Caribbean Delite

The treatment an American customer will receive in a typical Trinidadian restaurant in Miami is quite similar to that on the island. Trinis don't make a fuss over strangers. The oil-rich island doesn't need your tourist money, and the natives aren't falling all over themselves to lick your toenails. You'll notice that vibe at Caribbean Delite. It's friendly indifference. Nobody's trying to show you a menu, teach you how to order, or even pronounce the names of the exotic-sounding foods. "What's roti? What's the difference between paratha and dhalpurie?" you might hear a Yank wonder. There may or may not be a response from the store owner, so allow us to tell you how to pronounce them and what they are. Say roh-tee. Pah-rah-tah. Dal-poo-ree.

Roti is Trini soul food — curried meats reveal the Indo-Caribbean influence, although it isn't a traditionally East Indian thing. It's beloved throughout the West Indies, but based primarily in Trinidad. Picture a soft-as-a-baby's-blanket flatbread wrapped around chunks of curried meat and veggies. Yum. Roti is the name of the soft flatbread as well as the meal. At Caribbean Delite, you can order dhalpurie, which has a thin skin that reveals a sprinkling of dried chickpeas. Paratha (also known as buss-up-shut — "bust-up shirt" — for its torn, clothlike appearance) is served separately in a heavy Styrofoam box.; you do the rippin', dippin', and curry-wrappin' yourself with your bare hands. Oh yeah, roti is a food you devour eagerly with both hands, so leave your prissy American manners and expectations behind. Get the boneless chicken meal for $7.76, and be prepared to be full all day.

For reasons that elude all logic, some foods just taste better when someone else makes them. Tea sandwiches are definitely in that category, possibly because the whole idea of afternoon tea should be supremely relaxed indulgence, not something one has to work for. Who has the patience to cut off all that crust? Frances Brown, chef/owner of this cheery establishment — where teatime is anytime — does. And the savory salmon, chicken, and cucumber-filled triangles that come with both her English or Caribbean-style full teas (which also include flaky scones with cream and jam, a variety of little pastries, and choice of 30 teas: $15 to $18) are the epitome of civilized elegance. That said, the unique wraps are its signature sandwiches. The fresh fillings vary with the seasons but always feature combinations of ingredients that are both unusual and sumptuous, raised to heavenly heights by impeccably made spreads: Caribbean shrimp or lobster salad with avocado and tropical salsa ($9.95); juicy grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, scallions, and Gorgonzola chunks, with subtly sweet/sour dressing ($8.50); smoked salmon with cukes, red onion, and beautifully balanced, zesty yet rich wasabi crème frâiche ($8.75). Flavorful garnishes such as fig chutney, spiced curry dressing, and succulent black olive tapenade make even vegetarian sandwiches shine.

Maison D'Azur

Ten reasons why Maison d'Azur is the catch of the year:

1. Whelks and periwinkles, which are so unique in these parts they really should count as two reasons. The former are conchlike in texture, the "winkles" teeny and sweet.

2. It is located in the Anglers Resort, which in the Thirties was one of South Beach's first Mediterranean-revival hotels and today is as stunning and romantic a setting for dinner as one could hope to find.

3. DJ Bruno Saläun from Saint-Tropez. Does your favorite fish joint have a DJ? From Saint-Tropez? Didn't think so.

4. Dover sole, John Dory, Tasmanian ocean trout, rouget, sardines, and all manner of Mediterranean seafood specialties (swimming a wide price range of $32 to $72, with some rarities costing more).

5. Seven sauces to choose from to accompany your fish.

6. The big three caviars, from $195 to $450 an ounce.

7. Shellfish platters plied with prawns, crab legs, oysters, champagne/caviar shooters, and langoustines imported from Brittany (six for $65).

8. Soupe de poisson Marseillaise, a saffron-scented fish chowder that alone is worth dining here for.

9. A flawless steak frites with béarnaise — it should be noted that Maison is referred to as a seafood brasserie.

10. Seventy-five distinctive wines and champagnes, suave service, and the creamiest crème brûlée in town.

Phyllis Richman abhors restaurants that provide "service that isn't really a service, such as by pouring your water every time you take a sip." Robert Sietsema bemoans "the frequent difficulty of getting the check," while Gael Greene's main gripe concerns waiters asking, "Are you still picking at that?" Restaurant critics and diners frequently express all kinds of beefs regarding service, so when a dining establishment such as Pascal's on Ponce avoids the aforementioned plethora of pitfalls, it is worth taking notice. Not only is chef/owner Pascal Oudin's contemporary French cuisine peerless, but also his team of professional waiters satisfies their customers' every service need in seamless, silent fashion. "A great restaurant," according to food writer Arthur Schwartz, "is a place that makes you think that you're being treated as well as one of the regular customers." Pascal's on Ponce is just such as place.

Trump International Beach Resort

You don't have to be a real estate mogul or a reality TV star to get everything you desire in a cocktail. Nor is notoriety or a vicious comb-over a prerequisite. You can walk into Neomi's Grill at the chic Trump International Beach Resort and order a Trumptini, and the bartender will serve you a buzz, a jolt of energy, and a t-shape slice of lemon all in one glass. The flavors are semisweet and might remind you of a cosmopolitan, but once you taste the Citron, Absolut Mandarin, Absolut Peach, and Wet Mango power drink alongside the essential cranberry juice, you'll know the ladies of Sex and the City never had this libation. And it goes for only $11.57 after taxes. Cheers.

