Mint Leaf Indian Brasserie

So Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Shilpa Shetty, and Ravi Shankar Jr. are marooned on a desert island. No wait, sorry — they are in Coral Gables, and the three of them walk into the new Mint Leaf restaurant. After being seated and starting off with freshly squeezed fruit juices and a basket of traditional tandoor-baked breads, the prime minister taps Shilpa on the shoulder and asks whether she agrees that Mint Leaf's gosht biryani tastes just like it does back home. "Don't touch me," she replies, before adding that although she liked the gosht, her preference was for the South Indian specialty of dosa, a crêpe made from lentils and fermented rice that gets wrapped around various savory fillings. Shankar offers that the original London Mint Leaf has been known for its dosas since opening in 1938. "Besides, who else around here makes shrikand?" he adds, this being a thick yogurt cheese infused with saffron and topped with fruit and chopped nuts. "And where else can you get main courses this good, with so many vegetarian choices, for under $20?" Shilpa and Shetty laugh, finding the notion of monetary concerns rather funny. Shankar wonders how he got roped into dinner with these two, and decides to return to Mint Leaf for lunch the next day without them.

Côté Gourmet
Aran S Graham

When the Chinese chain P.F. Chang's, a frozen meal delivery service, and a complex computer program all use the word bistro to describe themselves, you know just how far the word has strayed from its origins, on virtually every urban street corner in France. Bistros are supposed to be everyday eateries affordable enough that neighborhood regulars can go every day for a glass of wine and simple but impeccably executed food that is basically — forgive the pickiness — French. At little Côte Gourmet, which opened as a breakfast/lunch spot but now also serves dinner Thursday through Saturday, all the classic bistro basics are there, along with some delightful extras. Breads and pastries are all housemade (and excellent); the bistro's flavorful savory and sweet crêpes ($3.75 to $8.75) taste like a trip to the French countryside for a reason: They're made with nutty buckwheat batter, as they have been in Brittany since the 12th Century. Lunchtime's popular blackboard special (which is different every day but has included crisp phyllo triangles stuffed with tuna, capers, onion, tomato, and buttery potatoes, for $10) is a filling meal thanks to a bonus side salad of mesclun that's dressed as perfectly as a Parisian couturier. At night, entrées such as traditional beef bourguignon ($20.50) or shrimp-topped pan-seared Scottish salmon in delicate lemon sauce, accompanied by three veggies ($17.50), are more pricey, but $25-and-under dinners are doable.

Cafe Ragazzi
Alexandra Rincon

Opera sung to the tune of "Maria," from West Side Story:

Fat Man One:

Ragazzi,

We line up to get into Ragazzi,

But once we are inside

Hospitality and pride

Come through.

Fat Man Two:

Ragazzi,

No glitz here and no paparazzi,

It's mostly local folk

Who don't like to go broke

To eat

In Surfside.

Chorus:

Pasta e fagioli and salad Caprese

(Whisper:) Thin-crust pizza and veal Bolognese

And meatballs,

We'll never stop eating their meatballs,

Their meatballs!

Fat Man One:

Ragazzi,

Their bread is served all hotsie-totsie.

Most items cost less than 20.

The plates are piled with plenty

To eat

Fat Lady:

Ragazzi!

The Patty Place
Alexandra Rincon

On a busy strip off 441 in Miami Gardens sits a strip mall devoted to all things Caribbean. While trying to hustle for a hard-to-come-by parking space in this tiny lot, you barely notice the plain-Jane storefront located in the middle of the complex. Patty Place is a walk-through, 300-square-foot take-out joint where you can find some of the best Jamaican patties outside of Kingston. Choose from selections ranging from sweet plantain to corned beef to the traditional ackee (a Jamaican fruit that tastes and looks like scrambled eggs) to our personal favorite, the callaloo loaf, a spinach-stuffed pastry that looks like an overgrown empanada. And these savory homemade patties go for no more than $1.50 a pop! Open for almost a decade, the simply named "Patty Place" serves the crispiest, flakiest, snap-crackle-poppiest patties that any homesick Jamaican will admit to tasting. No wonder the shop runs out of patties by 6 p.m. So get there early and buy a lot for the ride home!

Japanese Market Sushi Deli
Sometimes you just need to eat raw fish and drink beer. It's not a fancy or a pretentious thing. And it need not be expensive. It just needs to happen.Thank god for this little counter. For $10.95, the congenial chef, Michio, will fix you up with a tray of the old standards (octopus, salmon, tuna, shrimp, etc.). Another three bucks will get you a beer.If you want something simple and hearty, order a plate of Japanese curry. It'll fill you right up for less than five bucks. But if the freshness and quality of the fish strikes your fancy — and it will — push the envelope. Try a ceviche roll for another six bucks. Or do yourself a favor and get the steamed monkfish liver: Japanese foie gras, Michio calls it. The tender pink substance melts on the tongue in a kind of flavor ecstasy. Just tell him to cut you off at whatever you're willing to spare.

