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 Restaurant in a Shopping Mall

Pilar

Pilar

Scott Fredel opened this stylish contemporary American bistro in Aventura's sprawling Promenade Shops to show that white-tablecloth dining didn't have to come at white-knuckle prices. Four years later, he's made his point and then some. Sophisticated dishes such as slow-roasted salmon with truffled red potato salad and coarse-grained mustard sauce come in at a fistful of dollars less than at the tony South Beach eateries where Fredel used to cook, with all but a handful costing $20 or less. And the benefits of eating in a mall restaurant that doesn't look or act anything like a mall restaurant? Priceless.

Copas y Tapas

Most wine bars could just as easily be called whine bars, as in: "How come there's nothing decent to eat here to go along with all the great wine?" Well, your sniveling pleas have been answered at this cozy, comfy Coral Gables wine shop/tapas bar. To go along with more than 100 bottles of (all Spanish) wine are wickedly flavorful small plates of gambas al ajillo ($9.95), zippy little piquillo peppers stuffed with a silken purée of bacalao and potato ($6.95), and one of the best Spanish tortillas in town ($4.95). So eat, drink, enjoy. And stop your whining.

Ideas Restaurant

We could start by making a joke at the expense of Coconut Grove's grim dining scene — such as how choosing the best restaurant in this area is like selecting the best Jewish football star. But that would be needlessly snarky. Besides, since Ideas Restaurant opened here in late 2006, the Grove has itself a star establishment to build upon. The chef, Alvaro Beade, hails from the Castilla y León region of Spain, and his cooking style is clean, vibrantly flavored, and highly innovative. Seafoods such as cuttlefish, lubina, and dorada (the last crusted in sea salt) are shipped from his country's Mediterranean coast, which makes Ideas ideal for a sumptuous fish dinner. Yet there is so much more to try, for no other Spanish restaurant in town serves dishes such as consommé of Serrano ham, carpaccio of king prawn, veal cheeks braised in red wine, and confit of suckling baby pig (entrées are in the $28 to $48 price range).The selection of wines is as distinctive as the cuisine, from the Verdejo whites of Rueda to the robust reds of Ribera del Duero. With a restaurant this fine in Coconut Grove, can an NFL quarterback named Moishe Schwartz be far behind?

Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante

Ever since Norman Van Aken copped our award for Best Restaurant in Coral Gables for 10 years straight, there has been an aversion to repeating winners in the same category. It's so lazy. So boring. So predictable. But when an establishment is as singularly rewarding as Sardinia, there really isn't much choice in the matter. Few restaurants re-create the ambiance and cuisine of another country as authentically, and none has chosen a more gastronomically interesting nation. Peerless antipasti platters are assembled from each diner's choice of imported meats, cheeses, roasted vegetables, and other tasty tidbits such as Castelvetrano olives tossed with wild fennel flowers. The Sardinian wines are unique, the Italian wines extensive. Whole octopus, rib eye steaks, and suckling pigs get smokily roasted in a roaring wood-fired oven, branzino crusted in sea salt, lamb and rabbit braised into stew (entrées run $26 to $38). Pastas, almost all under $20, include distinctive cuts such as paccheri and malloreddus, and hearty garnishings such as wild boar sausage and rabbit ragout. Ambiance and service, too, are a notch above the rest, and the hours are easy to remember: noon to midnight seven days a week. Could Norman's record be in jeopardy?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®