Restaurant Reviews

The Best Bites of 2018 — So Far

The Best Bites of 2018 — So Far
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click to enlarge KARLI EVANS
Karli Evans

La Centrale. Eating here is a whole lot cheaper than booking a flight to Italy. Though this tri-level food hall is located in the heart of Brickell, it has the soul of Rome. On the first floor, experience a Neapolitan pizza, its molten cheese still bubbling from the oven ($15 to $22). One level up, try an Aperol spritz at theapéritif bar. Then head to Pesce, where you can channel an evening in Amalfi over a plate of chittara with sea urchin and lemon ($22). Venture to the third-floor "wine cellar" for a wide selection of Italian vintages by the glass and an even a great variety of bottles to take home.Brickell City Centre, 601 S. Miami Ave.,Miami; 305-720-2401; lacentralemiami.com.

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Night Owl Cookie Co. In 2017, Night Owl churned out more than 750,000 cookies, averaging about 2,000 per day and ringing up more than $1.5 million in sales. Then, this past June, owner Andrew Gonzalez expanded into a larger, 2,000-square-foot space on SW Eighth Street, potentially breaking the record for the largest cookie shop in the nation. (Guinness World Records will send Gonzalez a certificate in the next few months, he says.) In Night Owl, Gonzalez has built a multimillion-dollar business by selling $2 doughnut-size cookies in dozens of flavors. Most nights, lines of eager customers hungry for Ave Marias — made with guava dough, white chocolate chips, and cream cheese frosting — swirl around his Calle Ocho storefront. Other popular cookie orders are s'mores, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and the Dirty Diana, in which chocolate dough is stuffed with Nutella. In 2019, denizens of central Dade should be able to skip the drive out west — Gonzalez plans to open a Night Owl location in Wynwood. 10534 SW Eighth St., Miami; nightowlcookieco.com.

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Hiden. Toward the rear of Wynwood's the Taco Stand, a popular Mexican minichain from California, a mysterious omakase restaurant is disguised in plain sight. Here, a $150 reservation brings 16 courses of fish flown overnight from Japan. The two-hour experience centers on executive chef Tadashi Shiraishi, who stands behind an intimate, eight-seat bar, ready to perform an intricate culinary dance in which he and his assistant chef prepare, cook, and serve 128 plates per seating. The menu is decided each day but typically includes two cold appetizers, such as a sashimi selection or tuna tasting; a warm soup; eight to ten sushi items; a hot entrée such as Wagyu steak; and a light dessert. Reservations can be made only through Tock, an upscale version of OpenTable. A few hours before arrival, diners receive entry codes, directions, and instructions. 313 NE 25th St., Miami; hidenmiami.com.

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St. Roch Market. With 10,000 square feet of food choices, St. Roch is an omnivore's dream come true. The Miami namesake of a famed New Orleans food hall, St. Roch is best experienced with a group of gluttonous friends — each bringing a different item to the communal table. Start at Elysian for a half-dozen grilled oysters ($18), oozing with buttery goodness. Next up is a literal tower of hummus at Jaffa; a sharable portion is served with tehina, pickles, Israeli salad, and pita for only $10. Follow with 25-hour-brined fried chicken served on a cheddar-chive waffle at Coop ($18) before getting a chocolate chip cookie so creamy you'll wonder how on Earth it could be vegan. Wash it all down with the bestSazerac you'll find outside NOLA at the bar the Mayhaw. 140 NE 39th St.,Miami; 786-542-8977; miami.strochmarket.com.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DEEPSLEEP STUDIO
Photo by DeepSleep Studio

Azabu Miami Beach. Just up the block from Nikki Beach, Azabu is based on a sister concept in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood that earned a Michelin star for serving traditional and somewhat affordable omakase in an underground speakeasy. Miami Beach's Azabu defies the usual limitations on classic Japanese cuisine by offering large portions of Tokyo comfort food at reasonable prices with exceptional service. A visit must include orders of the tori kara-age, Japanese-style boneless fried chicken ($14); the yakitoro momo, in which grilled chicken thighs are placed on a skewer and doused in a sweet soy ($12); and spicy tuna and beef tataki rolls. Or try a platter of sashimi and nigiri tuna, salmon, toro, and amberjack ($6 and up). 161 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 786-276-0520; azabuglobal.com.

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Clarissa Buch Zilberman is a writer and editor, with her work appearing in print and digital titles worldwide.
Contact: Clarissa Buch
Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss