Next Thursday, our New Times Best of Miami edition will once again name more than 350 of the finest restaurants, hottest clubs, most delightful diversions, and top places to shop till you drop dead as a zombie."The Rising" is almost upon us, and the balloting has officially closed. So if you didn't get a chance to vote for your favorites in our "Readers' Poll," sorry, please try again next year.
Sadly, there can only be one winner per category, and we know you want to be teased. Careful deduction will lead you to realize the winners are NOT on this listing, rather an edited selection of the runners up who are just a tad shy of supreme status. In ten days we will do the big reveal, but in the interim, here's our picks for those who came close in the "Best New Restaurant" category.
6. Stephen Starr's newest restaurant, Makoto, helmed by namesake Chef Makoto Okuwa, finally opened in April at the Bal Harbour Shops after a few rumor-filled months of construction delays. Chef Okuwa spent years learning from Iron Chef Morimoto (another one of Starr's celebrity toques) and the intricate plating details of his Modern Japanese cuisine shine through. He goes out on a limb with items like the "frosty kobe fried rice" ($14) topped with bits of beef that've been flash frozen, along with tiny pieces of foie gras, plus an oversize jidori egg on top (a Japanese version of cage-free raised, organic, happy-ish chickens). But it's the traditional plates that you come to expect from a high-end sushi bar that really stand out here, like the yellowtail tartare ($18) with crispy garlic chips and scraps of salty nori. Or check out the tea-crusted tuna tataki ($13.25) with a sweet-chili vinaigrette.
5. Pubbelly scrambled to open in time for Art Basel, but forged ahead even without a liquor license from the city. When we first showed up at this newbie in the western SoBe neighborhood of Sunset Harbour, it was quiet as could be, leaving us plenty of time to indulge in small plates without the guilt of jealous sidewalk starers. Nowadays, you will be lucky to wait less than an hour for a table, due to the tremendous talent of Chefs Jose Mendin and Sergio Navarro (who have spent time collectively at Mercadito, Sushi Samba, and Nobu). The pork belly glazed with a butterscotch miso sauce ($15) combines fatty layers of pork with a sweet and savory, highly spoon-likable, coating. Pubbelly's ramen broth is lemongrass scented, giving it a robust personality unlike other version's we've tried ($16). And we just love that they are open until 1 a.m. on the weekends, for that moment when a slice of skinny late-night pizza just won't do.
4. Embracing the locavore movement, Midtown newcomer Sustain (where workers also worked hard to open in time for Art Basel) bottled the entire sustainable trend, shook well, and delivered an eco-friendly concept that delivers tasty slow food. From the re-purposed Mangrove tree limbs that line the walls, to the support of local farms like Paradise, Swank, and Four Arrows Ranch, the message here is clear. Chef Alejandro Piñero (previous stints include Fratelli Lyon and Casa Tua) wraps his Bershire pork loin in thick, smoky Benton's bacon (pork on pork, always genuis), and serves it with a punch-packing peach mostarda ($28). His rendition of "french fries" include a "wet gravy" made with bone marrow ($6) and the "classic corn dogs" ($5), made in house, are exceedingly snackable. A surprise hit is the deconstructed version of key lime pie, an absolute must-have, every time.
3. Cecconi's is just so pretty, it reminds us of a restaurant on the Amalfi coast, although the theme is a modern take on classic Venetian cuisine. The hanging leaves, strings of lights, well-dressed members of Soho House making the rest of us look bad...it's just such a great combination of ambiance and food appeal. The menu is easily understandable for non-foodies, with truly Italian seaside offerings such as roasted branzino with Taggiasca olives, basil and plump cherry tomatoes ($38), bucatini with clams and zucchini ($20), and snapper carpaccio with citrus and fennel ($16).The menu shifts seasonally, giving new life to the restaurant every few months, courtesy of dedicated Chef Sergio Sigala (formerly of Casa Tua) who infuses his own sense of Italian cuisine - simplicity, quality of ingredients, and all kinds of delicious.
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2. The bar is fabulous, the first dining room is airy, but unless you like to really feel like you are eating in a hotel, don't let them put you in the back room; a terracotta painted dead end with leather banquettes that are already peeling. Now that the negative is behind us, let's discuss the beauty of Daniel Boulud's Downtown arrival, DB Bistro Moderne. The truth is, Executive Chef Jarrod Verbiak's (who has spent 10+ years working for Boulud) kitchen runs smoothly in Boulud's name, turning out the classics; a lovely duck confit ($33), pâté de Campagne ($16) and escargot ($17), that all evoke the essence of french bistro fare. No one else in the city (perhaps with the exception of Chef Ruiz at Palme D'Or), is consistently creating the great plates of French cooking. DB's specials are always a treat, so listen carefully to your server's recommendations.
1. Now, this top choice for runner-up is going to cause a stir, but for those who have yet to experience Chef Paula DaSilva's (a disciple of Beard nominee, Dean James Max at Lauderdale's acclaimed 3030 Ocean) cuisine at 1500° at the Eden Roc, you are doing a disservice to your tastebuds. The restaurant is not so high-energy in terms of environment or decor, but this woman is always in the kitchen, literally, working hours that would cause lesser chefs to abandon ship. We spent some time in said kitchen, watching her whip up a seared herb encrusted tuna dish with farm-fresh elements; ranging from a salad made with smoked purple potatoes, to thick-cut, thrice cooked Benton's bacon, to a fried giant duck egg. It looked a bit unlikely, sushi grade tuna loin with bacon? Yet everything combined flawlessly. The dishes here look deceptively simple, but it starts with Chef DaSilva procuring the ulitmate in terms of proteins and produce, and if it doesn't look good that day, it won't wind up on your plate. We say that top honors are due here because she changes the menu daily, and managed to make our Top 100 Favorite Dishes with, wait for it - a vegetable platter.
Honorable Mentions: We would like to indicate that had Gigi and American Noodle Bar not recently lost their star chefs, this list might have turned out differently. We look forward to seeing the next steps for chefs Jeff McInnis and Michael Bloise.