China Palace

In the Year of the Ox, we were shocked when a mystical dragon flew through the door of our lobby, singed our receptionist's hair, and dropped a box full of fortune cookies that amazingly described (in broken English, of course) our favorite Chinese carry-out joint, China Palace. In fact, the fortunes were so accurate we decided to share some of them with you:

Your greatest fortune is the large number of items on the menu that span like wing of crane. China Palace has all the basics from a rainbow of lo meins to kung po frogs' legs ($10.95).

• There is a true and sincere friendship between you and your stomach. This is why you should want China Palace's standout items and you should order creamy crab Rangoon (8 for $4.95), crispy roast duck ($10.95), and fluffy, never soggy, well-spiced honey-garlic chicken ($9.95).

Plan for many large pieces of pork, beef, crab, and shrimp in your future by ordering fried rice. All portions also very giant. Your winning lottery numbers are 6, 8, 13, 32, 29, 41.

You will inherit some money or a small piece of land. But you may still take advantage of special dinner platters served with soup and fried rice that are never more than 8 American dollars.

A quiet evening with friends is the best tonic for a long day. So is food put quickly in the body. This is why it is good that China Palace never takes more than 45 minutes to deliver tasty meals to the mouth.

You will step on the soil of many countries when eating here because our Cantonese and Szechuan cuisines are authentic here too.

In the end, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and satisfied hunger; and the greatest of these is satisfied hunger, which you will get after eating at China Palace. LEARN CHINESE: Pot sticker = Guo-tie (also very good and cheap too!).

Red Koi Thai & Sushi Lounge

Red Koi Lounge opened its Miracle Mile doors earlier this year to fierce competition from Gables staple Bangkok Bangkok. But its combination of friendly servers, fiery duck red curry, and budget-friendly lunch specials has helped the feisty newcomer attain a loyal following that packs the black-leather-and-bamboo dining room on weekends. Sure, there's sushi on the menu too, most of it pretty good, but it's Thai staples such as ginger scallops and spicy beef salad with lime juice and crunchy scallions that inspire return visits. Curries go for $10 to $27.

Yoko's Japanese Restaurant

Unlike other temples to Japanese food on South Beach, Yoko's is a relatively humble pioneer that has consistently churned out high-quality staples such as nongreasy tempura, buttery raw fish, seared yakitori chicken skewers, and plump shrimp shumai. Come here for Japanese comfort food like fried pork katsu, barbecue eel, and heaping bowls of udon noodle soup. The tatami mat décor and warm yet formal service is the closest Miami gets to a typical Tokyo neighborhood haunt. Yaki soba with shrimp is $15.

Izzy's Cubi Thai

Izzy's fills that odd dining niche for those days when you can't decide whether you're feeling like ropa vieja or panang curry. Luckily, at Izzy's, you can have both, simultaneously if desired. Located in the once-classic Sherry Frontenac Hotel in North Beach, the sparsely decorated joint boasts a lengthy menu of Cuban and Thai classics that range from skirt steak with tostones and black beans all the way to pad thai, a sweetly sour mee grob, and a lovely coconut soup bursting with shrimp and vegetables. And it's cheap. Ropa vieja is $9; green curry goes for $11.

Fogo De Chao

Let's hark back to the days when meat was served in portions the size of Hyundais. Better yet, let's just mosey on over to Fogo de Chão, which loosely translates to "stuff of the face." Or maybe not — our Portuguese isn't so hot — but we know a great cut of meat when we eat one. The way it works, as most Miamians know, is a band of servers comes to the table hauling long skewers of fat, juicy meats, and provides continuous slicing privileges for those who want it. There are some 15 Brazilian-style cuts in all, our favorites being the picanha (prime sirloin), beef ancho (prime part of the rib eye), tender pork ribs, pork sausages, leg of lamb... well, guess we like it all. The meats here just seem fresher, moister, and more flavorful than those at other eateries of this type. Diners are likewise lassoed by fresh breads, side dishes, and a ridiculously extensive salad bar. The whole shebang costs $46.50 ($26.50 for kids) — not a bad deal when broken down to price per pound.

