this place is packed even on early weeknights.
Glass & Vine
2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove; 305-200-5268; glassandvine.com.
The menu here eschews plate sizes and is split into four sections: Snacks, Garden, Sea, and Land. To start, opt for the barbecue spiced nuts that in recent weeks have included cashews and walnuts tossed in a meringue spiked with garlic and onion powder, paprika, brown sugar, and complete seasoning. Left out to dry, the savory nibble takes on an ear-shattering crunch when eaten. Nearly all dishes arrive on black plates, which makes for eye-popping and sometimes ominous presentations. Charred cauliflower is first roasted and later fried until the florets take on a dark-chocolate tone. Rapicavoli isn't hesitant to say it was inspired by a meal at Michael Solomonov's Zahav in Philadelphia. The slick of tahini, along with crushed dried chickpeas and olives, makes a decent complement.
251 NW 25th St., Miami; 786-577-0150; kyumiami.com.
At Kyu in Wynwood, a sizable portion of the restaurant's menu is prepared on its wood-fired grill using a combination of Asian and American barbecue techniques. The restaurant is the brainchild of Michael Lewis and Steven Haigh. The pair met at Zuma London eight years ago. Lewis, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and Jean-Georges restaurant alum, went on to run the kitchen at Zuma Miami, while Haigh was appointed general manager. The strongest example of Lewis' hybrid grilling style is the Wagyu beef brisket. Here, the meat is simply prepared with Japanese sea salt and black shichimi pepper, then smoked for 12 to 14 hours. It arrives divided into thick slices on a flat wood stump with a bevy of accoutrements such as fresh lettuce for possible wrapping, pickled cucumbers, red onions, and shiso. There are also three miniature beakers containing sweet/sour, spicy/smoky, and light/spicy barbecue sauces. Kyu is precisely what Wynwood has been missing: an Asian-American concept with a thriving bar scene, killer cocktails, and a fun and energetic dining experience.
9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour; 305-602-9663; lezoo.com.
At Le Zoo in Bal Harbour Shops, the menu is for the most part a hybrid of Le Diplomate and Parc in Philadelphia, both of which are French brasseries owned by Stephen Starr. Like the decor, Le Zoo's menu consists predominantly of brasserie staples, save for a few Mediterranean-leaning plates. Take, for instance, the angel-hair pasta entrée, featuring a substantial serving of Alaskan king crab paired with Fresno chilies and crème fraîche. You're unlikely to find this dish at a typical French bistro, but who cares when the delicacy's meat is mouthwatering and Starr's favorite noodle variety goes down like silk? This is not a cheap spot, but the portions at Le Zoo are more than generous, and the overall high quality of the cuisine and service are unmistakable. And though not everything here tastes quite as irresistible as pastry chef Kelli Payne's milk chocolate pot de crème, this fun brasserie is on par with some of France's finest.
Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-655-5610; faena.com.
Within the luxurious confines of the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, orange flames lick a multifunctional grill designed and built in Texas. Oak and charcoal fuel its plancha, parrilla, and smoker. It's also the source of scalding ash for rescoldo, a process in which vegetables are gently roasted in the fire's refuse. There's also an open pit where cooks string up whole chickens that bob to and fro. It's a method that Argentina's favorite cocinero, Francis Mallmann, often deploys while cooking in remote parts of Argentina or Uruguay's rolling hills. But there's no such rustic outdoor fire pit here. Instead, hulking steaks, whole chickens, and blistering cast-iron pans bearing charred vegetables whip around a crimson and cheetah-print room. And despite the trendy scene, the food is superbly simple. Meat comes adorned with little more than a punch of chimichurri. Sides receive only a splash of olive oil. Simpler is often better, and in this case, it's stunning.
1854 Bay Rd., Miami Beach; 786-275-6005; naiyara.com.
NaiYaRa's offerings are mostly expensive takes on Asian-tinged dishes served in glitzy environs. The standard pad Thai is just that: standard. There's no hint of the ultrasweet, almost pruney tamarind pulp or salty fish-sauce funk that signify this creation's best iterations. Similarly, many miss the sweet-spicy-sour flavor combination that is the hallmark of Southeast Asian cuisine. Beyond the crowd pleasers and plates that help pay the rent is a handful of ambitious dishes offering a peek at the possibilities. Bee's beef jerky is crackly, smoky, meaty shards of addictive goodness. The woody, almost incense-like perfume of ground coriander overtakes your senses. The spicy dipping sauce called nahmjimjao made with sweet tamarind pulp, lime juice, and chilies functions almost like a barbecue sauce. Yet it's far superior, as its clean flavors — spicy, sour, and sweet — complement rather than overshadow the meat.
