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.

Pacific Time Restaurant

Jonathan Eismann's two biggest fans — daughters Landon, age 3, and Morgan, age 8 — were inspiration for the kids' tasting menu now offered at Pacific Time (Morgan created the menu's art design). Forget mac and cheese or PB&J sandwiches. We're talking tuna tartare with Idaho chips, braised short rib with white beans, butter-grilled salmon, and grilled lamb chop. Those come from the four-course menu geared toward children over the age of 7 ($30 each); a three-course meal for those ages 4 to 8 includes Thai-style popcorn shrimp, heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella and basil, and organic chicken satay with soy ginger dipping sauce ($20 apiece). This cuisine is obviously for the adventuresome, sophisticated young palate — even if it is served on polka-dot plates. Dessert is the "Big Cookie," which the kiddies may decorate with chocolate chips and sprinkles at the beginning of their meal and then receive in baked form just in time for their coffee — um, hot cocoa. And by the way: Pacific Time's menu for adults has received a fair amount of critical praise as well.

Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante

It seems as though every restaurant and its sister café has a wood-burning oven. Most places use them to produce blistery thin-crust pizzas, but Sardinia's chefs employ their ovens the way folks in, um, Sardinia do. This translates to whole chickens, quail, rabbits, suckling pigs, fish, octopi, steaks — the theory evidently being anything that once walked or swam will taste good smoked. And it does. Then again, so do the beets and other vegetables tossed into the oven. If you want to get technical, everything at Sardinia ends up tasting fine, from antipasti to pastas, breads, wines, and desserts (entrées range from $26 to $36). This gem of a restaurant — open noon to midnight seven days — makes the hearth proud.

Fifi's Seafood Restaurant

Nothing thrills dedicated foodies more than being able to "discover" a nifty restaurant they can boastfully tell friends about. Fifi's Place fits the bill. Owners Nelson and Mayneth "Fifi" Sanchez run a small, humble neighborhood spot, but the fish they cook up is some of the freshest in town. How fresh? Yunieski Gonzalez, a former Cuban free-diving champ, heads out to the ocean and spears hog snappers and groupers that are served hours later (and no, we are not making this up, although maybe Fifi is). Diners are also likely to find catches such as Alaskan black cod, bluefin tuna, and Nova Scotia scallops. The hog snapper? Turned into sashimi with yuzu and soy sauce. The cooking accents tilt from Latin to Asian, and dinner specials come with salad and either rice and black beans or mashed potatoes. Fifi's is festive every day from noon until midnight; lunch specials range from $7.99 to $10.99, dinner from $5.99 and up — most entrées in the $20 to $30 range. And don't fret: We won't tell anyone we told you about Fifi's, so you can brag about having discovered it.

Francesco Restaurant

Ceviche is not a complicated dish to prepare. At its simplest, it is a combination of fresh fish in lime juice and salt; cilantro and onions are almost always added. That's the basic rendition served at Francesco, whose seafood of choice is corvina ($16), shrimp ($17), or a combo of those two with scallops, octopus, and calamari ($16). But you can likewise request your ceviche prepared with mild aji amarillo sauce or Francesco's fantastically fiery rocoto — or try all three sauces with mixed seafood for $24 (the Peruvian Cristal or Cuzqueña beers pair with the fish and peppers like Cabernet with porterhouse). The fish is chunky and pristinely pleasurable because Francesco is a sterling Peruvian seafood restaurant that uses very fresh fish. Sibling owners Franco and Aldo Danovaro shuttle between the Gables venue (opened in 2001) and their original Lima locale to make certain all seafoods are properly chilled and that the reception is warm and personal. What we are saying, in effect, is that the stellar ceviche here is merely a dazzling opening act to an authentic Peruvian culinary experience.

The DiLido Beach Club

Ten reasons you should take out-of-towners to DiLido Beach for lunch:

1. It's less expensive than taking them to dinner at the Ritz.

2. Tourists are easily impressed by stars, so you can mention that chef Jeff McInnis is the good-looking guy who got eliminated from TV's Top Chef before the sangria sorbet in his ceviche even melted.

3. You can have the smug satisfaction of sitting on the veranda, mojito in hand, staring complacently at the cerulean Atlantic stretched before you and nonchalantly saying, "I take it you don't get to lunch like this much in Buffalo."

