Best Japanese Restaurant 2014 | Katsuya by Starck | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Katsuya by Starck, like the SLS Hotel it calls home, is one part design fantasy, one part Cirque du Soleil, and one part dining. At any given time, geishas could be dancing atop tables or LeBron James could be holding court at the table next to yours. At a restaurant helmed by a lesser sushi chef, the food could get lost in the party. But the man behind all of this color and glamor is Katsuya Uechi, a master chef who gained notoriety in 1997 when he opened his first restaurant in Studio City, California. The decor is cool and bold, and the music is loud. But once your food arrives, all the eye candy and noise fades into the background. Scallops, yellowtail, and halibut may be part of your chef's selection of sashimi ($35), but no matter the fish, it always tastes as if it was singing with Ariel the Mermaid just moments earlier. And the signature crispy rice with spicy tuna ($14) is an incomparable accompaniment to the sake collection. After dinner, don't forget to have a nightcap (or two) at the sexy Dragon Lounge. It's the closest thing to a Hollywood-movie opium den that Miami has to offer.

You're at AmericanAirlines Arena, where the Heat just scored another glorious win or the big concert just wrapped up. You're exhausted and hungry. You need some serious noms to take home. You're in luck, because 3 Chefs is a hop, skip, and a leap north on Biscayne Boulevard. The extensive menu offers all your classic Chinese and Vietnamese favorites, from barbecue spare ribs ($9.75 for six) to crab Rangoon ($7.45 for ten) to lunch and dinner specials such as chicken chow mein ($6.45, $9.95) and General Tso's chicken ($7.95, $10.95), plus loads of variations on pho and bun dishes. There are tons of specialty items, from 3 Chefs steak ($18.95) to Peking duck ($36.95). Try the appetizing pu pu platter ($12.45) for a little of everything, and definitely, no meal is complete without some boba tea.

Miami is a nearly perfect city, but there are two flaws. One, of course, is the imminent threat of hurricanes. The other is the serious lack of good Chinese food. While we'll still have to board up our windows if NOAA tells us a big one is coming, our tragic lack of quality egg rolls has been solved with the opening of Blackbrick. Richard Hales, the chef/owner of the much-loved Sakaya Kitchen, opened this place and the angels wept tears of joy. Why? For the house-made dandan noodles ($12), the wonton soup brewed with rabbit stock that completely satisfies the soul ($9), and the General Tso's gator ($17). WTF, you say? General Tso's gator? Hales doesn't claim to be ultra-authentic; he just makes the food damn good. Which is fine when that means offering a drool-worthy bourbon trifle for dessert — topped, of course, with a fortune cookie. Because some things are classic.

Greek restaurants get a bad rap. They're often depicted as depressing, neon-lit diners or kitschy eateries with belly dancing and plate breaking. But spend the summer on one of the Greek islands and you'll likely take your evening meal in a small tavern gently lit by candles. If you want that kind of experience, you could either hop a flight to Athens and then take a ferry to Santorini, or you could simply drive to Kouzina. This midtown spot re-creates an evening in the Greek isles — beautiful people drink wine and laugh as they feast on saganaki ($9) and steamed mussels in white wine ($12). Many items are imported from Greece — olive oil, spices, yogurt (not the John Stamos kind either). A handy sign offers a few simple Greek words and phrases, one of them being kali orexi, which means "enjoy your meal." At Kouzina (which, by the way, means "kitchen"), you will enjoy — without a single plate having to lie broken on the floor to prove it.

Carina Ost

Mi Colombia truly is everything. Have a hangover on a Sunday afternoon? Sit at the counter and order the sancocho de gallina — traditional Colombian hen soup. It is a known hangover cure that comes with a large hunk of poultry, yuca, potato, a chunk of corn on the cob, a plantain, and a topping of cilantro and green onion. You also get a plate of rice and avocado slices to hold you over. Hungry and broke? Get the pollo frito ($5.50); the outside has the crunch, the inside has moist flesh, and it's topped with the most delicious tomato and onion sauce. It's served with that same buttery rice and either beans or plantains. The meal is so large it extends over the brim of the large oval plate and can easily be stretched into two meals.

