In+a+short+time%2C+people+have+become+really+animated+about+sushi+at+Shoji
Steve++Satterwhite
In+a+short+time%2C+people+have+become+really+animated+about+sushi+at+Shoji
While this eatery's name seems to suggest something far simpler than fine dining, things are not always what they seem. Shoji's stuff is not standard sushi but rather neo-Japanese/New World fusion food -- and very fine indeed. Instead of the standard sushi-bar faux-crab sunomono, for instance, there's snapper ceviche with sake, citrus, sweet peppers, onion, cilantro, and masago, available alone or on a sampler plate with equally imaginative ceviches of hamachi, salmon, and scallops. Forget California rolls; makis here include spicy lobster roll (huge lobster chunks plus mango, avocado, scallion, salmon caviar, and spicy shiso leaves, with jalapeño-spiked mango purée substituting for the usual sushi-bar chili catsup) and a melt-in-your-mouth crispy oyster roll, a shrimp tempura roll gone to heaven: deep-dried cold-water oysters plus cucumber, lettuce, masago, chili mayo, and capers. Yes, South Beach's other upscale sushi eateries (like Nobu) have similarly imaginative dishes, but they don't do take-out. And none of them for sure have pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith's desserts. The homemade ginger ale float probably wouldn't survive a doggy bag, but astonishingly subtle green tea cheesecake and soufflé-light warm chocolate cake will.

While Miami has plenty of Chinese/American chop suey joints, as well as one-step-up places serving honey-garlic chicken that's less old-fashioned gloppy but no less Americanized, our town has few eateries that offer authentic Chinese food. This very nongentrified but very welcoming little spot, located in an unprepossessing mini-mall, does. Salty pepper shrimp -- crisp-coated whole crustaceans served like soft-shell crab, shell and head on for maximum flavor, on a bed of crunchy-battered Chinese broccoli -- is a must-not-miss. Macau's ho fan, broad noodles that are sautéed with various other ingredients either dry-style or wet (sauced), have a chewy texture that makes them far more interesting than the lo mein normally found in American Chinese eateries. Those needing comfort food will find it in congee, difficult to find almost anywhere in America outside major Chinatowns: a delicate savory rice porridge garnished with a variety of meats and veggies. In its humble heart, this is classic Cantonese.
Jumbo's
Adrianne D'Angelo
The best fried chicken, you think, might be somewhat difficult to determine as it's one of the most common edible items around. But of course we're not talking about merely the crunch, which at Jumbo's is admittedly damn good. We're talking about the whole fried-chicken meal, the booth in which it is consumed, the other crunchers in the room. Located on the corner of one of Miami's more disagreeable streets, Jumbo's is a beacon. Bright and warm and crowded, it begs you to sit down. The combo platters are named after Miami high schools, the various fried foods delivered with a choice of two sides, which makes all the difference. When you order a Booker T. Washington at lunch, and piping hot drumsticks and legs arrive with black-eyed peas and collard greens, for $4.99, you know it doesn't get better than this. The collards are Deep South, cooked forever with bacon and its fat, and they bring out the true essence of the chicken. Not too greasy, the fried batter doesn't cling to the meat, which is ample -- these are no skinny legs. After the umpteenth visit, if you want to try something else, order the fried shrimp and conch. Again, you won't walk out hungry. As your waitress and the owner wish you well, your arteries will wish Jumbo's had never opened, for your next visit won't be far away.
Big Squeeze Juice Bar
So you need a spirulina fix and don't have lots of time? If you're anywhere near North Miami Beach you'll be well advised to zip over to the fastest little health-food place in town. Okay, so the menu also offers gyros and French fries. Don't worry. You'll find a large variety of smoothies, fresh-pressed vegetable juices, and vegetarian entrées. For thirteen years this roadside stand has been attracting healthy eaters with its ramshackle charm and laid-back atmosphere. If you crave something with a kick, be sure to order Amos's famous "roots tonic," a chilled brew described by one waitress as tasting "like living hell." Despite a bouquet reminiscent of gasoline (and with a similar burn), this mighty elixir -- made on the premises with a combination of roots and barks and served in a shot glass -- will kick you into high gear and launch you back on the highway of life bursting with energy.
