Photo by Lona Cocina Tequileria

Appropriately named "Canvas" in Spanish, this oceanside Fort Lauderdale newcomer paints a pretty picture of modern Mexican cuisine. Pablo Salas is already well known to specialists, but Lona Cocina Tequileria is his first eatery in the United States, and thankfully, it's a far cry from the mediocre beans-and-cheese mush that is so common in Broward. Try guacamole with crab ($15) or huitlacoche quesadillas ($10), made with a prized fungus that grows on corn (it's way better than it sounds). Or check out the mole ($24), the traditional chocolate-based sauce often associated with chicken that here is served with salmon instead. This popular spot offers several areas — outside for alfresco drinking and people-watching, inside for a hopping bar scene (go for the margarita or the Paloma Brava, each $11, because anything that translates to "mad dove" must be good). Deep in the heart of the restaurant, find an intimate space featuring tequila lockers. Lona is a tequileria as well, so be sure to try some of the more than 270 kinds of tequila and its agave cousin, mezcal, with 100 selections offered.

Chef Maurice Chang's Chinese father and Jamaican mother taught him to make magic when he was growing up in Manchester Parish, near Jamaica's southern coast. One of his signatures is an egg roll that's unlike any you find folded in wax paper. It starts with a thin yellow egg batter on a griddle, and as it firms, he lays down a slick of ground pork fortified with garlic and ginger. It's rolled, cooled, and sliced to reveal umami-packed disks adorned with pinwheel patterns. It comes on the choy fan ($10.50) — which is filled out with roast chicken, char sui (Chinese barbecued pork), and white or fried rice — as well as on the tousle of yellow egg noodles, protein, and bok choy called sui mein ($11.50). Next time you think about take-out, think again.

Photo courtesy of Alter

It's not hyperbole to say Alter has changed Miami's culinary game forever. When Brad Kilgore opened his Wynwood restaurant, naysayers said it might not last. Sure, the food was impeccable. Kilgore impressed guests with his intricate dishes that combined molecular gastronomy, traditional culinary techniques, and an artistic worldview. But there was more. The food was not only delicious but also lovely. Dishes such as soft egg white sea scallop espuma and caviar ($20) might sound twee, but one taste will leave you groaning in delight. The restaurant offers tasting menus starting at $75. It's no wonder Kilgore has won dozens of accolades, including being named one of Food & Wine's best new chefs of 2016. Alter is open from 7 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and bar hours are 5 p.m. to midnight those days.

Best Restaurant in the Design District/Midtown

St. Roch Market

Courtesy of St. Roch Market

On a cool Friday evening, stylishly dressed crowds scurry up an escalator toward the recently opened St. Roch Market. The 10,000-square-foot food hall holds 12 distinct food and drink concepts. You can sample house-made Italian ravioli, wolf down a bowl of spicy ceviche, and slurp a few oysters on the half-shell. The idea is based on the successful flagship of the same name in New Orleans. Start with a drink before dinner at the Mayhaw, which serves tiki cocktails made with fresh juices and mixers. Then try gnocchi-like spinach dumplings called gnudi toscani at Dal Plin ($15) or 25-hour-brined fried chicken served on a cheddar-chive waffle at Coop ($18). Finish with a slate of vegan desserts such as sprinkle doughnut holes and frozen matcha at Chef Chloe and the Vegan Cafe ($2 to $6.50). The market is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

In an idyllic setting overlooking the bay and Peacock Park, you can find celebrated chef Giorgio Rapicavoli's creativity throughout a menu that changes constantly. Sometimes his dishes are inspired by a single color. Other times they're stoner-friendly dishes such as carbonara fries. Sometimes he'll toy with an unusual ingredient like bison and follow it with instant classics such as homemade semolina pasta tossed in a green-pea pesto with pistachios and lemony breadcrumbs. Call it ingenious, call it Rapicavoli growing up, but whatever you do, be sure to call in your reservation.