4. There's a fried green tomato "club sandwich" with eggplant, feta mousse, arugula, mayo, French fries, and harissa ketchup ($12/$21).

5. And there's cumin-and-za'atar-crusted tuna with lemon emulsion, grapefruit compote, and asparagus salad ($15/$28).

6. McInnis is a much better chef than #2 implies.

7. Did we mention hookah smoking Thursday through Saturday, after 5 p.m., in one of six cabanas facing the ocean?

8. How about watermelon-and-peach sangria — without gazpacho?

9. You'll get to say things like "yuzu-drenched scallop ceviche with shaved artichokes and a scoop of melon ice [$11] is to Miami what spicy chicken wings are to your hometown."

10. And last: the priceless memories of a leisurely lunch with loved ones.

Jaguar Restaurant
Jaguar Latin-American Kitchen

No bottled water is sold here. Instead, in-house filtered water is poured free of charge. Environmentally sound, sure, but more important is how it reflects the consumer-friendly approach taken by managing partner Eduardo "Lalo" Durazo regarding all aspects of his restaurant. Ceviches, for instance, are served in spoons that conveniently fit right into the mouth — no optional plates or silverware needed. That's pretty friendly. So are the flavor combos, such as a "ceviche nuevo" of shrimp or calamari with ginger, lime, and aji amarillo. Or there's the "Peruano" version, with white fish marinated in lime juice with red onion, fresh corn, and rocoto pepper — such vivid tastes that other ceviches around town might seem a bit, well, watered down by comparison. Jaguar also accommodates just about anybody via an extensive menu offering everything from seared yellowfin tuna to lomo saltado to "Latam Grill" steaks. The last includes a lip-smacking picanha cut that goes for $16 and comes with choice of sides such as salad, shoestring potatoes, or fried onion rings. Most other main courses are also $20 or less; spoons of ceviche are $2, "Amazon" spoons around $15. Jaguar is open for lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), dinner (till about 11 p.m.), and weekend brunch (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.).

Best Restaurant in the MiMo District

Red Light

Red Light Little River

Telegram from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council:

We need Americans to spend more money. (stop) I propose restaurateurs encouraged to drop prices will stimulate food/bev sector. (stop) Red Light in Miami for national model; chef/owner Kris Wessel's food simple seasonal straightforward and — symbolically beautiful part — New American. (stop) Diner-like ambiance inside Little River flows by outdoor tables BBQ shrimp with dip bread/organic burger/roasted quail/homemade ice cream. (stop) Every carefully home-cooked comestible under $20, many under $15. (stop) (BTW, you have Obama's BlackBerry number?) (stop) Larry, to tell truth, my own finances not so hot. (stop) Sitting in a booth now enjoying skillet of organic egg Morbier cheese tomato-toast apple-bacon for $11 at Red Light. (stop)

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Photo courtesy of Genuine Hospitality Group

Everything that needs to be said about Michael's has no doubt already been said. There's the pioneering Design District location. Then comes star chef Michael Schwartz's brilliant and honest American cuisine. Next is star pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith's dazzlingly delectable desserts. How about the smart selection of wines marked up with the customer in mind — and friendly food prices too (small plates $8 to $15, medium $11 to $20, large $21 to $32; for this cuisine, a steal)? You've heard it all, including talk that Michael's is as good as any dining establishment in this or any other South Florida neighborhood. Still, it bears repeating.

Palme d'Or
Photo courtesy of the Biltmore

Philippe Ruiz is Miami's quietest superstar chef; you won't see him ranting on TV like those fake Food Network personalities. Palme d'Or is our least heralded great restaurant; it doesn't garner the media attention of Michael's, Michy's, and the rest of the newer wave establishments. Yet chef Ruiz, already accorded the prestigious Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite Agricole (Guy Fieri is still awaiting his), is a semifinalist in the 2009 James Beard Awards for Best Chef in the South; Palme d'Or is up for Best Service and Best Wine Service. Who are we to argue with the esteemed Beard committee? And why would we even want to, after having savored Ruiz's seared frogs' legs with celeriac custard; chilled vine-ripened tomato soup with goat cheese and cucumber jelly; and braised short ribs with farro risotto and carrot confit? The setting, like the French cuisine, balances classic and sophisticated with light and contemporary. Ruiz and Palme d'Or might go unnoticed by some, but those who appreciate fine French fare know just where to go for the best — except Sundays and Mondays, when the place is closed.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®