OLA at Sanctuary Hotel

Do not eat the single and singular meatball-size sphere of pan d'bono that gets plunked upon your bread plate at OLA. Oh no. Made with yuca flour, mozzarella cheese, sugar, and milk, this ungodly delicious little ball will cause you to crane your neck to seek the waiter who traipses through the dining room with a basket of it fresh from the oven. After snagging a second one, you will be thinking of the third — and after the third, you will be too full to fully savor the Nuevo Latino flavors that jump from the hamachi ceviche, plantain-crusted mahi-mahi, and tenderloin churrasco — and you will no doubt have to bypass the signature chocolate cigar for dessert. That would be a shame. So don't even think of trying the pan d'bono. You'll just have to take our word that it's out-of-this-world.

Joanna's Marketplace
George Martinez

Early each morning, when most of us are still asleep, the crew of Joanna's Marketplace is in the kitchen, slicing, dicing, grilling, poaching, broiling, and sautéing all manner of fresh comestibles. Little bits of smoked ham hocks are being put aside for split-pea soup; tomatoes are simmering into a bisque — two different soups are offered each day in three sizes ($3.50, $4.25, $6.95). Cooks debone chicken breasts that will later be bathed in Marsala sauce or stuffed with prosciutto, sage, and cheese for saltimbocca (the menu changes daily). The lamb being cut up will become moussaka; the beef tips will later be smothered in charred tomato sauce. Any hot entrée comes with your choice of a protein and two side dishes for $10.95. The former might be creamed spinach or ratatouille, the sides could be potato latke or wild rice pilaf, but the style of cuisine is always a mix of American and international classics cooked in hearty fashion. Sandwiches, salads, and a bounty of fresh-baked breads are on hand as well. Joanna's opens daily at 7 a.m. and stays open until 7:30 p.m. (6 p.m. Sundays). Incentive for getting there early is a Belgian-chocolate-filled almond croissant with a cup of frothy cappuccino.

IQ International Quesadillas

Sometimes it's annoying to pay for something you could easily make yourself. But Mari-Nalli takes a bit of the edge off. At this place, you can get steak, chicken, vegetarian, and shrimp quesadillas. They cost between $3.25 and $4.60. There are also salads for $6.95. Order yourself a meal and then try some of the microbrewed beer. You'll forget you were ever annoyed. About anything.

Kobe Club

There is no counter with rickety stools nor any apron-clad dude shucking clams. Kobe Club, Jeffrey Chodorow's Wagyu steak house adjacent to China Grill, is too swank for that. The intimate 52-seat room is darkly, richly swathed in rich woods, leather, and stone; 2,000 swords dangle from the ceiling. And the raw bar is only a menu category. Stone crabs, Alaskan king crab legs ($18/apiece), littleneck clams ($11/half-dozen), chilled 2.5-pound lobsters ($79), and shrimp the size of potatoes ($7/each) compose the limited but luxe lineup, along with a changing selection of East and West Coast oysters ($16-$18/half-dozen) — not only Malpeques and Kumamotos but also species with names that sound like rock bands, such as Hood Canal and Beau Soleil. Classic accompaniments are given an Asian twist — cocktail sauce spiked with freshly grated wasabi; mignonette made with aged rice wine vinegar. Sesame-mustard miso isn't classic, but the oysters don't know that and seem to pair well with the dip. Sake-cured salmon, tuna tartare, and iced hamachi with jalapeño and pineapple are available for those who like their raw fish fancy. Wagyu steaks from America, Australia, and Japan constitute a mighty impressive second act.

Ortanique on the Mile
Photo courtesy of Ortanique on the Mile

When Orson Welles described style as being "unique for yourself yet identifiable to others," he could have been talking about Ortanique. Chef Cindy Hutson's Caribbean-based "cuisine of the sun" is bright enough to delight in a coal mine, but achieves optimum taste when in harmony with the warm and vivid sunset colors, flowing gauze curtains, mahogany woods, and hand-painted motifs of fruits and flowers gracing the 120-seat room (plus terraced outdoor garden). The buoyant environment pairs with the light, happy food like mango with champagne — meaning if these walls could eat, they would have Caribbean bouillabaisse, Bahamian black grouper with orange liqueur sauce, and a jerked pork chop with rum-guava glaze.