Soyka
You remember the scene in Steve Martin's movie The Lonely Guy, when he goes to a restaurant to dine alone. He says to the maitre d': "I'd like a table for one," to which the man loudly replies, "A table for one?" The entire place goes quiet. A spotlight is directed on the lonely guy as he's escorted to his table. After he's seated and the staff pointedly takes away the setting across from him, he finally asks them to kindly turn off the light. That pretty much sums it up. There are few other experiences in life that make you feel more lonely than dining alone. But with the right restaurant you can actually feel part of something rather than apart. Such a place is Soyka. It's usually so loud and bustling that no one will notice when you walk in unaccompanied. But don't do a table. Take a seat at the bar or the long communal table up front. The people behind the bar will make you feel comfortable and utterly normal. You can order a complete meal (no need to choose only "bar" food) without the spotlight descending on you as someone asks if they can take the "free" chair from your table. And you will be normal, what with all those other single diners around you also ordering their meals. No, at Soyka you are not alone at all.
First of all, there is not now and never will be anything remotely comparable to a fresh, warm Krispy Kreme glazed. So forget that. But on the local doughnut scene, Donut Connection is making a very important contribution and deserves every one of its many contented customers. The contribution? This cheery little place on busy 163rd Street is about the only remaining doughnut shop in the county that has not been gobbled up by that huge chain that sells good coffee and mediocre donuts. Donut Connection's product is top quality, and the selection of pastries, muffins, and doughnuts can't be beat. The mango- and guava-filled are sinfully tasty, and their cake doughnuts, many varieties, are the absolute best.
In+and+out+of+the+pan%2C+the+fish+are+just+like+you+find+%27um+in+the+isles+of+Greece
Steve++Satterwhite
In+and+out+of+the+pan%2C+the+fish+are+just+like+you+find+%27um+in+the+isles+of+Greece
Over the years this friendly restaurant in the Chateaubleau Hotel has been cited in this edition several times, and for good reason. The food is tasty, the service is attentive, and the extended-family proprietors -- from Greece via Montreal -- are serious about the restaurant business. They care about what they are doing. Now the olive tree has branched and a new generation has taken charge. And there are changes afoot. Brothers Costa and Angelo Grillas, just 23 and 25 respectively, want to make the restaurant a little more lively than the one their uncles ran. So the décor is brighter. A belly dancer performs to live music on both Friday and Saturday evenings. And the boys are planning a Greek-style happy hour for Wednesdays. Oh, and the food: Try the leg of lamb, or the whole fresh snapper with a Greek salad. Opa!

Fresco California Bistro
George Martinez
There's something invigorating about tree-shaded Coral Way, especially after it leaves the dusty hustle of Miami on its way to the Gables. Just a few blocks from the Brickell financial district, Fresco California Bistro offers a cool, unhurried respite for lunch. And for a refreshingly light summer lunch nothing beats the bistro's crisp caesar salad: fresh romaine lettuce, nicely balanced oil-garlic-egg dressing, Parmesan cheese, and croutons made from Fresco's tasty bread, a hunk of which comes with the salad. Not bad for $5.25. Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:00 to 10:30 p.m. Friday dinner hours till 11:00 p.m. Saturday noon to 11:00 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Casa Paco
Spanish-packaged goods greet you at the door. Decorative ceramics line the wall. Have a seat. Order a pitcher of sangria from the friendly waiter. Peruse the menu. It suggests some expensive items: newborn eels from Spain sautéed in olive oil and garlic; roasted baby suckling pig; grilled surf and turf. But most of the dishes at Casa Paco are as reasonably priced as they are delicious. Paella -- chicken and rice or rice with seafood. Special house chicken -- a tender half-boneless grilled bird smothered with onions, lime juice, butter, and pepper served with white rice and fried sweet plantains. Several types of fresh fish (snapper, salmon, mahi-mahi, monkfish) and shellfish prepared in countless ways. Spanish and Basque omelets. After you've devoured dinner, your belt may be two notches looser but dessert is a must. A long list includes flan, rice pudding, homemade ice cream, and crema catalaña, its candied sugar topping hiding a creamy custard beneath.
Icebox Cafe
This cozy and casual café, one of the few locals' hangouts left in the vicinity of Lincoln Road, is more than just a bakery, particularly after two welcome improvements: expanded restaurant hours and acceptance of credit cards. If you're looking to impress the folks at home with pastries you can pretend you made yourself, there's no better place in town to get goods to go. You won't find any of those puffed-up pastries that look so polished yet taste like shoe polish. Here it's just old-fashioned quality. That's not to say everything at the Icebox is basic. Two of the best offerings are pretty fancy: party-perfect petits fours and a remarkably rich yet light almond/praline/butter-cream dacquoise. The pound cakes evoke days when bakers literally meant a pound of butter. Common carrot cake, often far too heavy, is moist but subtle. Coconut cake -- the classic among two or three layer cakes featured daily -- will convert coconut loathers to lovers. And for those whose idea of ice-cream cake has come from supermarket frozen-food cases, the Icebox's namesake masterpiece could well be a life-changing experience.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®