If writer David Mamet had been to Villa Habana, he never would have scripted the line in his film Wag the Dog, in which William H. Macy's character declares there is no difference between good flan and bad flan. Granted, making a cup of custard is kind of hard to screw up, so there probably isn't any flan out there that would scream "bad." But the Villa Habana version goes way beyond "good." It's thicker, creamier, less eggy than most, with a delicate flavor that goes great with a foam-topped, after-dinner cortadito. The restaurant's regular menu is full of familiar Cuban favorites, executed with a deft and distinctive touch. So sure, go there for the ropa vieja al vino, but remember, there's always room for flan.
It's been a long journey pushing westward in the brutal traffic. But here you are at the roadside oasis called Rancho los Cocos. This glorified country produce stand used to be really way out west but is now in scenic Westchester. Wooden tables piled with locally grown fruits and vegetables are lined up under a wide roof, which also shades a cluster of little tables and chairs. Here the weary commuter can enjoy Cuban home cooking chosen from an indoor minicafeteria. Or try a shrimp, beef, or chicken shish kebab grilled to order outside. Then there's the wonderful los Cocos juice bar offering a full complement of fresh juices and batidos. When you're finished eating, browse through the produce and bring home a bag or two of whatever's in season.
Judging by the nightly crowd of people milling about outside Ragazzi, sipping wine and chatting away while waiting for a table, it appears most of you don't need us to tell you how good this petite 52-seat trattoria really is. Seems you've heard about the homemade bread; delicious risottos and pastas; freshly prepared Italian seafood, chicken, and veal dishes accompanied by brightly cooked greens; and the perfectly poached pears for dessert. In which case it's probably unnecessary to remind you just how hospitable the cozy room is, or how popular the prices. Where else can you get salmon carpaccio drizzled with truffle oil over a bed of mixed greens for $7.95? Cafe Ragazzi is the best, and you know it. Honorable mention and a tip of the capellini to Tiramesu for their great homemade pastas.
Mexico and Miami have much in common. Both have plenty of corruption and new construction. Both are working hard to join the industrialized world. Unlike the land of the big piñata, however, the Magic City has a sorely underdeveloped taco sector. But authentic taco entrepreneurs from Puebla and other Mexican towns are popping up where you'd least expect them. This little restaurant and take-out window in a dusty warehouse district is the leader of this fledgling industry. It's where you'll find the genuine item. At $1.50 per unit, the cost-benefit ratio is excellent. Each taco is constructed with two soft tortillas, instead of one. The marinated pieces of grilled sirloin are gilded with chopped onions and cilantro. Apply red or green hot sauce as needed. Consume other varieties: pork chunks cooked in a dry pepper sauce (al pastor), chorizo, or shredded chicken, all cooked with Mexican herbs. For an extra 50 cents you can receive the top-of-the-line tacos: beef tongue, tripe, jerky beef, or goat meat with avocado leaves. Viva el capitalismo!

