The line has been drawn. At this point, some 60 restaurants fall into the "luxury" group -- meaning $23 for lunch, $39 for dinner. About 40 are in "fine dining" -- $19 for lunch, $33 for dinner. Folks at the GMCVB insist that when the dust settles, there should be slightly more "fine dining" choices than "luxury" (last year, 140 restaurants participated).
The most glaring error by the GMCVB is placing Makoto into fine dining rather than luxury. It is so glaring that I called the restaurant to see who decided this.
"It was their call," confirmed Makoto's General Manager Emily Aguilar. She added that the Makoto team was just as puzzled by its categorization as I was.
"Based on the check average, we belong on the other side," Ms. Aguilar said and added that the restaurant's public relations people were in contact with the GMCVB to clarify things. She called me back shortly thereafter to say that "They made a mistake," and that Makoto would be switched to the luxury grouping.
We called GMCVB for comment and are awaiting reply.
Otherwise, every restaurant in the $33 range seemingly belongs. Some of the best bets in this tier are Edge Steak & Bar; Bond Street Lounge; Jean Paul's House; and Rosa Mexicano. There may be a few more worthy spots to try (by "worthy" I mean it has good food plus, more pertinently, the $33 represents a noticeable savings over regular pricing).
For six dollars more, I think most diners will choose db Bistro Moderne over Cibo Wine Bar; Bourbon Steak over Novecento; Hakkasan over El Gran Inka; The Restaurant at The Setai over The Restaurant at the National Hotel...
The categorizations were done via menu pricing analysis, and as such it appears the GMCVB did a decent job in drawing up each group. That there are restaurants of less-than-sterling repute that appear in the luxury class is attributable to those restaurants overcharging on menus, not poor judgement calls by the Convention folks.
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For instance: Luca Bella Family Style Italian as luxury? A Fish Called Avalon? Preston's at Loews Miami Beach Hotel? I personally don't think these establishments belong in any elite grouping, but menu prices seem to dictate otherwise.
Yet while the GMCVB's categorizations seem fair, for all intents and purposes, this a price hike for most of the restaurants that draw Miami Spice enthusiasm. I can't work up much outrage over the hike, as food prices have gone up fairly dramatically since Miami Spice first went into effect. As long as these luxe establishments offer representative dishes from its menus -- as opposed to short ribs, chicken and salmon -- $39 remains a nice price.
We await publication of each restaurant's Miami Spice offerings, and will comment, as always, on the good and the grudging.