Past honorees of this lifetime achievement-type award are Norman Van Aken, Mark Militello, Allen Susser, Pascal Oudin, Philippe Ruiz, Michelle Bernstein, and Michael Schwartz. This year's inductees fit right into this privileged pantheon of pioneering chefs, both having forged personal, South Florida-centric cuisines way back when. Doug Rodriguez's stint began in 1991 at Efrain Vega's original Yuca Restaurant in Coral Gables, which led to Nuevo Latino cuisine and its hundreds of imitators. In a city rife with Cuban eateries, Rodriguez was the first chef to adapt the traditional foods into lighter, prettier, and sometimes even tastier contemporary fare. After Yuca, he opened similarly themed restaurants of his own in New York and then came back with a few attempts at OLA; the present incarnation at the Sanctuary on South Beach is the best yet, his cooking as relevant as ever. Cindy Hutson created her Caribbean-based Cuisine of the Sun at Norma's on the Beach, from 1994 to 1999, and then honed the style at her Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables. Ten years later, the charming Ortanique is still packing them in and remains a singular oasis for tropical-accented cooking. Each of these chefs has succeeded in deftly translating Central and Latin American culinary traditions into delectable cuisines uniquely their own — and both continue to do so better than anyone else.

Best Restaurant for Eating Unrecognizable Foods

Enso

Enso

What might you not recognize? A martini glass that appears to be filled with water but is not; a giant pan-fried candy wrapper; bright red sheets on a bed of green and white foams. These are, respectively, clarified gazpacho — how'd they do that? — which tastes just like gazpacho; tuna "wrapped" in shiso leaf and soy paper and twisted on each end; Caprese salad composed of skinned, semidried fillets of tomato with basil and mozzarella foams. It's all on the "gastronomy map" (i.e., menu) at Enso, an "evolutionary solutions workshop which creates the scientific study of deliciousness" (i.e., restaurant). Sous vide veal tongue with octopus chimichurri is up for grabs as well, and so is chocolate liqueur topped with strawberry "air" (i.e., light foam). What could be as surprising as the forms the foods take? How delicious they are. Plus it's fun when you don't quite know what's coming next, and always a pleasure to dine outdoors on Lincoln Road. Dinner entrées splash down in the $30 to $40 range. If you start with some sushi (which is what is mostly served at lunch) or cocktails from the chic bar, you'll be looking at a steep bill — something all too recognizable on South Beach.

Matahari Cafe

Miami's downtown dining environment has leaped forward in just the past few years — during the daytime, that is. And while it isn't difficult to find a fine lunch for less than a ten-spot, it would be quite a challenge to cop better plates of food for that sum than the ones encountered at these two recently installed hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Pakorn "Peter" Phansuwana's 16-seat Thai Churros serves zesty, home-cooked staples such as spicy seafood salad, tom yum soup, pad thai, beef in basil sauce — all $6.95 or less for lunch, and $9.95 or less at dinner (open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.). Dibyo Kasiyadi, a former cruise worker from Jakarta, caters to his former industry mates and those lucky downtowners who have discovered his Matahari Café. They cram into the petite eatery each day (except Tuesdays, when it's closed) until 4 p.m. for the $5.99 lunch special (cash only), which brings a choice of Indonesian specialties such as grilled skewers of chicken or pork saté with peanut sauce, or chili-and-coconut-steeped beef rendang — each accompanied by a mound of steamy rice. Why take a Subway when for the same price you can catch a flight to Thailand or Indonesia?

Chef Allen's

Not that Allen Susser's namesake restaurant ever fell very far, but like any establishment that earns institutional status, it adopted the common complacency of success. But after last year's interior refurbishment, the room feels more relevant, and so does the revamped cuisine. Now tabbed a "modern seafood bistro," the place puts emphasis on local, sustainable fish and produce plated in smaller portions and at lower prices than before (most main courses are just $24 to $28 and come with vegetable or starch). Amen. The Susser touch is still magical, as evidenced by Manchego-accented shrimp and grits "brûlée" or seared swordfish fillet ingeniously matched with smoked almonds, chanterelles, and Pinot Noir pan sauce. In fact, the food seems more alive than ever. For a seasoned veteran such as Susser to have staged so sensational a turnaround... well, all we can say is, check the man for steroids!

Andu Restaurant & Lounge

According to ol' Bill Shakespeare: "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day" and then you die. But before you leave this mortal coil, make sure to eat at Andú Restaurant and Lounge. It brings the fine flavors, spices, meats, and cheeses of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Spain, and Italy to the ground floor of Brickell's Neo Vertika building. Who cares? You do, sucka. Imagine this is your last meal; put it on plastic and tell Capital One to kiss your bass, 'cause you're going out in style. Andú is a sexy joint with a casual vibe where you can get tipsy on signature cocktails infused with chef-prepared herbs or fruit purées. Sample the many exotic flavors of the fine cuisine, knock back a few desserts, and holler at one of the many young business professionals doing the same. Each meal opens with complimentary hors d'oeuvres as well as warm, sliced pita coated with herbs and olive oil and ready to dip in house-made hummus. Dishes put a new spin on old favorites. Think that light and incredibly tender calamari appetizer is made from tired old squid? It's actually delicious cuttlefish, served with Meyer lemon brown butter ($15). Had cedar plank salmon? Try it with cherry mustard glaze ($24). Want a thick, juicy steak? These aren't dry-aged; they're marinated in the cow's own blood ($32). Rumor has it that the interior designer behind the dining room's beautiful and inviting hand-blown glass art concept died of a heart attack on the restaurant floor. He had a smile on his face. His last meal on Earth. Andú, of course.

