Outback Steakhouse
Executive chef Frank Randazzo doesn't want you to call this place, located in the St. Moritz building of the Loews Hotel, a steak house. And we can see why. His starters, like the delectable seared foie gras with chili syrup and blue-corn arepas, and his entrées, like the seared turbot with brown-butter escabeche and quinoa, have a seductive South American accent that's hard to resist. But he doth protest a little too much. The Argentine meat here is simply a cut above the rest. The churrasco, a whole skirt steak, shimmers from its meeting with the parrilla (grill); the ojo di bife, or rib eye, arrives sizzling like Chinese food. The waiters then slice the steaks for you tableside and serve them on carving boards, a delicate bit of theatrical service so rare on South Beach we go back again and again to see the show. Randazzo dazzles; he won't steer you wrong with his grilled rack of lamb with a three-chili demi-glace. No matter how you slice it, you get the real meat of the matter.
Round about midday at this venerable institution off the 79th Street Causeway, a member of the kitchen staff walks out to the dock that flanks the back of the restaurant. You can watch him through the tall windows that give off a stunning view of the water and passing boats. The man carries a bucket or two. Below the dock enormous tarpon, some five feet long, circle, and wait for dinner. They churn the water as the man dumps the buckets of leftovers into their realm. Inside, surrounded by dark wood and the memorabilia of more than 50 years of existence, patrons feast on fresh seafood. Awed spectators dig into everything from clam chowder to grouper with equal relish. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

It's Tuesday afternoon and you're craving chicken feet again. You had the little morsels just two days ago, but that didn't do the trick. At the same meal you scarfed turnip cakes, steamed shrimp dumplings, sticky rice wrapped in a lotus leaf, baked roast pork buns, spare ribs with black bean sauce, rice noodles har mon, and for dessert, steamed buns filled with lotus seed paste. Still it wasn't enough. The succulent feet remain on your brain. If you had your way, you would eat dim sum at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. Lucky for you, at Kon Chau you can. Open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, the restaurant offers about 50 dim sum items at any time of the day, unlike other restaurants that leave you hankering for the stuff until the weekend comes. Nothing fancy here: No steam cart being rolled around by a snooty driver who refuses to reveal what exactly is on your little plate. Kon Chau offers all dim sum prepared to order. Exceptional edibles and efficient, courteous service are just two good reasons to dine here. The third: incredibly cheap prices. Two people can eat until they burst for less than 20 bucks. Now that's a lot of chicken feet.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
Two reasons why this elegant neighborhood restaurant consistently earns kudos for its service: The staff respects chef-owner Klime Kovaceski, and he respects them. With all this mutual regard going on, it's pretty hard not to be a recipient of it. The host has a toy or two stashed away for a fussy baby. The servers cater to customers shamelessly but professionally, which means they consider tips a bonus for a job well done rather than de rigueur. And Kovaceski makes the rounds several times a night, donning a fresh shirt every time he does so, to inquire about the success of his New Continental dishes. Become a regular and you'll get regularly teased by him, particularly if you always order the same meal. But then, it's impossible not to have a favorite at Crystal Café, where everybody knows your name, or at least thinks they should learn it.

As out of the way as it might seem to the downtown lunch crowd, this all-substance/no-style Cuban eatery is a big hit with our men and women in uniform. On any given day, Laguna's crack squad of blue-aproned waitresses can be seen pressing prodigious platters of moros, yuca, maduros, and succulent meats of all descriptions on National Guardsmen, police officers, FBI agents, parks and recreation employees, and code enforcement inspectors. The high quantity, high quality, and low prices of the fare keep the heavily armed clientele coming back. If you're on a real tight budget, a big bowl of the heavenly sopa de pescado and a side of tostones (perhaps the best in town) will run you a total of $3.50. Want to drop in early for a hearty breakfast of two eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee? That'll be a buck fifty. The daily specials are uniformly excellent (especially Monday's bistec en cazuela and Thursday's rabo encendido), none costs more than $4.75, and you'll probably need both hands to carry the leftovers out to the car.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®