Best Restaurant To Die In The Past Twelve Months

Al Amir

This self-labeled "Mediterranean" restaurant, more Lebanese than anything else, was chef-owner Ali Husseini's second attempt to crack the dining code in Miami. His first, an eatery of the same name on South Beach, gave way to this particularly welcoming oasis on Biscayne Boulevard. Unfortunately Al Amir II eventually also bowed out, exiting in an understated manner a few months ago: One day it was there, the next day it was Ponte Vecchio, an Italian restaurant (because Miami really needed another pasta palace). Al Amir's extinction makes it that much harder to find tangy labneh, a yogurt dip; or fried kibbeh (ground beef and wheat balls), or chicken breast stuffed with coriander and sautéed in butter. But we're Miamians. If there's anything we know how to do, it's wait for what we want. So when (we will not say if) Husseini comes back with round three, we'll be ready.
"Moshi moshi!" bellows a voice as you cross the threshold of this oddly decorated Japanese restaurant. That's manager Annop Lasongyang, a.k.a. Nick, greeting you. Often he throws in a "meow, meow!" for good measure. Moshi moshi means hello in Japanese. "Meow, meow?" Well, that's the sound a cat makes. And if anyone knows about great fish, it's finicky cats. Formerly known as Sushi Yama, two-and-a-half-year-old Moshi Moshi, an outpost of the Boca Raton-based sushi house, changed its name a while ago to avoid confusion with a certain similarly named restaurant down the street. The décor mutated a bit, too. Big blue beach umbrellas, a disco ball, and myriad rubber sea creatures and origami birds hanging from the ceiling have been added to the sedate blond-wood room. The thumping disco music, big televisions, and rubber lizards guarding the top of the sushi bar remain, though, as does the friendly service and consistently fresh fish. On the menu: a mouthwatering array of ordinary sushi à la carte, everyday rolls (spicy tuna, smoked salmon), exotic special rolls (e.g., salmon, tuna, yellowtail, avocado, and scallions wrapped in buckwheat noodle), and even what they call super rolls (e.g., chicken katsu, lettuce, avocado, cucumber, and mayo), always expertly prepared and temptingly tasty. Leaves little question that Moshi Moshi is the cat's meow.
You'd think more restaurants in this food capital of the Caribbean would know how to fry a green plantain. Yet all too often, even otherwise outstanding Cuban (or Puerto Rican, or Dominican, et cetera) restaurants produce indifferent patacones. They're always too big, too thickly sliced, not ripe enough. And they're never hot; you find yourself staring at a flavorless, lukewarm pile of plantain pucks. The ones at Laguna always come out sizzling and are made from plaintains just ripe enough to leave the insides tender without crossing the line into plátanos maduros. This bustling, low-priced lunch spot has plenty else to recommend it, but its tostones are without peer. Ask for una tasita de mojo al lado. Mmmm.
"He must not be allowed to win this award again next year," is what we said last year, after Mr. Van Aken won this category for the third time in a row. But how could he not? Consultant stints may have spread Norman's name thinner of late, but his body and soul never left this Gables institution, the only place to sample the real deal. Norman has a knack for seamlessly blending seemingly outrageous New World ingredients into his dishes -- whether that be truffle ice, sherry foam, pomegranate-ancho drizzle, or wasabi-coconut sabayon -- while remaining true in spirit to Escoffier's classic Old World cooking. Same can be said for the overall dining experience here: contemporary, classic, and refreshing in every way possible. Here's a new pledge. Next year we might be changing the wording to "Best Restaurant in Coral Gables Besides Norman's," which, in itself, will be recognition of just how excellent this place really is.
Fast approaching its tenth year on Miami Beach, Dab Haus remains one of the finest German restaurants in South Florida. And let's remember, when you are talking German food, it's all about the schnitzel. The chefs over at the Dab Haus give great care and attention to each piece of schnitzel that passes through their kitchen. The chicken or veal is always moist and tender, and the crisp seasoned coating gives it the perfect combination of taste and texture. Add a large helping of mashed potatoes and wash it all down with one of Dab Haus's remarkable beers (our favorite: the Bitburger-Pils Light) and you have the making of not only a hearty meal, but a great evening.
Laurenzo's is a throwback to the days before hordes of swarming yuppies nationalized the word gourmet by blurring its definition to include a deluded sense of sophistication that's based on a so-so go-go stock market, vast washes of German cars, and upscale grocery shelves crammed with pricey and semiprecious eatable oddities. Instead Laurenzo's is a no-nonsense mom-and-pop Italian market that caters to cooks and diners who want to buy fresh and interesting ingredients that can provide robust yet subtle meals. In addition to the wares of Laurenzo's first-class butcher, baker, and fishmonger, you can buy homemade, tricolor tubetti pasta or the fresh mozzarella that employee Ralph Perrota has been conjuring in plain sight on the premises for the past twenty years. If you are intent on grandly spreading around the big bucks, well, yeah, they've got them small bottles of Extra Old Modena balsamic vinegar for $169. But we recommend blowing your wad on the battarga, a traditional dried fish roe product that goes for a hundred bucks a pound, and tastes great when grated on nearly naked pasta.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®