Fratelli Lyon

The space is cool, clear, and clean, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows — like Heaven's waiting room furnished by Driade (whose showroom is adjacent to Lyon). If the gods are truly benevolent, there will be a purgatorial buffet amply supplied with antipasti and wines from — where else? — Italy. But assuming this is not the case, Fratelli Lyon represents your best last chance to indulge in air-dried beef from Uruguay (bresaola); wisps of fennel-flecked salumi (finocchiona), Ventian Asiago and Gorgonzola from Lombardi; a sweet caponata of eggplant, raisins and pine nuts; a salad of fresh fava beans, haricot verts, shaved Pecorino Romano and small white Umbrian purgatoria beans (how fitting!). Depending on what and how many items are chosen, the antipasti should cost $16 to $30. Crusty bread baked on premise and an ultimate glass of, say, a Giuseppe Quintarelli wine should put a smile on anyone's lips. Fratelli Lyon also serves hearty homemade pastas and regional cuisine from Fruili and Piedmont in the north to Sicily, Sardinia and Campania in the south; dazzling desserts, too. But start with the antipasti — just in case, as so often happens, you have overestimated your time on Earth.

FB Steakhouse

You don't need a celebrated, groundbreaking chef like Alfred Portale to produce a great steak; any seasoned grill cook is capable of such a feat. But it helps that the person behind one of New York City's most iconic restaurants has experience in selecting cuts of quality meats, such as a 20-ounce Brandt Farms rib eye ($52), eight-ounce American Wagyu filet mignon ($50), and Sher Ranch Australian Wagyu strip ($75). And it also helps that he has been around long enough to surmise that not every customer wants to pay $75 for an entrée; Gotham offers a $28 skirt steak that tastes terrific with a Southwestern chili rub. Portale knows how to coax the meat's natural flavor by cooking over hardwood charcoal and finishing on a 1,200-degree broiler. And a chef trained only in steak houses probably couldn't come up with seafood dishes such as the ethereally tasty Florida grouper with quinoa and tomato vinaigrette. Portale also showed sage judgment in choosing Dru Schiedell as chef de cuisine. He's the one responsible for producing all of this lip-smacking food. Gotham succeeds in non-culinary ways as well. The two-level dining room is gorgeous, service is solid, and the 500-bottle wine selection overflows with boutique vintners and rare vintages. No, you don't need a chef like Alfred Portale to create a peerless steak house. But it doesn't hurt.

DB Bistro Moderne
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Culinary legend Daniel Boulud plans to bring a second branch of his DB Bistro Moderne from Times Square to downtown Miami's Met 2 Tower later this year. Think casual Parisian cafe with a market-driven menu. Think, more specifically, of a plat du jour of pork belly, lentils, and shavings of black truffle; of an amazingly aromatic bouillabaisse; and of the famous (and infamous) DB Burger: ground prime rib with a center of foie gras, black truffle, and short ribs braised in red wine — plumped into a Parmesan bun with tomato compote, frisée, and homemade mayonnaise, and sided by a silver cup of puffy pommes soufflés. The burger costs $32 at the NYC venue, which is another way of saying food this great doesn't come cheap. Start saving your pennies now.

Best Non-Vegetarian Restaurant for Vegetarians

Canyon Ranch Grill

Canyon Ranch Grill

In meat-friendly Miami-Dade, only a few places can assemble a plate of savory scrambled tofu or add clever toppings to a tempeh burger. But for vegetarian fare that highlights distinctive, farm-fresh, nutritionally balanced ingredients melded into real, delicious meals, you need to find an establishment that understands not only gardening and Zen, but also cooking — a place like Canyon Ranch Grill. The restaurant serves up light, sophisticated dishes such as a salad of seared watermelon and heirloom tomatoes (from local Paradise Farms) dappled with red wine vinegar syrup and basil seed; spinach-and-Napa cabbage rolls with garbanzos and fennel pollen in smoked paprika broth; and ribbons of vegetables tossed with minted mushroom "Bolognese" sauce. Vegetarian entrées run $9 to $13 (meat mains range from $22 to $30) and can be accompanied by a bottle of organic/bio-dynamic wine. Only thing is, sitting tableside by the ocean and indulging in this heavenly vegetarian cuisine might get you feeling a little sorry for carnivores.

The Restaurant at the Setai

Screw the world. I mean, what a mess. Every single rotten human being on the planet is irredeemably greedy and corrupt — except me and you, that is. Which is why we dine alone. Who wants to break bread with these bastards anyway? And more to the point, fewer and fewer of them want to dine with us. That's all right. Pull up a plush leather chair at the Grill at the Setai's marble dining bar and sit your disgruntled bottom down; there is no restaurant in the city more soothingly decorated than this one. Start with a half-dozen Pickle Point oysters ($18), jamón Ibérico de bellota ($35), or three of the juiciest jumbo wild shrimp you have ever seen ($24). Take a second or two to look down the bar while exuding an air of superiority at your savvy selection. Then dig into your second course — perhaps caramelized onion tart with seared tuna belly and smoked shallot cream ($12)? Loudly order one of the dozen or so haute steaks. As in: "I'd like a certified Hereford rib eye" ($48) or "The Japanese A5 New York strip sounds good" ($30 per ounce). Of course, you can always go with one of chef Jonathan Wright's signature seafood entrées, such as Alaskan halibut or miso-roasted black cod (each $48), but it just doesn't have the same ring. Oh, and by the way: If you see someone at the other end of the bar wolfing down duck-fat fries with truffle salt and glaring back at you, it's probably me.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®