Best New Restaurant 2013 | Khong River House | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
David Cabrera

Miami's temperature is approaching 90 degrees. South Beach's streets are clammy, damp from the midsummer mist. You are hungry, but you don't want steak frites, lasagna Bolognese, or thick vegetable curries with sticky rice. You want Khong River House's boat noodles ($18) — a robust, auburn noodle-and-broth soup enriched with fish sauce, beef blood, fried garlic, and chili vinegar. You want Khong's Vietnamese-style crispy prawns ($31) with spring onions and shallots or Thai tofu salad ($13) with deep-fried bits of soybean curd and vibrant vegetables. Owned by 50 Eggs Inc., the folks behind Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, the restaurant is an oasis of intrepid flavors and startlingly spicy cuisine. Its cooking is based on foods found across the northern Mekong River, particularly in Laos, Burma, Vietnam, and Thailand. Many dishes were previously hard to find around town. Now, when it's hot out, Khong's jolts of piquancy and bursts of freshness feel so right.

No name could suit this restaurant better than "the Bazaar." The mastermind behind the dining spot's whimsical and delightful cuisine is José Andrés, the James Beard Award-winning restaurateur and culinary icon. At this South Beach eatery situated inside the SLS Hotel, caipirinhas are prepared tableside with liquid nitrogen, Brazilian cachaça, fresh lime, and sugar. The caprese salad ($12) brings cherry tomatoes and spheres of liquid mozzarella that burst and ooze with fresh milk after just one bite. Some dishes offer nods to Miami, such as the Cuban sandwich and the bao con lechón. Others originate in Spain. In the black rossejat ($16), thin, short-cut pasta is tinted with black squid ink and topped with luscious shrimp and garlicky aioli. So what if your teeth turn black after a few bites? The Bazaar is where you go for more than a meal. You visit it for a sublime moment of wonder. Worry about whitening later.

Few would doubt Michael Schwartz's status as one of Miami's best-loved chefs. His Michael's Genuine Food & Drink is known worldwide for serving beautiful food at honest prices in a casual and understated setting. Schwartz followed up his first restaurant with Harry's Pizzeria, a totally casual and family-friendly place to get a wonderful pizza and a brew. Now, Schwartz has gone to the other end of the spectrum by opening the Cypress Room, a nod to a time when people dressed for dinner and dining out was considered an occasion. A blue neon sign, reminiscent of the Jazz Age, welcomes patrons to the Design District building. Inside, robin's-egg blue banquettes and white tablecloths whisper understated elegance, while trophies on the wall and floral china give the room the air of a French country manor. But enough about décor, because Schwartz has always been about the food. Before taking its place in the restaurant's pantry, each vegetable, each piece of meat, each tomato is selected to be the best. That level of quality is reflected in the dishes — and the prices. A marrow bone appetizer with preserved lemon, celery, and garlic toast is delicious, but pricey at $19. Entrées range from $24 for the Cypress burger with Jasper Hill Landaff cheese, onion marmalade, and thrice-cooked fries all the way to a côte de bœuf for two for $129. Or splurge for the five-course wine-pairing dinner at $155 per person. And, of course, you simply must have a sweet ending to your decadent dinner with a dessert by Hedy Goldsmith. Pair your $15 treat with a $5 cup of cold-pressed Panther coffee. When the check comes, don't look. Just plunk down your card and float on a sea of good food and lovely surroundings this once. You can always brown-bag it for the next month.

Natalia Molina

Some restaurants garnish plates with minced herbs or segmented citrus. Others, such as Lemoni Café — the tiny, casual Mediterranean restaurant in the Design District — adorn their dishes with something more substantial and much tastier. At the petite restaurant, the food features many vivid vegetables: roasted red bell peppers, black olives, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, and red onions. At Lemoni, the cuisine is healthful and simple. There is tabbouleh, served alongside warm pita slices, house-made hummus, feta, and spicy Moroccan eggplant ($13). There are lush chicken salads, prosciutto sandwiches, and turkey wraps, all priced around $7 to $9. Sometimes the fare is dotted with bits of parsley or vibrant pesto. But that's only embellishment to what is already good-looking: Lemoni Café's resoundingly natural and fresh fare.

What follows are the requirements for the perfect barbecue restaurant. To start, the locale must be family-owned — preferably by kin who've been running the joint for 20 years or more. Smoke from burning hickory must waft through the air. If possible, its blazing aroma should reach beyond the parking lot and into the street. There must be peerless pulled pork, beef ribs, pork ribs, and brisket. Side orders should include collard greens, beans, and cornbread. The only permissible salad is coleslaw. All other greenery must be paired with fried chicken. It is preferable if paper towel rolls and squeeze bottles, holding house-made sauces, are the only furnishings atop the picnic tables. Last, and perhaps most important, the restaurant must be located in an off-center, peripheral spot that, ideally, requires a lengthy drive. The best barbecue is always worth driving for, and no place merits the travel more than Shiver's BBQ in Homestead — an old-school shrine to smoke and hogs that fulfills all of those requirements and so much more.

