The year is only half over, but Miami's restaurant scene has already grown by leaps and bites. So far in 2018, the area has gained scores of highly anticipated openings with inventive concepts.
Dasher & Crank in Wynwood churns out ice cream made with bacon, candied hemp seeds, and miso honey, while Azabu Miami Beach delivers Tokyo comfort food at reasonable prices with exceptional service to the unlikeliest of places: Ocean Drive.
Many establishments — among them Planta in South Beach, Boulud Sud in downtown Miami, and Hiden in Wynwood — have shown an ability to adapt to a new, younger, and more energetic clientele, one that strays from tablecloths and gravitates toward approachable and experience-based dining.
Here are New Times' ten picks for this year's best restaurant openings — so far.
Planta. Off South Pointe Drive in South Beach, Planta offers delicious food and a chance to rub shoulders with stars. Brought to Miami from Toronto by nightlife veteran David Grutman, the place is entirely vegan, preparing innovative renditions of meaty cheeseburgers, fresh fish, and fried tater tots without a trace of animal product. For instance, ceviche ($15.25) is made with raw coconut meat that re-creates the texture of seafood. Then there's the meat lover's pizza ($19.25), topped with mozzarella made from cashews, bacon from mushrooms, and sausage composed of farro — a dried wheat product. Planta's burger ($19.95) includes a veggie patty made of black beans, mashed lentils, and beetroot, with a gooey cheese prepared from carrot and potato. 850 Commerce St., Miami Beach; 305-397-8513; plantarestaurants.com.
Malibu Farm. Inside the Nobu Eden Roc Hotel, this California-cool restaurant is reminiscent of the Pacific Coast town for which it's named — call it upscale beach-shack style. The menu offers cauliflower-crust pizza, chicken-ricotta burgers, and cucumber-infused vodka cocktails — not exactly what you'd expect at a swank, Nobu-owned hotel at one of Miami Beach's most historic properties. Created by Los Angeles-based private-chef-turned-restaurateur Helene Henderson, Malibu Farm celebrates locally sourced items and ingredient-rich plates. Right now, Henderson receives bread from Wynwood's Zak the Baker, meat from Larry Kline in Deerfield Beach, and fruits and vegetables from Produce Kingdom in downtown Miami. Must-order items include a chicken and ricotta burger, hugged by a brioche bun and topped with bacon, tomato, red onion, and a spicy aioli ($17), and a grilled chocolate cake, which calls for throwing a cooled slice on a sizzling grill ($12). 4525 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-674-5579; malibufarmmiamibeach.com.
Dasher & Crank. Inside a light-pink shop in Wynwood, an Electro Freeze machine rumbles, and a yellowish cream made with vanilla bean, passionfruit, and ají amarillo erupts from the spout. Nearby, stored in a cooler set to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, are other creative ice-cream flavors, such as raspberry-wasabi, salted caramel and black licorice, and mint made black with activated charcoal. Here, the simple milk, sugar, and egg recipe is dressed up with bacon, candied hemp seeds, and miso honey. At any given time, the sleek store, located on Wynwood's main drag, offers 18 unique flavors ($5 and up), including Salty Beach, a creamy blend made with coconut, sea salt, and graham cracker crumbs. Then there's Fat Elvis, with peanut butter, banana, and Miami Smokers bacon, and Mary Jane Brownie, a mix of brownie chunks, molasses, peanut butter, and candied hemp seeds. 2211 NW Second Ave., Miami; dasherandcrank.com.
Boulud Sud. The latest Miami venture for Daniel Boulud, the James Beard Award-winning French chef and restaurateur, Boulud Sud takes the place of DB Bistro Moderne, his former restaurant in the same space. Here, he serves a modern interpretation of his cuisine in a reenergized and decidedly more glamorous atmosphere. It's his way of adapting to a more casual dining culture without compromising quality. Begin a meal with a mezze platter filled with two lightly fried herb falafel and a handful of crisp crackers ready to plunge into a spicy Moroccan hummus and an eggplant baba ghanouj ($15). Then opt for the chicken tagine, showered in a blend of North African spices, from coriander to cardamom ($28), followed by a warm basket of madeleines for dessert ($8). JW Marriott Marquis, 255 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami; 305-421-8800; bouludsud.com/miami.
222 Taco. Anna Robbins opened the eatery North Bay Village needed. This pink-and-teal joint offers tacos in the categories "Land," "Sea," and "Jardin" ($3 to $4 each). Though meat abounds here, veggie offerings are guilt-free standouts that offer all the acid, smoke, and spice of pork or beef. The cauliflower al pastor is particularly pleasing with sweet and sour flavors. The restaurant also serves breakfast all day with a Mexican twist, so you can have a plate of chilaquiles ($11) any time of the day or night. Wash it all down with some of Robbins' curated rare tequilas and mezcals to keep the fiesta going until well past midnight.1624 79th St. Cswy.,North Bay Village; 833-222-8226; 222ta.co.