Camila’s Restaurant
Zachary Fagenson

Brazilian food has become synonymous with meat, and lots of it. The brasileiros have the successful export of their churrascarias (think Texas de Brazil and Fogo de Chão) to thank for that. But there's a lot more to Brazilian cuisine than tender rump roast on a stick. And there's no better place to get the most authentic of Brazilian meals — feijoada — than at Camila's, a downtown Miami institution since 1989. Like other Brazilian chains, the restaurant is buffet style, and the best day to check it out is Saturday, when Camila's offers a special feijoada meal. What is feijoada? It's a stew of black beans with pork, which could include everything from bacon to smoked pork ribs. Best of all, Camila's prices are reasonable — just $10.95 for the super buffet. And if you want Brazilian-style meat, they have that too.

Sra. Martinez

Señorita Juanita, translate the following to English, por favor:

La Señora Martinez sirve pequeñas porciones de exquisitas comidas muy gustosas — a continuación de las famosas tapas de Andalucía.

Sra. Martinez serves small plates of big-flavored foods styled after the famed tapas of Andalusia.

Muy bien. Ahora, Herman, translate this to Spanish:

Pork belly with sweet-and-sour glaze, sea urchin sandwich crisply pressed in French bread, smaller, tapas-like snacks such as Serrano ham with fig marmalade and Marcona almonds — chef/owner Michelle Bernstein imbues all with her own uniquely creative touch.

Puerco...

Ay! Tome asiento Señor Herman, por favor. Señorita Maria, cuéntenos un poco sobre la Señora Bernstein y la Señora Martinez.

Bernstein is one of Miami's most gifted chefs, and Sra. Martinez is her Design District, Seville-style restaurant. Most plates are under $18, there are great sherries and wines to go with the cuisine, it stays open for dinner until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and the atmosphere is fun, fun, fun.

Super! Herman, por favor, déjeme saber cual es el mejor restaurante de comida española en miami?

Señora Bernstein?

Ay caramba!

The best Cuban restaurant in Miami lives in Wynwood. That's where La Fama Cafeteria puts out its consistently delicious, always affordable, nothing-more-than-$7.95 menu of classic meals and daily specials. La Fama consists of a lunch counter, a take-out window, and a small room with a couple of tables. But don't let the spartan environment fool you — the food exceeds all expectations. Huge portions of crisp fried chicken chunks, boiled yuca in garlic sauce, black beans, and white rice will set you back only $4.95 for the meal. Beautiful girls work the counter six days a week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The place is closed Sunday, so whether you want a medianoche ($2.80), a flan de leche ($1.50), or a giant bistec de pollo empanizado ($5.95), you've come to the right place. Local businessman Hugo Jesus Roca says, "You gotta try the mondongo." The beef tripe soup is served as a special Fridays and Saturdays. Whether you sit down to eat or grab it and go, La Fama brings Miami heat to the melting pot and cooks up fire every time.

Ariston Restaurant

Thanasis Barlos has been the proprietor of the highest Michelin-rated restaurant in Greece, as well as of Elia, a posh Mediterranean eatery in the Bal Harbour Shops. But when he and partner Michelle Shimon opened Ariston in February 2008, the goal was more informal. They wanted to serve simple, well-executed Greek cuisine in a festive neighborhood-restaurant environment. Mr. Barlos's mother, Noni, provided recipes that come to life via vivid execution by chef Alexia Apostolidi, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The mainstays are all on hand, including luscious renditions of tarama and tzatziki and a textbook moussaka. But what distinguishes Ariston are the suckling piglet roasted in a wood-burning oven ($21.95) and lamb aromatically spun in a charcoal rotisserie ($25.95) — both accompanied by potatoes softly roasted in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. Service is sharp, the wine list extensive, and the honey-dripped walnut cake (karithopita) not to be missed — and you won't miss it if you show up from 6 to 11 p.m. (or Saturday until midnight).

It was nearly a decade ago when Pascal Oudin opened his eponymous 55-seat restaurant. This is noteworthy because it began the trend of Miami's top chefs leaving big-money establishments to start modest places of their own. The restaurant is also noteworthy because Oudin, from Bourbon Lancy, France, is an unquestionably gifted chef. Using classic French technique gleaned from years of working under masters such as Alain Ducasse, Roger Verge, and Jean-Louis Palladin, he artfully creates light, fresh fare such as creamy lobster bisque with corn flan and tarragon, twice-baked Gruyère cheese soufflé, and duck dolce forte with pears, fingerling potatoes, and Savoy cabbage (entrées are in the $30 range). Well-priced bottles are on the wine list, white linens and delicate flowers are on the tables, the waitstaff is on the ball, and if you've never eaten at Pascal's on Ponce, you should get right on over there for lunch or dinner (open until 10 p.m. weeknights and an hour later on weekends).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®