Miami Spice 2016: The Misses

Sometimes Miami Spice is like being thrust into a glittering pinball machine that flashes and jitters. Bright, attractive signs grab your attention, but are they worth it? With so many restaurants participating in the two-month promotion that begins August 1 and offers prix-fixe lunch for $23 and dinner for $39, there are bound to be a few eateries that slap together lackluster offerings.

You can often tell because the menu sounds so unlike the place itself. It’s the steakhouse that serves chicken paillard and salmon francese. It’s the sushi spot that specializes in nigiri but then breaks out the chicken kara’age and no slice of fish beyond salmon. As good as Miami Spice can be, poor planning and little effort can also bring it all crashing down. Here are the ones to avoid.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
Despite priding itself on its connection to Brooklyn beef institution Peter Luger’s, there’s not an ounce of the stuff on this downtown spot’s lunch menu. At dinner, the bacon chop (only $4.95 on the menu) isn’t available. The offering is a mere petit filet that although retails for $36 isn’t served with any of the beloved place’s sides. Just get your tiramisu and key lime pie and head for the door.
Though this Asian barbecue spot in Wynwood seems to be enjoying its moment in the sun, the Zuma alums running the place don’t seem to see Spice as an opportunity to bump up the hype. For starters, they’re offering only lunch. Start with cauliflower, a duck-and-sausage-filled steamed bun, or a napa cabbage salad. For your main, it’s either an Asian-style beef brisket burger or pork-belly BLT. You’ll probably get your money’s worth; just don’t look at the dinner menu. It’s better you don’t know about the truly great stuff coming out of this kitchen.

The Forge
You’d think we’d be happy that a restaurant that applies an upcharge to spice its steaks is participating in Miami Spice, but then you get a glimpse at the menu: the salmon, the rigatoni bolognese, the petit filet. The last is likely the only way it’ll be worth visiting this iconic Miami Beach spot. The meal could start with a wedge salad, French onion soup, or tuna tartare and finish with chocolate lava cake or orange meringue tart. Notably, the menu is offered Friday and Saturday nights.
Stripsteak by Michael Mina
Despite its glowing reviews and nod as being among the city’s best steakhouses, Stripsteak’s Spice offering falls into a predictable trap. Again there’s a petit filet, this time a paltry six ounces, alongside choices of chicken and mahi-mahi. The appetizers, including a spicy hamachi tartare with green papaya and ricotta cavatelli, are far more interesting. Things slip again at dessert, which falls to a predictable chocolate cake and key lime pie.
Red the Steakhouse
This South Beach steakhouse’s menu is king of the upcharge. Four dollars for a burrata salad, $10 for oysters Rockefeller, and $15 for lobster cocktail. If a petit filet, roast chicken, or salmon don’t satisfy you, fork over anywhere from $19 to $99 to upgrade your beef to a certified Angus cut. Sides such as a loaded baked potato or onion rings can be had for an additional $10. If the offered apple crisp and chocolate pie don’t strike your fancy, yet another $10 will get you a cookies ’n' cream ice-cream sandwich. It’s like the Miami Spice menu isn’t even there.
Market at Edition
Despite being billed as something akin to an open-air Mediterranean market, Jean-Georges Market at Edition is slim on options. Don’t look too longingly at any of those cured meats and cheeses hanging all over place. They’re not for you, Spice guest. Instead, choose from either ricotta or fried calamari, followed by roast chicken or corn ravioli. At least carrot cake is in the offing, but you didn’t need a special menu for that, did you?

Le Zoo
The danger of being a bistro is that you can become the overplayed, tourist-trap caricature of a beloved French institution. Though Stephen Starr’s Le Zoo in Bal Harbour mostly avoids this pitfall in everyday life, its Spice menu is the kind of thing countless wandering Americans stumble into after visiting Paris’ famous sites. Hence, the uninspiring lineup of steak-frites, roast chicken, and salmon. How else could you begin and end a meal here with anything other than escargots and crème brûlée?
Sushi Garage
Sushi Garage’s Miami Spice menu doesn’t offer any sushi. Sure, there’s a choice of ceviche or tuna tartare to start, but there’s no nigiri, no sashimi, and no maki to speak of. There’s no sushi-and-roll sampler in the entrée — only a choice of shrimp tempura, chicken teriyaki, or Scottish salmon. Maybe there’s a sushi dessert, like a coconut battera? Nope. However, dessert is the Juvia offshoot’s strongest showing, with lychee rice pudding and berry soy milk panna cotta.

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