Mikan Japanese Restaurant
Photo by Nicole Danna

After 17 years of running a sushi and ramen business in the heart of Miami, chef/owner Seiji "Ike" Ikemizu moved his Mikan Japanese Restaurant (named for the honey tangerine) to Pembroke Pines in 2014. And Broward County residents are thankful he did. Originally from Tokunoshima, a small island in southern Japan, Ikemizu prepares an authentic menu that is one of the best around. The sushi, sashimi, and composed plates are truly outstanding, but it's the soups that have generated the most hype. Choose from several styles (and a few of the chef's own quirky creations), including curry, vegetable, or nabeyaki udon — big, fat noodles bobbing in a flavorful broth. The ramen is prepared in a number of ways too, from traditional tonkotsu and miso to everyone's eventual favorite, the kimchi ramen: a spicy orange broth that's packed full of slow-roasted pork and homemade kimchi.

Take a trip to Brazil at Regina's Farm, where the evening's hosts — Brazilian natives Regina Rodrigues and Elizeu Silva — invite you to a communal feast at their Fort Lauderdale home with open arms and warm, wide smiles. Anyone nostalgic for the homestyle fare of Brazil's southern region will feel perfectly at home alongside Rodrigues, who began cooking large, family-style meals for friends and church members in 2010, first to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions. As time went on, the events became so popular that she and her husband began accepting contributions to help buy the necessary provisions. Today a $25-per-person donation will get you a feast to remember at their fazendinha — "little farm" — an alfresco pop-up restaurant that takes place every Saturday from 5 to midnight, weather permitting. The experience transports guests to a miniature, more rustic version of Rodrigues' hometown in Minas Gerais for an all-you-can-eat dinner. There's free water and plenty of coffee, but no liquor; guests are welcome to bring their own wine or beer. But, of course, it's the food they're after. Served buffet-style, selections are laid out across the massive outdoor iron-topped stove. They start with baskets filled with steaming-hot pão de queijo — tiny balls of doughy Brazilian cheese-stuffed bread — and soup like caldo verde, a popular pale-green Portuguese classic with the consistency of porridge and made with potatoes, kale, olive oil, onion, and salt heated over a campfire. Around 7:30, the line begins for the main courses, everything from roast chicken with okra and moqueca de peixe (fish stew) to Rodrigues' specialty, feijão tropeiro, a Brazilian staple. The meal ends with ten or so desserts, such as a traditional coconut-and-condensed-milk-sweetened bolo de coco pegamarino ("cake to catch a husband").

Readers' choice: Coconuts

Panya Thai
Photo by Javier Ramirez

Approach the larb ($9.95) with caution. The verdant, chilled ground-beef salad is everyday fare in parts of Southeast Asia such as Thailand and Laos, and it's Panya Thai's specialty alongside the yellow curry noodle soup called khao soi ($10.95) and the cinnamony pork-intestine-and-tofu stew called guay jab ($10.95). The larb, which bellows the aroma of cumin, star anise, and cloves, pulls no punches in the heat department. As soon as the stuff passes your lips, your whole mouth goes aflame with the heat of Thai bird chilies. Your nose might run. Your eyes might water. Little beads of sweat might gather on your forehead. Despite your screaming nervous system, you can't help but plunge your chopsticks back into the mound for another go.

Macchialina
Photo by Liz Clayman

Every Thursday, pasta prince and Italian wunderkind Michael Pirolo offers more than a half-dozen of his pristine handmade noodles for merely 10 bucks a bowl. This should be reason enough for you to visit every week. But there's more. Pirolo spent years traveling and cooking at Michelin-starred temples in Piedmont, Lombardy, Bologna, and Campagne. When he returned to the United States, he linked up with Scott Conant, eventually leading the opening of Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Pirolo's arsenal is as vast and precise as that of a championship basketball team. The veal and pork meatballs he calls polpettine ($11) are lighter than manna from Heaven. The Mediterranean octopus ($18) is soft as filet mignon, and the concentrated tomato sauce it's paired with lends just the right amount of acidity and sweetness. So while you're getting your fill of pasta, it's a good idea to peruse the everyday menu and decide what'll be on your plate tomorrow.

An izakaya is a traditional Japanese establishment that serves small, intensely flavored plates that can stand up to a deluge of beer and sake. At this Gables spot, don't be afraid to call out your order for any one of the dozen and a half daily offerings scribbled on a chalkboard opposite the sushi bar. If it's any motivation, dishes such as the sweet vinegar-marinated yellow jack called aji nanban zuke ($6.50) sell out quickly. You'll also want to claim your hamachi or sake kama ($14) as fast as possible. They emerge from the kitchen sizzling hot, with a faint aroma of the fish's natural oils. But don't be fooled: This amorphous cut holds some of the juiciest flesh in the ocean. When the time comes for that second round, be sure to pair it with the hybrid omelet/fritter called okonomiyaki ($15.95). Sticky Japanese mountain yam is blended with egg and grilled into a crisp pancake that's topped with spicy mayo and gossamer shards of cured tuna loin. Finish it off with a carafe of sake. Kampai!

