Best Restaurant For The Hearing-Impaired

NOA

It's probably no surprise that this dynamic but industrial-looking place is noisy: Most of the mod décor is metallic. Talk about reverb. Not only that, China Grill Management owns this Asian noodle shop, and this particular restaurant group seems to excel in creating high-end eateries that are sweet to the taste but hard on the eardrum. Sitting outside at the café tables probably won't help much, given that Lincoln Road is overwhelmed with crying babies and whining tourists these days. Still you might as well get used to it if you want to slurp up some yummy duck-topped egg noodles or vibrant curry-infused rice noodles (all reasonably priced). There's no use complaining: No one will be able to hear you.

"Wait, let me get you a warm one," the counter clerk says as he hovers a hand above the trays of doughy bagels. In no time his heat-seeking fingers land on a poppy-seed bagel that's as piping hot as it is flush with flavor. At Bagels & Co. freshness is never in question. Beyond fresh, the bagels are unusually dense and chewy, with a nice flavor. There are more than a dozen varieties available, all of which, we've found after extensive research, are extremely satisfying. The bialys (a kind of puffy, holeless bagel with onions on top) are the best we've ever seen. And did we mention how fresh everything is? And warm? And chewy?
Christine's Roti Shop
This town knows a thing or two about heat. But it's never known anything like Christine Gouvia's jerk chicken. The tender, unassuming morsels of dark meat tingle the tongue and placate the palate. And though this experience alone is worth the pilgrimage to Gouvia's tiny North Miami Beach eatery, the spicy bird takes second billing to the roti. Sort of a Punjabi pita, roti is used as a vehicle for serving a number of traditional island foods such as curried goat, oxtail, and seafood. Entrées come with roti and rice and peas, and max out at around seven bucks. Ginger beer, coconut juice, and other popular island drinks are available, and the raisin-filled cake is unbeatable. Christine's little shop is open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Lucky China One
An instantly recognizable two-word dish: crispy spinach. Or perhaps aromatic duck. Or even purple eggplant. But two words, no matter how memorable they are, can't really describe the complex flavors and contrasting textures presented in these outstanding Chinese dishes. Only taste will tell. After six years in business on flighty South Beach, we might have expected this eatery, which has three other locations in or near Montreal, Canada, to wane in popularity, cut back on quality, and ease up on the excellent service. But this fragrant little flower has continued to attract new clientele with its terrific crab-and-asparagus soup and its spicy ravioli stuffed with minced chicken in a peanut sauce. It has also rewarded loyal customers by instituting the VIP card, which offers ten percent off the top of the bill. All you have to do is use the card at least twice during the summer season, thus showing you're a resident. Now this is a privilege -- and a VIP room -- that we don't mind standing in line for.
Think French fries and plump white potatoes cooking in a deep pool of sputtering oil comes to mind. Certainly not health food. The menu at healthy Oasis Café features staples such as tofu, brown rice, and garden burgers, but they're not your ordinary bland concoctions. Oasis gives their food a decidedly Mediterranean twist. And they give their menu a twist as well. The restaurant offers a hearty batch of fries ($2.95) as one of their appetizer-size mezze or "little plates." Not just potato sticks oozing grease. These are thin but substantial fries with skin on one side, coated in a spicy cumin-coriander mixture. They're the perfect accompaniment to an Angus New York steak or a grilled vegetable sandwich. Or they're a fine main course, if you're into throwing all dietary vigilance to the wind. To raise the fat content a wee bit, they throw in a few marinated green olives with your order. No ketchup needed.
The Spaniards may not have invented the appetizer, but they are conquistadors when it comes to premain-course specialties. They have even captured a foothold in the English language with the word tapas (means appetizers, yanqui). Back in the land of Sancho Panza, tapas are free at many an inn, as long as you and your compadres order beer or wine. Here in the New World you'd be tilting at windmills for that arrangement, but you'll want to pay for any number of this Calle Ocho establishment's 35 tapas. They cost from $3 to $6.50 and come in two categories, hot and cold. Among the hot: garlic shrimp, fried squid, and mussels in broth. Among the cold: real Spanish olives, a garlicky potato salad like only the Iberians can do, and the Spanish tortilla (a thick, but mysteriously delicious, potato omelet). Chomp tapas, slurp wine, flirt with the sexy long-haired flamenco dancers (male and female) who are been wrist-flicking and heel-stomping on this little restaurant's tiny corner stage. Get to the inn early or make a reservation if you want a table.

El Toro Taco
A fogon is an oven, and the one here is obviously put to good use. Owner Agustin Paz uses his to melt the cheese over molletes (open-face French bread sandwiches), bake cochinita pibil (marinated pork) burritos, and roast poblano peppers stuffed with ground beef. Fare isn't fancy, but it is attractively presented, not to mention generously portioned. Wash down those spinach nachos, laden with cheese and refried beans, with a Dos Equis, a strawberry margarita, or, in deference to Miami's thirst for fruity drinks, the El Fogon smoothie. But don't come to us if you don't have room for the crepas con cajeta (crèpes with caramel) for dessert -- blame it on the smooth operator working el fogon.
Siberian nachos. What a concept. Better yet, what an execution. Caviar, tuna tartare, crème fraîche, a nacho. The combination is sublime. (The tuna tartare appetizer on its own is pretty glorious.) Of course, the restaurant's name and welcoming statue of Vladimir Ilich Lenin are supposed to make you think kitschy communist, but no comrades of the average sort were eating like this when Russia was red. In fact not too many comrades in America can afford to eat here too often, either. But it's worth a splurge just once, for the appetizers alone. There's not much under $13, but the portions are large. And with only a couple of shots of vodka (ranging from about $7 to $12), you could get out of there for under ... well, never mind. Capitalism won. Enjoy the spoils.

Norman's
Perhaps poet Ricardo Pau-Llosa wrote it best: "... what perfect/form a taste can set before the eye/the primary tongue./Con the cheek with bliss." Pau-Llosa was extolling Norman Van Aken's talent, and he hit it right on the proverbial head. Van Aken and his "perfect form" have conned us all into believing none in the Gables (nor in Florida, nor even in the country) can challenge him. Somebody arrest this man. His particular crime? Achieving culinary heights so great every other chef pales in his Himalayan shadow. He has spoiled our palates, and he must be punished. He must not be allowed to win this award again next year, as he has for the past three years running.
When the La Casita team took over this Calle Ocho location eight years ago, they showed their acumen by holding on to the best part of the previous restaurant: Amparo Jidy, concocter of the creamiest, sweetest, foamiest café con leche in town. Amparo has ruled the coffee bar ever since, serving up plenty of smiles, along with coladas and cortaditos. Some years back, a young lady discovered, too late, that she didn't have enough change to pay for the steaming cup of liquid gold she needed to get through her morning. "No te preocupes," Amparo said, waving her hand magnanimously. "Esta es tu casita." No wonder lawyers, laborers, and locals keep beating a path to her door.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®