House of India
"The best beef I ever tasted was, perhaps needless to say, in Bombay, at a restaurant gleaming with chrome, chandeliers, and mirrored walls, not far from the central market where cows, in their capacity as manifestations of the divine, were permitted to roam freely and graze at the produce stalls," Francine Prose writes in an essay included in a book called Not for Bread Alone. Cows are sacrosanct in India, though eating them is not expressly illegal. We haven't seen any cows strolling around North Miami Beach lately, but the only beef dish at Kebab is the keema matar, minced beef spiced with onion, garlic, and ginger. The lack of beef dishes likely is deliberate, an exclusion made out of respect to cows everywhere. Still it's impossible to miss the bovine, free-range or otherwise, at this superb Indian restaurant. Since 1981 Kebab has been serving up the spiciest curries, the most fragrant nan, and the coolest kulfi (ice cream made with pistachios, almonds, and rose water) around. A kebab may conjure an image of many animal products on skewers, but you'll have to settle for some very tasty chicken tikka or seikh kebab (minced lamb) instead. What a sacrifice.
Most of Miami's Oriental markets shouldn't really carry that pan-Asian moniker. Sure there's an occasional aisle with an Indian curry, dehydrated miso, or Thai peanut glaze. But for the most part, Asian in these joints really means Chinese -- rows and rows of Cantonese condiments and Mandarin teas. Nothing wrong with that, but what about all those spices, sauces, and ingredients that make dishes from Jakarta to Hanoi so delectable? Vinh An is a wonderful exception to the Chinese rule. They have lemon grass, chilies, Thai tea, and a wide assortment of strangely savory Vietnamese fish sauces. Want to try cooking a pot of your own pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)? You can buy all the ingredients to make it from scratch or purchase prepackaged seasoning here. How about a prawn, sugar-cane wrap, or a Penang curry? Vinh An carries a nice range of Asian vegetables and herbs, including mint, lime leaves, and fresh cilantro. The market also has live fish in a huge tank and blue crabs crawling around in crates. But if Chinese is your thing, don't worry; the bok choy is on the shelf and there are those rows of Cantonese condiments.

We'll have the mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad with a Monet, please. No, make that the citrus duck confit with a Degas on the side. Or how 'bout the snapper in champagne sauce with a Gauguin garnish? Okay, we'll let this art gallery get away with billing itself as "ARTernative," because there are some true masters at work here in the kitchen. The delightful Mediterranean menu complements the setting, which comes complete with live dancing and after-dinner concerts. It all makes Meza a must-see and -eat. C'mon in, the art -- and the fare -- is fine.

El Toro Taco
For a real burrito, you gotta go south. In the heart of Homestead is the Mexican center of Miami-Dade County, and it's worth stopping off on your weekend jaunt to the Keys or Biscayne National Park for the delicious concoctions at El Toro. Everything here is made on-site, from the flour tortillas to the pepper sauces. They grind and shred their own beef, and boil their own beans. After choosing a filling of your choice (chicken, or the aforementioned ground or shredded beef) you can order the burrito in one of two ways: with cheese, lettuce, and tomato inside ($4.25); or with a pepper and cheese enchilada sauce on top ($5.50). Both are good. The beans come on the side unless you ask to have them included in the wrap.
Amid the electronic shops hawking VCRs and knockoff Rolexes, this tiny food court features more than a dozen ethnic kiosks where you can get Brazilian rodizio-style meats, Colombian empanadas; Chinese noodles; Middle-Eastern salads; Jewish bagels; and spicy Indian fare. The green- and yellow-clad shoppers from Brazil crowd grills serving spits of beef the size of soccer balls, plus chicken, liver, and pork, leaving vegetarians and lovers of mouth-burning food free to sample the rustic Indian fare at Raja's, where a daily choice of vegetable curries and sautéed cabbage are always available. An incendiary curry chicken tastes as though it's been marinated in spice and then smothered in a creamy sauce of curry and tomato. Platters cost about five dollars. Don't bother speaking English here; this is the real Miami.
The competition may be less than stiff, but Indian Grocery hasn't slacked off. For eighteen years this crowded yet tidy market has offered an array of spices, nuts, relishes, grains, and chutneys to curry mavens here and abroad. The shop is frequented by Indians transplanted via London (and some straight from the Asian country itself), but it's also become a must-stop for Cubans who want to send spicy care packages to their friends and families on the island. So what's on the shelves besides the five C's of Indian cooking (curry powder, cumin, coriander, chilies, and cardamom)? There's no shortage of basmati rice, lentils, and beans -- big bags of the stuff. Across the aisle you'll see jars of vindaloo pastes and tandoori seasonings, which you can use to re-create your favorite restaurant classics. No time to cook? There are rows of canned Indian delights (imported from Bombay) like curried chickpeas, daal, and saag paneer, all ready to heat and eat. The refrigerated case at the back of the place holds roti and nan (and sweets such as kulfi). Or pick up a pack of poppadums (crisp lentil wafers), which spring to life when you nuke 'em for just one minute.
Table Ten 09
Okay, okay, there's a substantial kitsch factor here. The anchors, the lobster traps, the nets, the seashells strung all over everything. But come on, watching the sun set over the downtown skyline through those plate-glass windows is an all-time Miami moment, one that is best shared over a couple of Neptune platters and nice bottle of chilled white wine with that special someone. And once it gets dark, the cityscape looks even more magical. Alternate gazing at that stunning view and into each other's eyes, and pretty soon it'll be, "Damn the over-the-top-nautical theme décor. Full speed ahead for luuuuuv!"
I. Iced latte. II. Espresso, decaf or regular. Order a doppio (double) for a multiple charge. III. Hazelnut cappuccino. Nutty, creamy, smooth. IV. Power Arctic mocha, combined with so many proteins and carbs you're practically propelled to the gym. V. Vanilla tea. Or get chai. VI. Raspberry razzmatazz: brandy, black raspberry liqueur, and crème de cassis in a mocha with whipped cream. VII. Turkey-Brie panini with whole-grain mustard. VIII. Stew of the day. IX. S'mores, campfire ingredients complete with flame brought to the table. Yours for the melting! X. Xando, naturally.

Trouble performing between the sheets? Drink a blend of carrot, parsley, and cucumber juices. Trying to fend off an oncoming cold? Gulp some carrot, apple, and parsley before calling your doctor. Acne? Carrot and spinach should clear it up. If none of those combinations are appealing, create one and it could get posted to the vast menu. Besides the tasty natural remedies, this tiny bar perched on a side street off Ponce de Leon Boulevard offers a diverse breakfast and lunch menu. Hang in the intimate sitting area and listen to employees and patrons sing the health praises of ingesting fresh fruit and herbs. But come early and during the week. Closing time is 4:00 p.m. and weekends are for the beach.

Do a little dance, make a little art, get down with appetizers -- it works for Tu Tu Tango. The concept, with tapas from around the world served in a bohemian setting designed to reflect an artist's garret, proved so popular that chairman and founder Bradley Weiser went ahead with plans to expand nationally. Currently the café, launched in 1991, has five successful locations, with two in Miami-Dade, one in Atlanta, one in Orlando, and another in Anaheim, California. Several more are scheduled to open in 1999 in diverse areas like Kansas City, Missouri; and Columbus, Ohio. So far the fare round here has remained consistently good, and the theme, "food for the starving artist" (hence the small portions), is carried out in live entertainment: Local artists are employed to draw, paint, or sculpt on the premises in exchange for eats. The resulting art is displayed in the restaurant until some art-hungry diner purchases it along with some Cajun chicken egg rolls, Mediterranean spinach dip, and an order of hurricane shrimp.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®