Frenchie's Diner
billwisserphoto.com

In the luxurious enclave that is Coral Gables, husband and wife Gabriel and Shannon Castrec run a place that can only be described as like walking into someone's home kitchen. Some days, you'll find pristine potato leek soup ($8) and a skillfully seared fillet of Florida pompano (market price) prepared with care and skill. Gabriel ensures your meal is as precise as any you'd find at a more formal establishment while doling out hugs and glasses of wine. The menu is an ever-changing affair and scrawled onto a chalkboard wall. Across the way are bowed shelves bearing dozens of bottles of French wines. The place is the closest thing Miami has to the inviting bistros of Nice, Lyon, or Paris. But what brings it home here is the relaxed atmosphere. No need to worry if the verdant shallot-and-herb butter covering escargots ($11) runs down your chin. And that spot of Gruyère on the table from your croque-monsieur ($12)? Ce n'est pas important.

Steak Brasil Churrascaria
courtesy of Brasil Steak Churrascarria

As soon as you settle at a table, the server hands you a large card. Here's what you should do: Slam down the green side, emblazoned with the words "Yes, please." Then sit back and enjoy the procession of piping-hot, juicy grilled meats — flank steak, lamb, ribs, and picanha — until you can't eat anymore. Then you flip the card to the red side, which reads, "No, thanks." It's almost like having a meat-eating contest with your guests and the other patrons taking part in the all-you-can-eat Brazilian buffet. It's hard even to make room for the delicious sides such as yuca fries, sweet plantains, and Brazilian cheese balls. For $27 per person, the buffet is a bit pricey, but Steak Brasil often offers Groupon deals that allow a party of four to eat for less than $100. Aside from offering grilled meats, the menu also lists traditional Brazilian dishes such as moqueca, a steaming saltwater stew made with fish, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and coriander cooked slowly in a terra cotta casserole; and feijão tropeiro, a savory mishmash of beans, sausage, collard greens, eggs, and manioc flour from the southeastern region of the country. Customers also receive a parking rate discount at the nearby Total Bank lot for three hours. Cost: $1. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and weekdays except Monday, when the restaurant closes at 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.

Baires Grill

Forgo that expensive plane ticket to Argentina and try one of the three locations of Baires Grill. Grilled meats are plentiful, and best sellers are a Black Angus skirt steak ($29) and a tender flap steak ($27). The indecisive can try them all with an order of a parrillada ($55), which includes skirt steak, flap meat, short ribs, chicken, sausage, and sweetbreads on a flaming gridiron for two or three diners to share. House-made pastas ($18) include butternut squash gnocchi doused in a blend of blue cheese sauce, Malbec reduction, and caramelized figs. There are beef, chicken, and spinach empanadas too ($4.50), as well as dozens of wines by the glass or bottle. The atmosphere is relaxed, with a patio nestled between high hedges and topped by glimmering lights.

Ever stop by a Cuban abuela's house and the first thing she says is: "¡Mi hijo! ¡Pero estás tan flaco!" Before you can protest, she's serving you a heaping pile of ropa vieja on top of black beans and rice with a huge slice of yuca on the side. Well, that's what ordering a plate at Maruch is like. This Hialeah culinary institution doesn't know how to serve delicious Cuban dishes any other way. A lunch or dinner for one runs about $15 with a soft drink. For the adventuresome foodie, order the riñonada, calabaza, and fufu de plátano. The sweet flavor of the pumpkin and plantain provides a nice contrast to the steak's salty succulence. Or go for the rabo encendido, the Cuban version of oxtail soup, which patrons gobble up on sight. For diners seeking a safe pick, Maruch serves large slices of chuleta de puerco (pork chop) and palomilla steaks that can be paired with moros (black beans and rice) or cristianos (red beans and rice) for less than $12. A cantina-style restaurant just a few blocks from the City of Progress' administrative building, Maruch is also steeped in political lore. Don't be surprised to run into city gadflies and forgotten politicos in the dimly lit back dining room. You might even catch a crash course in the city's salty civics. Four years ago, erstwhile mayor-for-life Raúl Martínez had a run-in with Glenn Rice, a former Hialeah cop working behind the scenes for the current alcalde, Carlos Hernández. Rice snuck up on Martínez and began recording him. That prompted Martínez to jump out of his seat and accuse Rice of being a "pedophile" and "a man without a life and without a woman." So if you enjoy a side of Hialeah politics with your vaca frita and colada, head to Maruch. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Readers' choice: Versailles Restaurant

Manantial Market
Zachary Fagenson

"This'll be quick," your friend assures you. "Just a pan de bono and a Postobon, that's it. Promise." Two hours later, you've slugged down who knows how many shots of the fermented rice drink masato, and your clothes bear the thick scent of grilled meat and fried pork belly. If you're looking for someone to thank for this Colombian sandwich oasis located between a Subway and a car wrap shop, give praise to Margoth De Horta, who persuaded her four children to open a place with her so the far-flung family members could be together again. Hence, today you can stop into Manantial for fresh blood sausages, a few quinoa-studded arepas, and a heaping bandeja paisa ($13.25) replete with grilled steak, chicharrones, smoked sausage, rice, red beans, avocado, and a tomato. Eat it up, and you're sufficiently prepared to head back out into the blistering sun and face whatever the world throws your way.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®