A makimono roll of scallop, cucumber, and salt-cured plum capped with tobiko fish roe served with ume plum paste pooled in white truffle oil. A box-style roll with squares of pressed sushi rice dotted with pickled vegetables and colorfully covered in flattened fuchsia-hued gomoko flower, green minty shiso leaf, and a thin, opaque sheath of kombu (seaweed). Berkshire pork, slices of crisp pork belly, ramen noodles, shreds of pickled ginger, and a soft-boiled organic egg set in a bowl of dark, meaty broth. Veal cheek gyoza or toro tuna sashimi atop edamame purée. Pristine nigiri/sashimi selections. Apple crumble with ginger ice cream and caramel-miso sauce. A giant black-and-white print of a young, topless Naomi Campbell. Jesus, this swank sushi bistro in the Design District has it all! Hip, too, with a handsome brick/wood interior and eminently reasonable entrée prices (most $17 to $25). You cannot do better for Japanese food — lunch or dinner. Period.

Bonefish Grill

Got milk? They didn't have much of it in the Keys prior to the railroad opening in 1912, so when Gail Borden created sweetened condensed milk in 1859, the isolated residents rejoiced — they could finally invent key lime pie! They didn't even need to bake the pies, for the acidity of the limes curdled the condensed milk and egg yolks to form a smooth consistency. Think of how much trouble they saved by not having to haul cows and ovens in from the mainland! Nowadays it's even easier to enjoy Florida's most famous dessert, because it is sold and served just about everywhere in the state. Finding a captivating rendition, however, can be difficult. We say search no further than Bonefish Grill in Coral Gables, a "casual-upscale" seafood chain that proffers fresh fish dinners at affordable prices. Their sumptuous pies' crusts are traditional graham cracker, but with crunchy pecans; a dollop of freshly whipped cream luxuriates on top. Between those contrasting textures is a tall, pale cloud of tart, creamy custard — bigger and better than others of its ilk, and at $5.50 per hunky wedge, cheap.

Michael's Cafe

This Middle Eastern restaurant in Kendall is not a mirage. It was once a gas station next to the railroad tracks but has been transformed into an outdoor café that serves as an oasis for locals. There is live music almost every night and a vast assortment of ice-cold Middle Eastern beers. The large-screen TV sets are all tuned to Lebanese stations (in Arabic). You can get a hookah with flavored tobacco, and smoke while watching the live belly dancing Friday and Saturday nights. But best of all is the food, especially the kibbe, which costs $4.95 for two pieces. They make it fresh by combining crushed wheat with minced beef or lamb, sautéed onions, and pine nuts. The combination is then rolled into a ball and deep-fried, kind of like falafel. The kibbe platter comes with grape leaves, hummus, tabbouleh, lentil rice, and pita bread, and sells for $11.99. Wash it down with Michael's special Turkish coffee ($1.50), and forget about taking that trip to Israel.

Taam Gan Eden

"Me want cookie!"

"Okayyy," says the big yellow bird standing in front of the huge glass case. "They have chocolate linzers, vanilla cookies with vanilla cream in the middle and white chocolate on top, black-and-white sandwich cookies draped in white and dark chocolates, lace cookies that will melt in your mouth ..."

"Me want cookie!"

"All right," mumbles the grumpy green trash-can-dweller, breathing heavily and laying a nice coat of steam on the out-of-reach confections. "Over here they have vanilla fingers with strawberry jelly, Chinese cookies, elephant ears, chocolate teardrops."

"Me want cookie!"

"Fine! Here's your damn chocolate chip cookie!"

"Me eat cookie!" growls the big, blue, hairy beast as crumbs tumble from his mouth and off his chest.

La Quebradita Taqueria

Fergus Henderson's last meal would consist of sea urchins, goat cheese, and dark butter chocolate ice cream (with Muscadet). Nobu Matsuhisa's not-surprising pick for a final feast includes a number of sushi selections capped by a cucumber roll. Daniel Boulud says he'd eat whatever Alain Ducasse would cook for him, and Gordon Ramsay would preface his eternity in Hell with a traditional English roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Evidently these well-regarded, well-heeled chefs lack romantic, Under the Volcano-type notions regarding finality: This is not the time for prissy or predictable fare, but a moment to savor the flavors of the earth before returning to it ourselves. That's why the humble, hearty Mexican food at La Quebradita Taqueria in Homestead is so fitting for a finale — more specifically, Quebradita's gordito ($3.95), a thick, fried tortilla bun bundled with pork, refried pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. And naturally salsa, chips, rice, beans, fried pork rinds (chicharrones), and a refreshing glass of rice-based horchata drink for $1.65. Plus a few Mexican beers ($3.50 a pop) to sort of take the edge off things. And perhaps a taco to go?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®