"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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®