Prime Blue Grille

Since opening almost a year ago, Prime Blue Grille has attracted a steady stream of clientele hungry for veal chops, short ribs, rack of lamb, and seven cuts of steak seared upon an 1,800-degree hickory-burning grill. Even more types of seafood are available, from yellowfin tuna to whole branzino to wild Alaskan king salmon — also freshly grilled. Eighteen side dishes — roasted Brussels sprouts, truffled mash, prosciutto and fontina potato gratin — make decisions agonizing. Flatbread pizzas are popular, too, served sizzling from an oak-fired oven. In other words, Prime Blue appeals to all downtown diners for lunch and dinner, and to those who want their steak without the hormones: Only Brandt corn-fed, all-natural prime beef is used. All seafood is caught wild. (Steaks run $23 to $38, seafoods swim in the upper $20 to lower $30 stream). And as for those omnipotent Miami businesspeople, general manager Jamie Zambrana says the restaurant's private dining rooms "are used almost every day for power lunch meetings and closing multimillion- and billion-dollar business deals." You know, for the really high-priced escort services.

The Village Chalet Restaurant

The kids can be snotty, the dog smelly, and weekends sexless, but there's still a lot of love to celebrate. The Village Chalet is a charming spot to remember the day you got hitched, kissed, or whatever fell between. Tucked into historic Cauley Square off South Dixie Highway, the restaurant feels like an Old Florida getaway and is surrounded by banyan trees a-twinkle in white lights. Try to nab a spot on the porch to enjoy your cozy dinner for two (at moderate prices from $11 to $14 for dishes such as chicken Marsala and grouper). It's so romantic you'll hope the kids are sleeping soundly upon your return home.

DeVito South Beach
Leah Gabriel

If you want to see how the other half lives, or at least eats, what place could be better than a restaurant owned by a genuine celebrity in the most celebrity-obsessed burg in the nation? Michael Caine, Andy Garcia, Pat Riley, and Eva Longoria are just a few of the A-listers who've slipped into Danny DeVito's over-the-top, Murano-glass-chandelier-and-white-leather-banquette-pimped space, located (where else?) on Ocean Drive. You might want to nurse a beer at the bar, though, unless your credit card can carry the weight of $27 shrimp appetizers and a "Global Wagyu Trio" that checks in at a celestial $295.

Pescecane

A big nugget of Parmigiano-Reggiano, spicy slices of fried zucchini, bruschetta, Italian bread, focaccia crisps. Flutes of Prosecco. The menu (voluminous, plus about 30 verbally recited specials). A bowl of pasta e fagioli and a trio of breaded, garlicky shrimp, each the size of a lobster. Endive salad — a palate-cleanser of sorts. A magnum of Barolo. Pillows of porcini ravioli in a champagne-black truffle cream sauce. Whole salt-crusted branzino deboned tableside and accented with olive oil and lemon. With potatoes, succulently roasted in garlic and sage, on the side. No. Make that veal saltimbocca with fettuccine Alfredo alongside. Hell, make it a double-cut veal chop, seared on the grill. With the roast potatoes. An order of wild salmon, too, to get something of a surf-and-turf going. Tiramisu for dessert. And a trifle of flourless chocolate cake. With sabayon sauce. Cappuccino, of course. A glass of complimentary homemade vin santo dessert wine. The check (pastas $16 to $34, entrées $20 to $45). An after-dinner mint? Why not?

Best Restaurant for Intimate Conversation

North One 10

North One 10

Monday: "You don't love me anymore!" he says to his wife with a fury, between bites of North One 10's signature pan-seared crabcake with whole-grain mustard aioli and apple-calabaza salad ($16).

"I haven't loved you for a long time," she replies matter-of-factly, before commenting on the earthy notes of her 2006 Erath Pinot Noir ($46), savvily selected by general manager Dale LoSasso (chef Dewey's wife) from the eclectic wine list. "I will always love Pinot Noir, though," she says, her voice suddenly cheery.

Thursday: "I adore the cozy ambiance here," she observes, noting the gently curved walls with stained-glass treatments, tin ceiling, and soft amber glow. "And the waitstaff does everything it needs to without intruding on, say, sensitive conversations. As for this cornmeal-crusted wahoo with spinach wasabi salad and brown caper butter ($19) — I guess it's just something I'll never grow tired of."

"I don't give a damn about the décor," he replies with a snarl, but then tastes the pomegranate barbecue double-cut pork chop with roasted purple potatoes, root vegetable slaw, and Indonesian almonds (only $19!) — what LoSasso calls "comfort food with an edge" — and totally forgets what they were talking about.

She leans over and takes a forkful from his plate while flashing that alluringly sly smile of hers.

Maybe she still loves me after all, he thinks, his heart suddenly swelled with hope.

Saturday: "So you like the place, huh?" is about all he can think to say while immersed in his dessert of red-wine-roasted pears with ginger sabayon cream sauce ($7). "My ex-wife liked it too. We were divorced yesterday."

"Of course I like the place. Everyone does. The food, service, and wines are second-to-none. And I adore the décor. Now stop being so mopey and pass the sugar," his escort replies.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®