Lung Yai Thai Tapas
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

Too often, Asian cuisine means underseasoned rice, overly greasy noodles, and cloyingly sweet sauces. Enter Lung Yai Thai Tapas, where a small countertop offers guests an up-close view of chefs crafting refreshingly authentic dishes. It opened in Little Havana in late 2015 and has since been building a loyal base of customers who return for a true taste of Thai culture. The narrow indoor area and outdoor patio seem a modest space, but there's big power in the kitchen. Chef Veenuthri "Bas" Trisransri was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 2007 and has an extensive background in Asian cuisine that he learned from his grandfather. From his years in the restaurant industry, Chef Bas knows that the development of deep, complex flavors can't be rushed, which is why dishes such as the palo moo ($12) and tom yum soup ($5) take hours to reach perfection. It's quality Thai food that's both affordable and casual, and the tapas style will tempt diners to sample everything on the menu. A meal at Lung Yai Thai is a crash course for the palate; come with a sense of culinary adventure, and leave with a newfound appreciation for real Thai flavors and a full stomach. Lung Yai Thai is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. and ends at midnight except Friday and Saturday, when the restaurant stays open until 2 a.m.

Eat Greek Souvlaki
Courtesy of Eat Greek Souvlaki

Eat Greek Souvlaki owner and chef Dimotakis Vasilios was once just a small-business man. But over the years, he has extended his kitchen genius across Miami-Dade County with locations in South Beach, Wynwood, and Brickell. In addition to serving souvlaki, he also offers abundant portions of colorful salads, overflowing gyros, juicy meat, and fresh seafood platters, along with other Greek classics. There's even a special section for the calorie-conscious — "Spartan Health" — which consists of proteins like fish, turkey, and chicken paired with items such as olives, figs, grapes, green vegetables, whole grains, and wild rice. Think grilled shrimp with spinach brown rice and fresh beets served with dolmadakia, also known as grape leaves ($13.99 to $27.99). Forget the diet and get the baklava ($4.99) for dessert. One bite, and the urge to yell "Opa!" will strike. Don't resist.

For 16 years, Miami has been enamored with the 16 tables inside Pascal Oudin's eponymous Coral Gables restaurant. Here, the cook who at a tender age began training under culinary icons such as Alain Ducasse and Roger Vergé puts on a nightly master class in French gastronomy. The rich country duck terrine ($20.95) comes with a luscious core of foie gras. A handful of cavatelli made with creamy ricotta cheese ($19.95) swims in a buttery fricassee alongside tender snails tinted emerald thanks to a hefty dose of herb butter. Oudin also offers an ever-changing list of enticing tartares — ranging from short ribs to salmon. But there's more to this place's allure. The white tablecloths, the well-manicured clientele, and the spotless service will lure you back again and again, year after year.

Readers' choice: Swine Southern Table & Bar

Best Restaurant on the Upper Eastside

Pinch Kitchen

Pinch Kitchen + Bar
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For years, people have flocked to Miami's Upper Eastside neighborhoods like Miami Shores and Shorecrest to settle down and nest. The only thing missing from these tree-lined streets was a cozy neighborhood restaurant serving delicious food and drinks at reasonable prices. Enter Pinch. Partners John Gallo and Rene Reyes, both Pubbelly Restaurant Group alumni, joined forces to open what they term a "freestyle American eatery." What the heck does that mean? It's a restaurant that serves favorites such as burgers and mussels with just the right panache to make them interesting. A roasted half chicken ($18), served with hyper-local Little River Farm vegetables and mushroom jus, is a rich, flavorful bird, and roasted carrots are given a hit of mint and citrus for brightness ($13). Add a carefully curated local beer list and some good wines, and you've got a neighborhood eatery worth frequenting — even if you have to travel from another neighborhood.

Best Restaurant in Coconut Grove

Ariete

Ariete
Photo by Charlie Garcia

Ever heard of Norman Van Aken or Michael Schwartz? Well, Ariete chef/partner Michael Beltran learned his way around the kitchen from both of those culinary icons. Now he has taken his talents to his own Coconut Grove restaurant. This warmly lit spot is cozy enough for a date, but make no mistake — there's no tweezer food on the menu, only things you want to eat: the juiciest chicken you've ever had, short rib cured pastrami-style ($25), and foie gras. Want to eat light? The chef's dinner-size green salad (price varies) changes daily depending upon what was just foraged from local farms. At Ariete, Beltran makes his mentors proud while walking his own straight line toward Miami's culinary future.