Natalia Molina

When New York got too expensive, the great delis moved to Pittsburgh. But Pittsburgh sucks, and Roasters' n Toasters is smart. The proprietors have been serving heaping helpings of goodness in Miami since 1984. A fresh bagel loaded with a large scoop of chopped liver, tuna, egg, or chicken salad is a beautiful tradition ($9.95). So are the smoked fish platters with nova, sable, and whitefish ($16.50). The brisket sandwich, Danny's Special, comes with coleslaw, horseradish, sweet roasted peppers, and Russian dressing — all on garlic bread — and it's unbelievable ($12.95). The beauty of a great deli is that it usually charges a bit more than you want to spend, but by the end of your meal, you feel like you got off cheap. For instance, the Carnegie Style sandwich costs $16.95 but offers more than a pound of perfectly hand-sliced, melt-in-your-mouth meat delivered New York-style. Breakfast, served all day, includes thick-cut challah French toast ($8.25) and a bagel with cream cheese ($2.95). There are deals too: Chicken soup with half of a hot pastrami sandwich is only $9.95. Wanna add a matzo ball? Only 95 cents. Top it all off with an éclair ($4.95) and you won't need to eat for a week. Now that's a deli.

Courtesy of Estiatorio Milos

Fish cannot usually fly across the Mediterranean. They can, however, board a plane from Greece to Miami and ride in a car from the airport to a South Beach restaurant. That's precisely how they arrive at Estiatorio Milos, an haute SoFi dining spot for pristine seafood that has locations in Montreal, Las Vegas, New York, and Athens. At Milos, there are rare species such as fagri, skorpina, and tsipoura — sold for about $50 a pound. There are also sashimis of bigeye tuna and salmon, as well as Maryland blue crab cakes. Savvy seafood lovers know that Milos offers a $24.07 three-course lunch special that includes choices such as diver scallop skewers, grilled Mediterranean bass, shrimp saganaki, and Greek yogurt with thyme honey. So, because most fish don't have wings for a transatlantic flight, simply head to Estiatorio Milos.

Few things in life are guaranteed. However, choosing Mandolin Aegean Bistro for an intimate dinner almost guarantees you'll get laid. If you schedule a business lunch, you'll close that deal or make that big sale. You'll head to the nearby Louis Vuitton boutique to celebrate because that's how you roll. The magic happens on a red-and-brown cobblestone patio where sprawling off-white canvas umbrellas cast glorious cool shade during the day. Sandals and mirrored aviator sunglasses are the accessories of choice. White wine is poured happily, and there's no such thing as a superfast lunch. At night, candles in tall skinny glass jars give off a warm golden glow. Ground lights pointed skyward bring the emerald-green shrubs and flowers that wrap the patio back to daytime vibrancy. No one looks bad in that kind of light.

Photo by Deyson Rodriguez

Water laps softly against bobbing boat hulls. A setting sun turns clouds into wide streaks of orange and red against a purple-blue sky. None of it matters once you hear the sandy, gritty crunch of pale-orange stone crab claws being crushed. The cool evening breeze whooshing in off Biscayne Bay doesn't matter when you learn that Monty's Raw Bar in Coconut Grove sells medium Jonah crab claws (or stone crab claws in season) for $4 during a 4 to 8 p.m. happy hour on weeknights. You'd trade the water views for a blighted warehouse as long as the claws remain cheap and the oysters, clams, and peel-and-eat shrimp are still a buck. Yet add the views, the half-priced cocktails and discounted beer, and the din of a hard-drinking happy-hour crowd (many of them UM students), and you'll swear off those chichi seafood towers forever.

When you tire of lomo saltado, pan con bistec, and ropa vieja; when your digestive system longs for a little roughage and your taste buds for a cleanse; and when your Levi's are getting tight around the midsection, sniff out the greener pastures of Govinda's Garden. Hidden behind downtown's fading flagship Macy's, it's too easy to miss. Its forest-colored décor and smattering of chairs and tables are a serene respite from the rest of South Miami Avenue. Order the rainbow-hued quinoa salad ($9.50). You'll be presented with an artfully overflowing bowl of bright-green spinach leaves, crimson peppers, mint-colored cucumbers, burnished brown raisins, purple cabbage, and taupe cashews topped with a sunny yellow lemon slice. For $2.50, add perfectly browned tofu as a topper. Dressing is optional. Quiet, friendly waitresses will shoot coy smiles your way as you chomp happily on your rabbit food. Your innards (and outards) will thank you.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®