It’s true: We eat with our eyes.
Thanks to local restaurants blurring the boundary between food and art, Miamians can enjoy an exquisite selection of gastronomic masterpieces — from vibrant seafood stunners to jaw-dropping desserts — that are as delicious as they are stunning.
1. Cobia "rosa" ceviche at Bazaar Mar. The venue’s whimsical, sea-centric interior design isn't the only work of art you’ll find at Bazaar Mar. Discover each one of José Andrés’ dishes creatively presented to match the sleek decor. Plated like a perfect rose, the cobia “rosa” ceviche ($26) is garnished with leche de tigre, nasturtium leaf, sweet potato, and corn nuts. 1300 S. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-615-5859; sbe.com/restaurants/locations/bazaar-mar.
2. Tree of Life at El Cielo. In a city besotted with myriad renditions of yuca, chef Juan Manuel Barrientos’ variation — along with every other meticulously plated dish on the menu at El Cielo — looks more like a centerpiece than dinner. Inspired by the traditional Colombian bread pan de yuca, the Tree of Life is shaped to resemble a bonsai tree, supported by copper wires and a rock formation, and it arrives smoking in a cloud of dry ice. Bite into the yuca bread, seasoned with touches of paprika and basil, or try it with its traditional tomato, onion, and cacao dipping sauce. 31 SE Fifth St., Miami; 305-755-8840; elcielorestaurant.com.
3. Cape Canaveral prawns at Alter. Miami’s most buzzed-about restaurant is led by chef Brad Kilgore, whose attention to detail is evident throughout Alter’s menu of culinary artworks. Case in point are the Cape Canaveral prawns ($25). A sophisticated take on shrimp 'n’ grits, this combo contains crisp, tender tajin-crusted Cape Canaveral prawns served alongside what looks like an artist’s palette — a pool of creamy corn grits topped with multicolored stripes and dabs of mole verde, lime crema, and huitlacoche. 223 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-5996; altermiami.com.
4. Lavash at Stubborn Seed. Chef Jeremy Ford’s Stubborn Seed offers a feast for the eyes. He leads a gastronomic experience from beginning to end, from the pommes soufflés, a puffed crisp potato topped with caviar, to the intricately layered charred beets, made with lemon-garlic yogurt, pickled chili, blackberry, goat cheese, and sorbet. Try the lavash with smooth chicken-liver mousse topped with smoked chili jam — it tastes as elegant and refined as it looks. 101 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 786-322-5211; stubbornseed.com.
5. Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all at Barton G. Wearing a welding mask and apron, a server delivers this over-the-top dessert — dubbed Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all — to the table and begins to torch the white chocolate “gold bar.” The flame exposes the rich graham-cracker-crusted ganache tart, filled with meringue, dulce de leche, and chocolate feuilletine golden-nitro ice-cream nuggets. Soon campfire scents fill the air. Like all things at Barton G., this dramatic s’mores dish is a circus for the senses. 1427 West Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-8881; bartong.com.
6. Fagotello Genovese at Le Sirenuse. Farm-to-table fresh and flavorful, Surfside’s new Italian eatery, Le Sirenuse, is an elegant spot to enjoy the glorious flavors of the Mediterranean in beautifully presented pasta, meat, and seafood dishes. One such pasta dish is the fagotello Genovese ($32), plumped with house-made Genovese beef ragu, drizzled with a mozzarella reduction, and topped with seasonal black truffle shavings that look like delicate butterflies ready to take flight. 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside; 786-482-2280; sirenusemiami.com.
7. Chevre cheesecake at Brava by Brad Kilgore. Another one of Brad Kilgore’s stunners has made the list — this time he masters the fusion of performance art and culinary art at Brava, located in the Adrienne Arsht Center. Main plates such as Maine lobster risotto carbonara ($36) and short-rib Wellington ($38) are musts, as is the artistic finale by his wife, pastry chef Soraya Kilgore. The dome-shaped chevre (goat cheese) cheesecake ($11) — presented with a vibrant red splatter of morello cherry and tarragon, along with a delicate scoop of cherry sorbet — might look too pretty to eat, but indulge anyway. 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-468-2365; bravabybradkilgore.com.
8. Sushi doughnut at NaiYaRa. Although relatively new to the Thai scene, NaiYaRa has quickly become one of Miami’s celebrated Thai restaurants for its picturesque plates packed with a mix of familiar and exotic flavors. But this sushi-doughnut mashup can’t be found on the menu. With a price that starts around $25, the colorful creation boasts a rice and seaweed base, formed into a doughnut shape, that’s loaded with toppings ranging from salmon and tuna to sea urchin and caviar. It’s garnished with ingredients such as wasabi, avocado, ginger, and spicy mayo. 1854 Bay Rd., Miami Beach; 786-275-6005; naiyara.com.
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9. Unicorn at Pao by Paul Qui. Although the $6 million golden unicorn statue at the center of the dining room continues to wow patrons at the Faena Hotel’s Pao by Paul Qui, there’s even more rejoicing when they see Chef Qui’s other “unicorn” among dishes inspired by his native Philippines. An ode to the ornate sculpture, a spiky sea urchin shell is filled with a frothy grilled sweet corn pudding, sake aioli, chile de arbol, lime, and sea urchin for $29. 3201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-655-5630; faena.com.
10. Heirloom carrots with white balsamic ice cream at Canvas. At the Sagamore Hotel’s eatery Canvas, expect a dining experience indicative of the name: a canvas of creativity. Past the braised short-rib mac and cheese, spinach florentine empanadas, and brick-oven pizzas, behold a beautiful garden — a refreshing display of roasted heirloom carrots and white balsamic ice cream — surrounded by carrot gel, sour dough soil, fennel greens, and frisée. 1671 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-535-8185; sagamorehotel.com.