Photo by Michael Pissari

As gastronomy has become cultural currency, France's lauded cuisine has been forced to share the stage with the other great cultures of the world. La Petite Maison, a French concept in the stable of restaurateur and Zuma founder Arjun Waney, shows why we shouldn't forget the primacy of les Français. The bayside spot exudes the vibe of an art gallery in Le Marais, a seaside beach shack near Nice, and a grand extravagant dining room in Paris. Here, you'll find fresh and light French-Mediterranean and Niçoise-inspired cuisine. The carpaccio de coquilles St. Jacques ($25) features raw scallops expertly sliced into impossibly thin coins with a scattering of toasted almonds and dried cranberry flecks that add delicate licks of salt and sweetness to each bite. A thick, bone-in section of turbot ($44.50) is prepared with artichoke, chorizo, white wine, and fragrant olive oil. The combination of chorizo and the fish's soft, buttery flesh makes you forget — at least for a moment — the staggering price. No regrets.

Photo courtesy of Ghee

Ghee is what Indians call clarified butter, and across the subcontinent, it is far more than an ingredient. Candles are fueled by it, and when the dead are taken to the banks of the Ganges River in the ancient, holy city of Varanasi, relatives coat the shrouds with ghee before setting the corpses ablaze. At this Western Indian spot in Dadeland, chef Niven Patel and his crew have opened Miami's eyes to a cuisine that consists of so much more than tandoori chicken and lamb rogan josh. Here you'll find the simple street snack of puffed rice called bhel ($12), juiced up with sweet Florida avocado and meaty hunks of raw tuna. And though the restaurant offers chicken tikka masala ($14) for patrons who insist on the classic, be sure not to miss the sizable vegetable section, much of which is culled from Patel's own backyard garden.

Photo by Laine Doss

'O Munaciello isn't your regular pizza shop. The Neapolitan-style restaurant on Miami's Upper Eastside makes a slate of unique pies. Some are infused with activated charcoal, creating a black-hued dough. Most are topped with traditional fixings such as mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The eatery offers other fare from Italy's Campania region as well, including homemade tagliatelle pomodorini, made with tomatoes, fried eggplant, and buffalo cheese ($20), and a seafood scialatiello, a pasta platter for two prepared with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, and Piennolo cherry tomatoes ($20). But the star of this Biscayne Boulevard spot is the pizza ($12 to $25), made by chef Carmine Candito, who grew up working at his family's pizza shop in Naples, Italy. Hours are noon to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 6 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 6 to 11:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Courtesy of Miss Saigon Bistro

When Miss Saigon opened in Coral Gables in 1997, most South Floridians were more familiar with the Broadway musical of the same name than Southeast Asian cuisine. In the past two decades, though, Miss Saigon has helped familiarize Coral Gables. Pho might not yet be as ubiquitous as foreign foods such as hummus or sushi, but Miss Saigon's six varieties of the northern Vietnamese beef soup have helped right that wrong one order at a time. The dinner menu lists a wide range of dishes, including an inspired vegetarian section with a $21.95 seitan watercress that's worth a drive. The weekday lunch special from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. is more economical, offering 23 items — from bun (rice noodle bowls) to pad thai — for $9.95 to $12.95.

Courtesy of Taquerias El Mexicano

Although Little Havana is named for the capital of Cuba, the beauty of the neighborhood is its vast array of cultures and nationalities. For example, Miami boasts a large Mexican community, and Taquerias El Mexicano is easily one of the best culinary contributions to the area. The menu is vast, and the question "Do you have...?" will inevitably be answered with a resounding, "." For the most part, the dishes are old-school, but Taquerias El Mexicano is under new ownership that is modernizing the restaurant. The colorful decorations inside and out are still traditional and proudly celebrate all things Mexican. The service is friendly and the food deliciosa. And the prices are relatively low. For the best value, try a combo platter, such as the one that brings a flauta, an enchilada suiza, and a picadillo taco for a mere $11.50. If that trio isn't appetizing enough, go for the bistec ranchero ($17) or carne asada ($16). Taquerias El Mexicano is open from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, to midnight Thursday, and to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The ventanita opens at 8 a.m. daily.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®