New Times' annual Best of Miami issue is live. For hundreds of our staff's picks on the finest places to eat and drink and the most notable people and personalities who defined South Florida over the past year, check out the full issue.
Miami is teeming with restaurants serving global cuisine. From Italian to Cuban, here are some of this year's winners.
Best Argentine Restaurant: Fiorito. More than 30 years have passed since Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal, which gave Argentina a 2-1 lead over the English in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. To this day, soccer fans remain incensed by the fact that the brash Argentine used his hand to drive a ball into the back of the net. And while the five-foot, five-inch footballer's mug graces the walls of this Little Haiti hideaway, the dishes brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Alvarez put out could make you forgive even the greatest sins. For their choripán, creamy roasted sweetbreads are veneered with a gorgeous smoky crust highlighted by a fragrant leek chimichurri ($9). The way they make a steak Milanesa ($11) so tender and juicy inside with such a shatteringly crisp crust defies all logic. It's akin to the referee's refusal to blow a whistle when Maradona hand-balled that goal home. Amazing. 5555 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-754-2899; fioritomiami.com.
Best Brazilian Restaurant: Ofa Restaurant. You should definitely start your meal at Ofa Restaurant with the pão de queijo ($7). A handful of these hot, doughy cheese balls arrives on a wooden board in a small brown bag beside a jar of requeijão, a creamy dairy spread that's sweet like cream cheese yet far more spreadable. It's a satisfyingly simple start to any traditional Brazilian meal, but even if tradition isn't your thing, you'll be happy here. The best part about Ofa is the ambiance. This isn't the been-there-done-that Brazilian steakhouse touting massive skewers of meat that bop from table to table. And it's not a nostalgic mom-and-pop that focuses on hearty, homestyle dishes served family-style. Instead, Ofa specializes in contemporary takes on South American dishes via progressive menu items, many of which are gluten-free and vegan. Try the farofa, a nutty-flavored, toasted, buttered cassava-flour dish. It's often served with meats, beans, and stews, but here it's a shareable bowl in a rainbow of flavors, from garlic to bacon to lemon-ginger to banana ($5). Or try bobo de vegetais, a dish that often contains shrimp in a purée of cassava meal with coconut milk but here is made vegetarian with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and plantains ($22). Brazilian sweets include brigadeiros — traditional chocolate truffles made with dark or milk chocolate and condensed milk. The drink menu, created by Brazilian bartender Jean Ponce, lists the usual caipirinhas, but try his riffs on South American classics such as the Abacaxi, a tropical libation that fuses fresh pineapple purée with artisanal white cachaça ($12).1929 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach; 305-763-8766; ofarestaurant.com.
Best Chinese Restaurant: CY Chinese Restaurant. The moment you step into this North Miami Beach hideaway, your senses are overcome by the overwhelming perfume of rendered beef fat and chili oil. Though Sichuan-style restaurants are popping up across Miami, none holds truer to the fiery cuisine of the Chinese province than this first U.S. project by Chongqing native and chef Yang Xian Guang. That beef fat is the central ingredient of Yang's hot pot. That rich, savory aroma is the yardstick by which most Chinese folks judge hot pot, he explains. The recipes include three or more kinds of chilies, a mountain of Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, garlic, ginger, star anise, fermented black beans, and a litany of secrets he refuses to share. A simple chicken broth, made by simmering carcasses with ginger and garlic for three hours, is poured on top just before the dish is sent out to the dining room. So whether you opt for the Chinese yam, the fatty beef, the pork blood, or just a tousle of vegetables, you're guaranteed an experience like no other. 1242 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach; 305-947-3838; cychinesefl.com.
Best Cuban Restaurant: Puerto Sagua. It's hard for a Cuban restaurant to stand out in a town with more Cuban restaurants than any city off the island. This cuisine should be simple, unpretentious, and delicious. You should be able to taste the garlic before your meal even hits the table, and nothing should be served without a slice of lime on the plate. Puerto Sagua checks those boxes, but that's not what makes it stand out. It's the kind of place you'd expect to find in Little Havana or Hialeah, but this no-frills joint is on the corner of Seventh Street and Collins Avenue in South Beach, where glitz and glamour reign supreme — and most of the old school has been bought up and buried under the new. From 7 a.m. till 2 p.m. seven days a week, Puerto Sagua serves Cuban standards such as masitas de puerco con arroz moros y yuca ($15.25) and ropa vieja con maduros ($11.95) that are as good as you'll find anywhere — including your abuela's dinner table. 700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-1115.
Best French Restaurant: Otentic Fresh Food. Escargots can go two ways. When dining out, you'll either get pitifully small mollusks smothered in so much butter it just might instantly clog your arteries. Or, if you're lucky, you'll get the real thing: giant burgundy snails sautéed with a hint of butter, minced shallots, and garlic. That's exactly how you'll find this dish at Otentic Fresh Food Restaurant in South Beach. A dozen escargots are seasoned to taste, finished with fresh-chopped parsley, and arrive plump and tender for $13. It's just one of the well-executed French specialities you'll find at this 40-seat bistro offering an intimate, unpretentious setting for traditional French fare. That includes the country's quintessential dishes, served from 11 a.m. to late into the night. Try it all, from those colossal escargots to custardy quiche Lorraine to Nutella-stuffed crêpes. Prices encourage sampling too: Appetizers start at $7, crêpes run $12 to $14, and entrées cost $15 to $31. 538 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-1464; otenticrestaurant.com.
