The name "Cocky Bob" sounds as though it should describe the guy that does those obnoxious FPL commercials, but it's actually the name of the tastiest fried chicken dish, glazed with garlic and honey, that's available here. And that's not the only evocative nomenclature: "Lost in the Garden," your choice of meat, chicken, or shrimp sautéed with ginger and fresh vegetables, brings Eden to mind. "Tani's Angels," shrimp and scallops sautéed with ginger, onion, and mushrooms, couldn't be improved even if it were served with a healthy portion of winged creatures. As for curry "Gang Dang," well, it's a veritable big bang of coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and peppers. All these silly little appellations might make you think Tani Thai doesn't take its customers seriously, but that's not the case. Not only is the fare distinctively delicious, the décor is contemporary and sophisticated and the service professional and friendly. When you're this good, a dish called "Cocky Bob" sounds perfectly justified.
There are two ways a world-class, James Beard award-winning chef with a signature restaurant can go. Open another restaurant in a different city, train an executive chef to cook your food, and hope your reputation will suffice to attract customers. But then you take the chance of compromising the standing of not only the new restaurant, but your original eatery as well. Or you can do what Allen Susser, a.k.a. Chef Allen, has done. He's opened a gourmet market in the same shopping center as Chef Allen's, his namesake eatery, where he sells his homemade line of products such as marinades, salad dressings, and sauces. He also offers cooking lessons in the store the second Wednesday of every month ($45 per session), and provides an extensive take-out menu of New World items. It's a snap for Susser to keep his eye on both places, which hardly compete with each other, because Chef Allen's is closed for lunch. And it's doubly pleasurable for us to monitor the progress of one of our most loyal hometown pride and joys.
An umpteen-year veteran on the North Miami dining scene, this place is simply not what it seems. The outside is steel and chrome, a typical New Jersey or Philadelphia diner look. But while the outside says "Yo," the inside says "Bonjour." It shouts it with the homemade vinaigrette that dresses the steamed artichoke, the tuna-pasta, and the hearts of palm salads. It yells it with the superior sauces: Béchamel, beurre blanc, Provençale. And it positively roars it with the sautéed frog legs, the garlicky calf's liver, the veal chop garnished with mushrooms, and the grilled lamb chops. Desserts such as chocolate mousse are a subtler, quieter approach to your palate, but then, we should never underestimate the power of a whisper.
The many Brazilian tourists who choose Miami as a shopping destination know a good deal when they see it. That's why at lunchtime they head to Camila's. There are fancier local Brazilian eateries with more sophisticated food, but the dishes at this unassuming self-service restaurant probably bear more resemblance to what the Brazilians eat in their hometowns. Camila's "super buffet" offers a daily selection of fortifying main dishes, which can include the traditional feijoada, beef stew, pounded seasoned steak, and chicken in spicy sauce. The meal starts at the salad bar, with an array of fresh vegetables and prepared salads. For dessert try the sweet coconut flan or homemade rice pudding, and top it off with strong Brazilian espresso. The atmosphere at Camila's is informal and friendly; there's a mix of casually dressed patrons chatting in Portuguese and young, suited employees from nearby office buildings. The restaurant is immaculate, and the staff is attentive, happy to list the ingredients of unfamiliar dishes or arm you with fresh plates for another round at the buffet. Go ahead and taste everything; the all-you-can-eat meal costs $6.95 at lunch and $7.95 at dinner. Now that's a bargain.

The original owners have moved on, but the menu remains the same delicious oddity as ever, and still shakes up the neighborhood. Items like "A Glorious Fungus Among Us" (fried mushrooms topped with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese) and the "Reuben & Rachel -- Still Not Married" (one of the best corned-beef sandwiches around) are hardly subtle, but delicious. Political incorrectness in the straightest of Miami suburbs? You betcha. And while you're being crass and crude, forget the diet as well. This is the ideal restaurant to meet friends for coffee and rum cake, take in-laws for breakfast "omelets with attitudes," and treat the neighbor whose lawn mower you broke to dinner: Order him the "steak on the grass" (Rumanian skirt steak on a bed of spinach).
Marquee chef Robbin Haas may have moved on to newer pastures (Baleen at Grove Isle), but he left behind a well-rehearsed kitchen and his decidedly distinctive menu. Which means it's still possible to feast on filet stroganoff, luxurious blinis with crème fraîche and caviar, and spicy Georgian fried chicken with mashed spuds and red beans. But the fare accounts for only part of Red Square's success. The 80-seat dining room adds a little perestroika panache to South Beach with those domed lighting fixtures, the distressed walls hung with Russian art, and the frozen sheet of ice that's the concept bar. The service is exemplary: Polite, professional servers polish wineglasses; busboys replace not just bread and water but cocktails as well. And oh, those cocktails. They're shaken not stirred with one or more of the 100 frozen vodkas that Red Square imports from around the world. Check out the Metropolitan Kosmopolitan, the Blue Russian, or the Glasnost for a night on the town that you will quickly forget.
We've got your budget Cuban, reasonable Nicaraguan, moderately priced Peruvian, homey Mexican. We've even got easy-to-afford Dominican and Panamanian places. But when it comes to Spanish fare, the cuisine that sparked all these derivations, most of the good stuff is pretty pricey. Enter El Bodegon Gallego, and don't go anywhere. Not only is this narrow, storefront Spanish eatery the best in the city (no holds barred, unless you count the iron shielding the windows), it's ridiculously cheap. Like the sopa de mariscos, a huge bowl of tomato-based seafood broth stocked with fresh mussels, jumbo shrimp, and tender squid, for $3.95. Tapas-size portions of potato tortilla run you a whopping $1.50. Main courses, including a healthy portion of arroz con pollo con chorizo or a skirt steak with rice and plantains, top out at $6.95. In fact fresh-made sangría is just about the most expensive item on the menu, which is, we should add, so authentic there isn't even Casa Juancho
"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.
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.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®