Naomi's takes cafeteria-style Caribbean cuisine to the next level. The eatery is owned by the Yemini family, whose members will let you into a secret garden where you can dine on enormous portions of food. Snag a seat outside and take in the art, the waterfall, the music, and the tropical plants. Make the trek to this hidden oasis near the edge of Liberty City just off I-95 to try the menu. It's all affordable, and the koden — turkey stew — is just $5. The pwason is $10 for a whole fried fish. Wash it down with some fresh-squeezed OJ or passionfruit juice ($2). But it's not just the food and picnic table dining that keep us coming back; it's also the friendly staff, who offer a taste of warm island hospitality. A lunch break here is more like a mini-holiday.

It's Sunday and, sure, you could hit your normal brunch buffet with soggy French toast, runny scrambled eggs, and watered-down mimosas. Or you could try something completely different. Head to Sunny Isles Beach for an Indian feast at Copper Chimney. For $19.95, you can choose from more than 20 Indian dishes and receive a glass of champagne. It's a steal that gets you more acquainted with the cuisine of this restaurant, which offers South Indian and Indo-Chinese menus. If you have yet to try a dosa (a fermented crepe), you're missing out. After you're well-versed in the offerings, visit for dinner. The parda gosht biryani ($21), an aromatic lamb and rice dish infused with saffron, and the murg korma ($19), with bits of chicken cooked in a cream sauce with nuts and raisins, are two favorites. Warning: The Chimney brings the heat, so if you can't handle it, ask for mild.

If you're in the market for Cuban comfort food at its finest, head to Molina's in Hialeah. It's the real deal. Service can be slow, but it's authentic homestyle comida, and the menu is as large as a novel. Let's put it this way: A local abogado advertises in it. Go when you have serious time to dedicate to a meal — the menu alone will take half an hour to peruse. If you need some suggestions, start with the tostones rellenos de camarones ($12). They're little fried green-plantain baskets stuffed with fresh shrimp in tomato sauce. Beyond the starters, the picadillo ($8.25), a true comfort dish, features savory ground beef served with fluffy white rice, homey black beans, and sweet maduros. It's hearty and heavenly.

Best Puerto Rican-Chinese Restaurant

Ming Yuan

Puerto Rican-style Chinese food is one of the finest marriages the world has ever known. And Ming Yuan is the perfect example. True, it's 100 percent authentic Chinese cooking, by Chinese cooks with a Chinese boss. But it's located in Miami's Little San Juan and boasts a diverse staff and a devoted local clientele. The place has a family atmosphere, awesome delivery, and easy pickup, so it's a clear winner in every regard. The food is excellent, flavorful, and adapted to the environment, but still retains its roots. All of your Yuan dynasty favorites are on the menu, and so are the Americanized and Miamified standbys. The portions are generous, the spicy options pack a major punch, the fried rice is perfectly seasoned, and the chicken, whether fried or curried, is always on point. The barbecued spare ribs are finger-lickin' good, the egg rolls are golden and crisp with just the right snap, and the soups are all must-tries. If there's one word to describe this neighborhood gem, it's "¡Dale!" Now go!

Via Verdi partners: Mixologist Cristiano Vezzoli (left), chef Fabrizio Carro, and chef Nicola Carro

Biscayne Boulevard and Naples, Italy, have a lot in common. OK, there are no cobblestone streets in the Magic City's MiMo neighborhood, but with a little imagination, you can see more similarities than differences. There are ruins of some formerly beautiful buildings, for example, and you're sure to spot more than one scooter whizzing by. Plus, if you're on the corner of NE 69th Street and Biscayne on a weekend afternoon, you'll probably hear some Italian chatter in the air. That's the sound of Via Verdi's extended family eating and laughing on the terrace, enjoying the restaurant's version of brunch. Twins Nicola and Fabrizio Carro, along with partner Cristiano Vezzoli, have opened a charming space filled with rustic woods and modern touches. You can sit on the terrace or in the dining room (perhaps you'll opt for the intimate two-top inside the wine closet). The Aperol spritz ($9 at brunch) — sweet, bubbly, and bitter — is a perfect drink (and a helluva metaphor for life itself). Have some assaggi (small plates) to start. Try the polenta fries (which rest in a truffle Parmesan cream), some ricotta, a polpettine (one large and tender veal meatball), and some olives. Choose any five for $23. Then it's on to a steaming plate of gnocchi topped with Gorgonzola sauce ($15) before ending the meal with authentic Italian cheesecake. Here, as in Italy, the plates keep coming, so you'll get cookies with your check — a dolce ending to your meal.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®