"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.
The curative properties of honey are legion; this sweet, dark elixir is not only heavenly to taste but may very well be the healthiest honey for miles around. Ray Chasser founded a farm in Little River 22 years ago and called it The Earth 'n Us. Today Chasser is still farming, right in the middle of the city. For twenty years he's been selling raw honey from his own beehives. Just within the past year, though, the bees have come under attack from mites and beetles, insects accompanying the feared Africanized bees, who have begun to invade South Florida. Chasser says he's been able to control the mites, but the beetles are destroying his non-Africanized bees, who don't realize the beetles are predators. The only way to kill the beetles, according to Chasser, is to use a highly toxic insecticide that inevitably gets into the honey. He won't touch it, and contends he's the only beekeeper in the region who doesn't. "So I've gone from 50 hives to 20 hives in eight months," Chasser laments. "But I've been watching, and the bees are beginning to recognize the beetles as their enemies. I saw a beetle fall into a hive, and the bees killed it. They're going to start fighting [the beetles] off." Even before this crisis, honey wasn't profitable for Chasser; he keeps bees because he's fascinated by the industrious creatures. He just raised the price for a quart of honey from six to seven dollars -- still a very sweet price.
So what if the 99-cent special at this Caribbean-style eatery was slashed from the menu early this year? The same simple meal -- two eggs any style, toast, and a portion of butter-saturated grits larger than anyone should ever eat -- has become the $1.99 breakfast. It is still the best deal in town for anyone looking for a no-frills stomach-stuffer and a slice of real Little Haiti life. Often Johnny himself does the cooking. Along with your food, the proprietor, a Miami native, can serve up some pretty spicy Liberty City lore, when he's in the mood and not too occupied. Still too steep a price? Try the $1.49 special -- two eggs on a buttered roll with a cup of coffee -- and listen to the city west of Biscayne talk.
One could argue the only food the average diner in this eclectic pan-Asian place can afford is appetizers. But regulars (if there are such people) know executive chef Rob Boone has a wanton way with won tons, particularly when he stuffs them with squab. He also raises braised pork buns to heights as lofty as the ceiling and coats spareribs with a simple yet effective mixture of soy sauce, garlic, and palm sugar. Rock shrimp tempura served over tiny Asian lettuces is a delicate lesson in miniatures; you also can open a meal here by indulging in quail and bok choy yakitori, or a tiger shrimp hand roll with Asian chilies. Because yakitori, hand rolls, sushi, and sashimi are all sold by the item, the bill can add up fast, but if you're just looking to graze like the models that frequent this high-profile eatery, you're in the right place.
This 24-hour eatery offers a full menu of sandwiches and seafood (fried and otherwise), and the chicken is without peer. The crunchy, peppery batter on the wings and drumsticks keeps the meat inside perfectly tender. As the menu says: "Puts the Colonel to shame.... Is cooked to order. Please allow eight minutes for wings, thirteen minutes for drumsticks." When your plate of steaming poultry arrives with a side of batter-dipped fries, you'll know it was worth the wait. On a menu full of combos named in honor of local high schools, the best lunch value is the "Booker T. Washington Lucky 2 Special": two wings, two drums, "two wonderful onion rings," and two vegetables -- choices include fries, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, collards, and macaroni and cheese. (Any place that considers macaroni and cheese a vegetable is okay with us.) Wash it all down with a "flop" (half lemonade, half iced tea), and taste why Jumbo's has been a fixture in the Northwest since 1955.
Tender pork chops smothered in gravy with black-eyed peas and rice. Oxtail stew done so tender the meat falls from the bone. Plus steamed catfish, collard greens, okra, and tomatoes. The cooking in this spacious and clean restaurant is so homey you would swear your Aunt Jess was down from 'Bama hiding in the kitchen. If you don't have an Aunt Jess, someone who knows her way around the garden and the stove, then Arline and Schoolie are fine proxies. A reminder: Just like at home, this is no place for late-night dining. It's open Tuesday to Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
After a hard day at work, you may not feel like sitting in a restaurant. And you certainly don't want to cook. All you want to do is go home, kick off your shoes, and enjoy a little mu shu pork. Or maybe you're in the mood for a little Peking delight or an order of salt-and-pepper flounder, or a simple serving of chicken chow mein. No matter what you're looking for, Yeung's is ready to please. Their slogan tells it all: "We know how Chinese food should be." Call ahead and your order will be waiting when you arrive. Their cooks are fast, they are talented, and they rarely disappoint.
Miami is a vicious city for vindaloo. A sorry excuse for saag. A bust for biryani. In fact only a handful of Indian eateries offer these traditional specialties in the Magic City, and fewer do them well. Enter Anokha, where a tender touch with tandoori takes Indian fare to the top of its game. This elegant little mom-and-pop place not only plows over the competition, it raises the bar on ethnic fine dining in general. Main courses are served in minichafing dishes to keep them warm. The complimentary chutney, served with rice chips rather than pappadam, is replenished throughout the meal. And the staff here doesn't condescend. Spiciness is adjusted to the customer's palate, and believe us, Anokha will take you at your word. So if you want your curry hot, you better order a sweet lassi or a Kingfisher to wash it down. Terrific Indian fare is plentiful, but sympathy for the stodgy American palate definitely is at a premium.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®