Best Greek Restaurant: Kiki on the River. A former fish market, the glamorous Greek restaurant Kiki on the River transports diners to the Mediterranean. The food, executed by veteran chef Steve Rhee, includes tender seasoned octopus ($18), lightly fried saganaki cheese ($16), grilled then baked sea bass (MP), and fried potatoes with lemon and oregano ($9). Find a table around sunset on the restaurant's charming patio overlooking the Miami River. The view, along with the rustic furnishings, whitewashed walls, and lush greenery, is enchanting. You might even forget you're in Miami. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, noon to 11 p.m. Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday. 450 NW North River Dr., Miami; 786-502-3243; kikiontheriver.com.
Best Indian Restaurant: Kebab Indian Restaurant. Why try Kebab Indian Restaurant? How about warm naan baked in a tandoor and seasoned with garlic butter ($3.95); crisp vegetable samosas stuffed with potatoes, peas, and Indian spices ($4); and a plate of chicken biryani, in which tender pieces of poultry are cooked and simmered with rice, nuts, and korma sauce ($13.95). Those are just three of the more than 150 items served at this traditional Indian restaurant tucked away on NE 167th Street in North Miami Beach. The unassuming space allows Kebab's blend of aromatic spices, basmati rice, vegetables, and meat to shine. And if you visit during lunch, take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet for less than $10. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. 514 NE 167th St., North Miami Beach; 305-940-6309; kebabindianmiami.com.
Best Italian Restaurant: Fratelli La Bufala. When it comes to Neapolitan pizzerias in Miami, there is only one that can claim to be the first and best: Fratelli La Bufala. But this hidden gem isn't just known for phenomenal pizzas; it's the pastas, salads, and fresh bufala mozzarella that's made this Italian restaurant a staple in South Beach for more than ten years. Buffalo mozzarella is much sweeter than the cow's-milk version; it's also juicier and creamier. If you haven't tried fresh bufala mozzarella, do it ASAP. Fratelli La Bufala (FLB) is one of the few establishments in Miami to have fresh bufala mozzarella delivered almost daily. Whether placed on the restaurant's wood-oven pizzas or the fresh house-made pastas, this rare and exotic cheese is a game changer. FLB's signature appetizer, La Bufalata ($23), is a beautiful platter of bufala mozzarella served with cured Italian meats and fresh vegetables. The way the fresh mozzarella oozes over the meats and vegetables is out of this world. Another highlight is the cost. This underrated spot is not only extremely authentic but also reasonably priced, making it a favorite for Italians visiting Miami. If you're looking for some of the most delicious pizza and pasta in Miami, run, don't walk, to Fratelli La Bufala. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday. 437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-0700; flbmiami.com.
Best Spanish Restaurant: Xixón Spanish Restaurant. Xixón Spanish Restaurant opened in 2001 as a market and today has grown to include a fine-dining restaurant. Consider the Asturian fabada, a rich bean stew that's the signature dish of Spain's Asturian region. The traditional version served here is so labor-intensive it's offered only Saturday ($16). It's rife with white fava beans, blood sausage, chorizo, and a salty Jabugo ham, all simmered for four hours in a hearty saffron-flavored broth. The steak tartare ($18) uses ingredients so fresh the dish is available only Wednesday. Of course, you might want to visit just for the rice dishes. The menu touts four kinds of paella, such as con bogavante, which includes shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, and Maine lobster. If you still have room for postre, a serious dessert menu lists more than a dozen delectables you won't find anywhere else, including a carpaccio de piña, which includes a house-made mint ice cream ($7). 2101 Coral Way, Miami; 305-854-9350; xixonspanishrestaurant.com.
Best Thai Restaurant: Atchana's Homegrown Thai. It's bold to name a dish "the perfect bite," but Atchana Capellini has done just that. The miang kham ($15) is a delight handed down through the generations. A plate holds wrinkly pale-pink dried shrimp, toasted coconut flakes, and tiny slices of ginger. Even the leaves look different. Rather than the ruffled bright-green fronds of butter lettuce, these betel leaves are deep green and spade-shaped, with an almost unnoticeable flavor. Combine all of this with a few bits of crushed peanuts, a squeeze of lime, and a dash of spicy-sweet tamarind sauce, and you'll soon be reaching for a napkin to dab the tears of joy cascading down your cheeks. See, Atchana's family has been cooking these dishes at home for years while also dishing out coconut curries in some of the city's best-known Thai spots. Only recently has she had the confidence to give Miami all of this, and we can only be grateful it happened. 3194 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 305-774-0404; atchanas.com.
Next Thursday, June 21, X Miami will host New Times' Best of Miami party, where you can enjoy bites from more than a dozen of the area's best restaurants while sipping unlimited cocktails and jamming to live music. Purchase tickets for $50 in advance, or pay $60 at the door. A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Miami Lighthouse for the Blind.
New Times' Best of Miami Party. 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at X Miami, 230 NE Fourth St., Miami. Tickets cost $50 via 305-571-7579 or newtimesbestofmiami.com or $60 at the door.
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