In yesterday's Miami Spice post, New Times food critic Lee Klein compared the dining deal to the sort of bargain he usually encounters when he brings his car in to be repaired. In Part 2, he breaks down the Spice choices to the best and worst deals.
There are 106 participating restaurants listed at www.ilovemiamispice.com. Click the establishment’s name and you’ll be directed to the days and meal periods that the Spice menu is available, and a link to the discounted menu. Right off the bat you can eliminate those restaurants where an untaxed/untipped $30 lunch or $45 dinner is no deal at all. We did just that, which whittled our list of desirables to 32. Of these, 9 didn’t bother to list their menus, 7 are being stingy, 4 are well-enough priced in general that the Spice menu doesn’t make much sense, 2 are less than generous but great restaurants to try nonetheless. The rest comprise our Top Ten Miami Spice deals. Here is the breakdown in more detail:
Ago in The Shore Club: Is eggplant parmigiana or a house salad best they could do for first course? The rest of the menu is just as ungenerous.
Acqua at The Four Seasons Hotel: Choice of two salads and either snapper or short ribs.
Azul: Only offering their Spice menu at lunch. Giving a break to folks for two whole meal periods each day is apparently a bit much.
Escopazzo: Nothing wrong with fried mozzarella sticks and breaded veal cutlet with arugula salad, but nothing too exciting, either.
Maison d’Azur: Probably worth taking advantage of Spice here because it is otherwise so very pricey a place. But choice of just two midrange starters, entrees, and desserts each is pretty stingy. If you go, make sure the soupe de poisson Marseillaise is one of your picks.
Shula's Steak House: This menu most resembles those passed out at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Lobster bisque or Caesar salad to start, steak, chicken, or salmon next, Key lime pie or cheesecake for dessert. Oy!
Table 8: One of the Spice entrees, in a thoroughly listless list of picks, is pasta with fennel, wild mushrooms, and heirloom tomatoes. Chicken or shrimp come with the noodles at additional charges of $6 and $9 respectively. That’s chutzpah, to the extent that Table 8 is our official cheapskate champion.
RESTAURANTS THAT ARE MOST LIKELY WORTHWHILE BUT HAVEN’T POSTED MENUS
RESTAURANTS THAT ARE WELL-ENOUGH PRICED THAT THE MIAMI SPICE DEAL IS SUPERFLUOUS
RESTAURANTS THAT ARE STINGY, BUT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE WORTH GOING TO ANYWAY
TOP TEN MIAMI SPICE DEALS
Blue Door at The Delano: A beautiful spot to dine, indoors or out, and the Spice offerings include the signature jumbo ravioli filled with mousseline of taro root in mushroom cappuccino. Main courses include a hearts-of-palm salad with sautéed giant shrimp, lobster foam and white truffle oil. Another house specialty, passion fruit-filled crepes, is also worth sampling.
Bourbon Steak: Cumin-dusted tempura prawns, filet Rossini (with foie gras) in Pinot Noir reduction, and beignets with Valrhona chocolate pudding. Say no more.
Kobe Club: Would have been better had they actually included a small piece of Kobe beef among the entrees, but cut does come as a tartare starter, as does applewood smoked bacon with black truffles and three other appetizer options. Kurobuta pork chop will surely do as main course, and the chef’s pastry sampler is a nice finishing touch.
OLA: Creative choices such as octopus ceviche with caper berries and Serrano chiles among other ingredients, skirt steak with yucca/sweet potato/regular potato fries sprinkled with black truffle powder and peach tres leches parfait for dessert.
Sardinia: Sweetbreads to start, Mediterranean sea bass baked in salt crust next, chef’s dessert selection to finish. Can’t go wrong.
The Capital Grille: Three double-cut lamb chops or a ten-ounce kona-crusted dry-aged sirloin or an eight-ounce porcini-rubbed filet mignon. Citrus-glazed salmon is the final entree choice, for non-carnivores. Served at dinnertime only, but nonetheless a generous offering.
The Oceannaire Seafood Room: Their menu isn’t yet posted, but this city’s premier seafood house is offering a Miami Spice New England clam bake every Sunday which will include soup or salad followed by a one and a half pound lobster, mussels, clams, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, and choice of dessert. A glass of house wine can be added for only $5. A very luxe place for a clam bake, and the most creative use of the Spice offer by far.
Ortanique on the Mile: Good opportunity to try this sassy Caribbean cuisine. Begin with West Indian curried crab cake, one of chef Cindy Huston’s specialties. Bahamian black grouper over lemon-orange boniato sweet plantain mash will have you understanding Ortanique pretty well, and the homemade rum cake will leave you singing.
Prime Blue Grill: Wide array of choices -- four starters including wood-grilled sugar cane shrimp, and five main courses like filet mignon, boneless ribeye, Kurobuta pork chop, and wild-caught fish of the day.
The Restaurant At The Setai: One of the most alluring menus. How about a slow cooked hen egg with wild mushrooms, Peking duck broth, and truffle sabayon? Or lime-and-chili caramelized pork belly with miso-glazed turnips, kimchee and roasted peanuts? Yes and yes.
-- Lee Klein