"Thinking of Miami, the first thing that comes to mind is summer/beach and of course a great body figure." So says the website of this family-run Middle Eastern café, and if your priority is indeed a great figure, the signature Lemon Fizz (made with oranges, bananas, pineapples, mangos, apples, strawberries, other seasonal berries ... everything except lemons) is the nothing-but-fruit smoothie that'll get you there. But there's no legal definition of smoothie; tradition, since the first smoothie was created in California around 1940, dictates only that the drinks be based on fresh fruit, liquefied, and whipped in a blender. By that standard, even this café's lightest juice — a frothy mix of lemon and mint — is a smoothie. The fruit shakes here run the gamut from healthful (OJ, strawberries, and hazelnuts) to sinful (white grapes with milk and vanilla ice cream), but almost all are inventive. And there are also fruit-free chocolate or vanilla frappés for folks who'd rather forget the figure.

The DiLido Beach Club

A magical nanny once said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down," but if she were our wet nurse, we'd have to ask what we could eat a spoonful of to make our weight go down. Or maybe we'd inquire about a dessert that's tasty without wreaking havoc on our teeth and vital organs — because that's what refined sugars are doing to us as we scarf down that Snickers bar. The answer is the DiLido Beach Club's mango sorbet, a confection made with natural ingredients that your body is well versed in digesting. Neither you nor your nutritionist will argue with the simple recipe of very ripe mangos, organic honey, lime, and a bit of salt. Created by chef de cuisine, a.k.a. the hot chef of our dreams, Jeff McInnis, this sorbet is one you can feel good about shoving down your throat. Or you can just head to the Ritz-Carlton's chic oceanfront restaurant, shell out five bucks, and eat it spoonful by delicious spoonful. Oh, and the strawberry, coconut, apricot, lemon, and orange varieties will do your body just as much good.

The Mahogany Grille

Miami's hip-hop fans are quick to identify our city as part of the "Dirty South." Musically, perhaps there's an argument to be made. But when it comes to cuisine, Miami may as well be North Dakota. It's practically impossible to find a decent soul food joint in these parts. We're talking real soul food — not one of those so-called American cuisine joints that just throws on their menus some ribs and mac 'n' cheese drizzled with truffle oil or baked in balls studded with weird chunks of jalapeños. A real down-home soul food joint has got to have barbecue. It's got to have real macaroni and cheese. And it also should have grits, collard greens, and candied yams. Plus it'd be really nice if the joint weren't a hole-in-the-wall; just because the place is offering down-home cookin' doesn't mean the décor can't be elegant. Mahogany Grille has all of that and then some. The chefs here go above and beyond, offering regional fixings such as Southern fried chicken and waffles (served with a generous portion of sweet potato fries), as well as plenty of jerk recipes, conch fritters, and oxtail stew for island transplants looking for the kind of food mama used to make. And it's affordable. The priciest item on the menu is the $32 rib eye. As the name implies, Mahogany's atmosphere is plush, dark, warm, and inviting. The dessert menu is to die for — any first-time visitor shouldn't miss the butter sweet potato pecan cheesecake. It's as rich, sweet, and decadent as you'd imagine.

Delicias de España

Ten Reasons why Delicias is better than the rest:

10. Quaint, low-key tearoom setting.

9. Spanish-style breakfasts are served, as well as lunch, dinner, and chocolate con churros for merienda (afternoon snack).

8. Dining room leads to Delicias's Spanish import market (both opened in 1997 and seem to expand every few years), which sells thousands of items such as hams, cheeses, sausages, wines, perfumes, ceramics, and a wide array of paella pans.

7. Fresh fish flown in from Spain's Cantabric Sea twice a week.

6. Fabiano Asturiana, a meat-and-bean specialty from Asturia, Spain (native land of husband/wife owners Ernesto Llerandi and Isabel Miranda).

5. Gazpacho andaluz, garlic-laden clams, and peppers stuffed with bacalao and rice, each under $10.

4. Small tray of luxurious Ibérico ham ($25).

3. Large tray of luxurious Ibérico ham ($45).

2. Pastry cases filled with homemade charlottes, tarts, cakes, soufflés, petits fours, truffles — plenty of choices to accompany a steamy café con leche.

1. Monkfish in garlic sauce ($25) and lubina a la plancha (griddled sea bass, $25), langostinos a la plancha (griddled king prawns, $30), served with garlicky roasted potatoes. That's about half what it would cost in your favorite Spanish restaurant.

Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa

Maine lobster, spice-poached prawns, stone crabs, East and West Coast oysters, littleneck clams, and complete caviar service. That's the raw bar. Lobster, crab, foie gras, and American Kobe beef compose some of the appetizers — each luxe item offered three ways. Such as lobster-bacon-and-shiso-wrapped fritters with yuzu crème fraîche, or butter-poached lobster with chanterelles and corn pudding crêpe, or lobster grilled cheese croutons atop heirloom tomato soup. "Michael's Classics" include whole-fried organic chicken, Kobe burgers, and tapioca-crusted yellowtail snapper. Sides? How about the signature trio of duck-fat fries? Yes, that's fries fried in duck fat. Let's take a breath before getting to the steaks. This is a steak house, after all. An acclaimed steak house, in fact, that celebrated West Coast chef Michael Mina opened in The Fairmont Turnberry Resort this past year. There are all-natural certified Angus beef steaks; American Kobe steaks; and the exquisitely marbled Japanese A5 Kobe steaks. And rack of lamb and pork short ribs and all kinds of cuts. Get ready for the clincher: All meats are poached in fat prior to grilling. Steaks in butter, lamb in olive oil, and pork in bacon lard. It might also be mentioned that the décor is gorgeous, service superb, wine list exceptional — but is that even necessary? And we can close by saying how oh-so-costly it is to dine here — but does that really matter?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®