Photo by Juan Fernando Ayora
121 SE First St., Miami;305-420-2205; pbstation.com.
PB Station is new ground for the restaurant empire helmed by Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro. The self-proclaimed Pubbelly Boys first planted their flag in Sunset Harbour in 2010 with powerful, porky flavors served in hip digs. Recall their gussied-up version of the McDonald's McRib sandwich dubbed the McBelly. After this initial hit came more than a half-dozen restaurants serving Japanese, French, and Spanish fare. Today the trio is among the city's most ambitious, creative restaurateurs. Mendin's 2015 nomination for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef South award reinforced it. Now in downtown Miami's Langford Hotel, they've taken on the American chophouse. Unlike most of the other restaurants under the Pubbelly umbrella, PB Station dishes out the kind of food you could eat every day. Of course, there is the occasional luxurious or outlandish twist. But more than any other of Schreiner, Mendin, and Navarro's restaurants, this one prefers classic elegance to making diners' eyes pop. Maybe they're catering to a more professional downtown crowd. Or perhaps they're just the big boys now.
Pao by Paul Qui
3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-655-5630; faena.com.
The opulent Faena Hotel Miami Beach houses rock-star Austin chef Paul Qui's first restaurant outside of Texas, the hub of his growing restaurant empire. Qui is a James Beard Award winner and former winner of Bravo's hit reality cooking show, Top Chef. At Pao, which boasts a gold domed ceiling and $6 million gilded unicorn made by Damien Hirst, the prices match the accolades. Unfortunately, the precision of the cooking doesn't match the prices. Yet scattered throughout the menu are a few items worth sampling. Try the whole smoked chicken, brined in fish sauce and served with a fragrant gingered rice and a velvety chicken jus. The pork blood stew called dinuguan is also worth a visit, first for the rich sauce the kitchen coaxes out of the pig's ichor and then for the pillowy gnocchi over which it's draped. Qui is ambitious, with an arsenal of show-stopping flavors many will have never encountered. The matter is simply getting them through the kitchen and onto the plate.
Plant Food + Wine
105 NE 24th St., Miami; 305-814-5365; plantfoodandwinemiami.com.
Located at the Sacred Space Miami in the Wynwood Arts District, Plant Food + Wine features cutting-edge, plant-based cuisine inspired by South Florida. The restaurant's vibrant menu blends innovative techniques with seasonal, local produce and includes many of Matthew Kenney's classic raw food dishes. Miami's tropical climate and its broad cultural influences are ideally suited for the restaurant's clean, modernist approach. The mission of Plant Food + Wine is to offer health and wellness through delicious food in a luxurious environment. The restaurant is being developed in partnership with Karla Dascal, founder of the Sacred Space Miami, and Karla Conceptual Event Experiences. Plant Food + Wine is located adjacent to Matthew Kenney Culinary Miami, a state-of-the-art raw food culinary school, attended by students from around the world.
Quinto La Huella
788 Brickell Plaza, Miami; 786-805-4646; quintolahuella.com.
It's no surprise that many of South America's chefs are planting extravagant flags on Miami's sun-soaked shores. What is surprising, however, is the velocity with which they're doing it. Miami also has spots by Colombian wunderkind Juan Manuel Barrientos and Argentine philosopher/chef Francis Mallmann. Quinto La Huella, whose sister restaurant, Parador La Huella, is situated in a tiny Uruguayan beach town, is the latest to join. Though the two serve the simplicity of meat and wine-filled parrilla, the Miami spot — located in the glittering East, Miami in Brickell City Centre — is a far more dressed-up affair. Here, you'll find the office crowd in well-tailored suits dining on whole red snapper, crisp pizzas, and plenty of grass-fed beef raised on Uruguay's rolling hills. But when you arrive, ask for a seat in what they call the grill room. Here is the heart of the restaurant, where a blazing fire falls into the glowing orange coals that are used to prepare nearly every item on the menu.
River Yacht Club
401 SW Third Ave., Miami; 305-200-5716; riveryachtclub.com.
Miami is a city of extravagance, and nothing says "nonexistent budget" like a yacht club membership. The River Yacht Club includes the most upscale of amenities, from a boat marina and a yacht showroom to a signature restaurant and a VanDutch rooftop lounge. The first of its kind, the 150-seat lounge is named for the luxury yacht company. Maritime themes permeate the restaurant, from the seahorse details on the barstools to the ocean-centric fare. The menu is created by a host of guest chefs, most recently wunderkind Alex Chang. Sip some sparkling rosé on the deck and pretend one of those floating mansions is yours. It might be the most Miami experience you can have.
The Sarsaparilla Club
1 18th St., Miami Beach; 305- 341-1400; thesarsaparillacclub.com.