Readers' choice: GreenStreet Cafe

NaiYaRa
Photo by billwisserphoto.com

NaiYaRa's cuisine takes inspiration from Thailand's street vendors, who sell everything from skewers to noodles. The food is bright, delicious, and spicy — bold curries are toned down with hits of lime and coconut. The restaurant also serves fresh sushi and crudo flecked with gold flakes. But the main reason NaiYaRa is so damn busy every night is because of its chef/owner, Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, better known as Chef Bee. Like his namesake, Bee buzzes around the room, flying from the kitchen to the front of the house, stopping at table after table to speak with patrons and explain the origins of what they're eating. Thai beef jerky ($15) and Chiang Rai curry ($22) are likely recipes passed down from the chef's family back home. Don't be surprised if he asks to take a selfie with you as if you were a celebrity — to Bee you are. Speaking of celebrities, look around the room, and you're likely to spot famous athletes or chefs — many of whom are already regulars even though NaiYaRa has been open for only six months.

Readers' choice: Joe's Stone Crab

Fooq's
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Your meal at Fooq's begins as soon as you enter — the scent of saffron and cinnamon entice and welcome you. The menu is a mix: Italian and American favorites are featured, but go with the Persian dishes that celebrate owner David Foulquier's roots. Persian lamb shank is served with spicy harissa hummus to get you hot, and herbed yogurt is there to cool you down ($46 for two). Or opt for the soul-soothing khoresh of the day. This simmering Persian stew could be made with lamb, chicken, beans, or any combination. It's a universal comfort food made exotic with fragrant herbs. Vegetarians' best bite, however, is an entrée of tahdig — crisp Persian rice "jeweled" with dried fruits, served with seasonal vegetables and pomegranate molasses ($26). Whatever you do, save room for the Persian sundae ($12), made with saffron and rosewater gelato, topped with halvah, dates, and chocolate pearls. It's the Middle Eastern version of an all-American kitchen-sink ice-cream treat — but with elegance and a touch of the exotic.

Readers' choice: Zuma Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar

New restaurants sprout across Wynwood almost as fast as the art on its walls change. But as Wynwood flourishes into a mecca for food, drink, and art, it's time to give a shout-out to the restaurant that has continued to mature in the ever-changing and constantly growing district. It's kept its quirky charm and flavorful food consistent since opening more than five years ago. It's easily considered the area's quintessential meeting ground, and that's not because it shares the same name. It blends everything the arts district has become known for in a medium-size courtyard space. Wynwood Kitchen & Bar offers affordable Latin-American tapas-style cuisine, including ropa vieja empanadas, lemon-pepper calamari, roasted beets, shrimp ceviche, and 48-hour crispy pork ($15). It features a large bar space, with more than 40 international beers and a bevy of wine and spirits too. And, most important, it's situated amid a handful of murals, letting diners eat in the center of what makes Wynwood one of the most innovative areas in the nation.

Best Restaurant in the Design District/Midtown

Riviera Focacceria Italiana

Focaccia is pretty much served as an appetizer at every Italian restaurant and used as bread for sandwiches. Chances are you've had it a thousand times. Only you really haven't had focaccia unless you've been to Riviera. The small restaurant serves authentic focaccia from the Liguria region of Italy. The best way to describe this fiendishly delicious Genovese treat is to liken it to devouring a dreamy, cheesy cloud. This true version is a work of Italian craftwork. The secret? Two thin layers of dough are filled with imported stracchino cheese, which is flown in weekly from Italy. Order it as is ($17), or have it topped with all manner of Italian goodies such as prosciutto, speck, or sliced tomatoes for a nominal added cost. If you find it in your heart to share the focaccia and have room, try one of the half-dozen house-made pastas, such as pansoti al pesto di maggiorana, made with pine nuts, marjoram, and Parmigiano cheese pesto ($17), with a glass of wine. Dig into the steaming bowl of simple yet satisfying pasta as you fantasize about quitting your job and eating your way through Italy until your money or stomach runs out.

Readers' choice: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

Steak-frites
Steak-frites

See Marion in the morning for a buttery croissant and a steaming café au lait. Return a few hours later, grab a seat on her sun-soaked patio, and watch the crowds go by as you sip white wine and nibble on a towering platter stuffed with half a lobster and a half-dozen each of oysters, shrimp, clams, and mussels ($59). Then, after the sun sets, find yourself back in the warm embrace of her gilded dining room draped in palm fronds. Dangling amber lamps and bronze cookware provide the backdrop for her pièce de résistance: a rotisserie chicken ($42) made in the kitchen under the watch of Michelin-pedigreed Jean Paul Lourdes. It's a crisp-skinned and juicy-fleshed treasure. Preparation is a lengthy process: Birds are pumped full of a sweet-salty brine and then gently roasted for an hour and a half. The mound of plump marble potatoes resting beneath them bastes in the bird's drippings to become rich and creamy. Finish things off with a scoop of homemade ice cream ($2) from a rotating selection that has included Valrhona chocolate and fresh mango, and spend your final waking hours dreaming about doing it all over again.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®