CRYSTAL CAFE,726 41st Street, Miami Beach, 305-673-8266
Crystal Café regulars, and there are many, enter through the rear door. They know it's closer to nearby parking. They also know they can poke their head into the kitchen on the way up front and say hello to chef/proprietor Klime Kovaceski, who will stop whatever he's doing to offer greetings. That won't be the last they see of him, though. At some point he'll be tableside, ensuring that guests in his cozy restaurant are happy. It's classic Old World charm from a warmly sincere Old World native. Kovaceski hails from Macedonia, where cooking wasn't his only passion. For a period he was also one of the region's most celebrated rock musicians. He still cherishes his guitar, but today it yields to his restaurant (www.crystalcafe.net), whose "New Continental" cuisine has gained national recognition and made Crystal Café one of Miami's finest dining establishments.
BEST LOCAL LANDMARK
Joes Stone Crab
Respect the everlasting: Ninety years in this business is an eternity. Joe's boasts, besides the best stone crabs and some great seafood, a precision-trained staff the size of city hall who perform like a slick military machine. No wonder U.S. presidents have waited patiently for a table at this American icon.
BEST DINING TREND
Admire the beautiful: Casa Tua is a gorgeous place to dine, and the cuisine is fresh and clean. Turning a house into a restaurant may not yet be a new trend but certainly places like Casa Tua are helping Miami to become a more sophisticated dining metropolis.
BEST NOT-SO-CHEAP THRILL
Recognize the brilliant: La Broche's chef, Angel Palacios, is just that. Two decades ago most of the great chefs were Europeans. Nowadays our homegrown chefs can compete successfully in any competition anywhere. But Palacios's cuisine proves that the Europeans are as inventive as ever -- still a culinary force to be reckoned with.
BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI
Applaud the very best: Norman Van Aken's restaurant reflects South Florida culinary history in the making. You can see the dynamic complexity of Miami on his plates, every one of them.
BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI
I moved to the U.S.A. in 1984, but if I had a choice, my birth certificate would read, "Born in Miami." Why? Because Miami gives new meaning to the phrase melting pot. The city literally overflows with different nationalities and languages, and has an amazing diversity of dining options: Old and New American, Latin American and Caribbean, Italian and French, steak houses, bagel joints, sushi, fusion, and much more. On your day off you can practice Miami's famous politics while knocking back a café cubano, hit the beach for awhile, then choose from one of a zillion restaurants. Afterward you can dance salsa to burn the calories. Next morning the battery is charged, you feel good, and you've renewed your appreciation for Miami being the hot, crowded, sexy place it is.
4 (6 oz) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
2 cups goat cheese
2 eggs well beaten for egg wash
1 cup flour
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 cup baby mixed greens
2 of each: grilled baby zucchini, baby yellow squash, hearts of palm
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Place each chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap and place on cutting board. Pound breasts to quarter-inch thickness. Form goat cheese into 4-inch-long sticks and place one in the middle of each chicken breast. Roll the breast around the goat cheese. If the cheese shows through some spot, stretch the chicken to completely cover. Coat in egg wash, flour, and bread crumbs. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to firm the cheese, but no longer or the bread crumbs will become soggy. Sauté chicken in clarified butter until golden brown, then place in a 400-degree oven, turning occasionally until firm to the touch (when cheese leaks out, it is ready). Place on paper towels and drain for 2 to 3 minutes. Place baby greens in the middle of the plate and surround with grilled vegetables. Cut chicken on a bias with serrated knife and arrange chicken pieces across the greens so a little of the cheese in each slice shows through. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper, and drizzle over the dish.
*Clarified butter: 1/4 lb unsalted butter. Melt butter over low heat. Skim off white film and pour golden liquid into a small bowl.