There are many places in Miami that serve Chinese dim sum, but only one restaurant offers an American version: the Sarsaparilla Club at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach. During the appetizer portion of the meal, apron-clad waiters approach each table with pushcarts containing an assortment of American-inspired bites and small plates. The chefs behind the rustic poolside restaurant are power couple Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis. They met on the line at Gigi's in midtown Miami and were reunited at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in 2011. In 2013, they opened a Root & Bone in Manhattan and earned rave reviews for their elevated Southern fare. The Sarsaparilla Club's dim sum selection contains eight or so items that change frequently. Try the sweet corn simmered in a corn stock and drizzled with a cornbread butter. Each order features half an ear of corn topped with lemon popcorn and cornbread crumbles. The citrus notes of the popcorn — though slightly odd at first — balance out the sweetness of this rich and thoroughly original dish.
2911 Grand Ave., Suite 400D, Coconut Grove; 305-456-5723; spillovermiami.com.
From the crew that brought Lokal to Coconut Grove and Kush to Wynwood comes the seafood-centric Spillover, specializing in ciders and meads while offering Justin Bieber's face in the urinals. But the Spillover is more than just a good time, as Miami has long come to expect from Matt Kuscher's restaurants. It's also the most polished, with managers sporting tailored suits and an extensive list of entrées riding alongside all the sandwiches. Try a whole fish, often supplied by whatever the spearfishermen from Trigger Seafood are catching, or grab one of the 15 daily orders of barbecued gator ribs. Most important, sidle up to the bar and ask Kuscher or one of his knowledgeable staff members to guide you through a list of ancient meads and European ciders that are far more than sugar bombs.
784 West Ave., Miami Beach; 305-763-8355; sushigarage.com.
Husband and wife Jonás and Alexandra Millán, along with their partner, executive chef Sunny Oh, like to joke they were forced to open Sushi Garage so they'd have a place to eat Japanese food in Miami Beach that's neither too expensive nor too experimental. Chef Oh was the executive chef at Nobu Miami before joining the Milláns to open Juvia on Lincoln Road and Bonito in Saint Barts. Searching for a simple California roll? Sushi Garage does the staple justice. They offer both mock crab and king crab versions because they recognize some folks are just used to the fake stuff. Other well-executed standbys include organic chicken teriyaki, miso soup, and the most mouthwatering chicken and shrimp dumplings on the Beach. With Sushi Garage, the Milláns and Oh set out to create a neighborhood Japanese spot in an area that's becoming increasingly community-oriented. They've achieved just that by concentrating on serving basics that people love in a setting that's new and exciting.
Talde Miami Beach
4041 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-605-4094; taldemiamibeach.com.
At Talde, the new Asian-American restaurant inside the Confidante Hotel, the chef and his crew — which includes executive chef Jeanine Denetdeel from Talde Brooklyn — don't take themselves too seriously. In fact, they want customers to know it's OK to let loose. To facilitate that, they have the underground-club vibe down pat — from the excessively dim lighting to the walls covered with graffiti by Brooklyn artist Mr. EwokOne to a playlist Chef Talde refers to as "baby-making music." So grab a seat and start with an order of kung pao chicken wings. Talde's version consists of Szechuan peppercorns, chilies, peanuts, cilantro, and a splash of sweet chili sauce. The result? Incredibly crisp, finger-licking wings that are addictive. Also good are the short ribs and the whole roasted branzino. At the bar, there's a lighted sign in Dutch that translates to "Unity makes strength." The saying is borrowed from the Brooklyn flag, and it befits a restaurant with such a cohesive ethos: Serve proudly inauthentic Asian-American cuisine in a convivial and hip setting
200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-374-9378; zestmiami.com.
Cindy Hutson's Zest is her first restaurant in downtown Miami and a throwback to her frantic early days in the restaurant business when she teamed up with longtime partner Delius Shirley to open Norma's on the Beach. Her Caribbean foundation is on display here in a pristine fish dip, whose main ingredient changes as availability dictates. In it go a homemade garlic aioli, rémoulade, and a "woo" sauce made with Scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, and vinegar. The result, whether it be made with corvina or swordfish, quickly disappears in the clutches of fried plantain chips. Cobia makes for a pleasant, refreshing midday ceviche that's roughly chopped and tossed with ginger, coconut milk, and shreds of green mango. Yet Hutson is also dabbling in a different array of flavors. Lentil curry is accompanied by house-made pita, and octopus curry with an intoxicating pilau, a rice dish similar to pilaf, takes on a special richness thanks to chunks of roasted cashews. It's no wonder she has made it more than 20 years in the brutal restaurant business.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Miami dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.