With each dawn, it seems as though something new is poking into the sky over Brickell — an SLS hotel here, a Related Group condo there. Despite the vast sums of money that have poured into the neighborhood over the past two decades, its dining options have rarely kept pace with its architectural sophistication.
Today that's changing. Stalwarts such as Edge Steak & Bar, the River Seafood & Oyster Bar, Momi Ramen, and Naoe continue to hold up the neighborhood, while newcomers add exciting concepts to the ever-growing neighborhood.
This Mexico City-sourced spot led by chef Santiago Gomez turns out a never-ending procession of house-made tortillas and punchy fragrant creations such as moles and heavily chili-inflected sauces. The restaurant offers a choice of make-your-own taco options that include pork confit with cilantro, serrano chile, and chopped onions; queso fundido; sautéed octopus in a lime-cilantro-serrano chile sauce; braised pork; and grilled bone marrow served with chopped onions, cilantro, and tomatillo sauce.
Edge is too reasonably priced for a Brickell restaurant inside a Four Seasons Hotel. The place could mark up each steak — from the butcher's-cut filet mignon to the Delmonico — 20 percent and would still be packed nightly. Chef Aaron Brooks' creations aren't limited by Creekstone Farms steaks, seared in an 1,800-degree infrared oven. Edge also excels at fish and vegetable preparations, makes one of Brickell's best burgers, and has regularly offered one of the most worthwhile Miami Spice menus.
Peruvian culinary icon Gastón Acurio's Brickell Key outpost enjoys much of its success thanks to the precise, ever-evolving work of executive chef Diego Oka. While also running a three-meal-a-day spot, Oka seems to find the time to constantly fine-tune La Mar's menu, adding a chifa dish here, subtracting a ceviche there, and evolving Peru's humble yet beloved causas into something otherworldly. La Mar is one place you don't want to overlook.
97 SW Eighth St., Miami 305-860-6209
This beloved Colombian restaurant is open until the wee hours of the morning. Think of it as a kind of culinary public service where salchipapas are used to sober people up after a long night of drinking. Nevertheless, if it's a late-night snack you crave, the supermoon perro, topped with bacon and a quail egg ($7.75), is one good dog.
This bistro turns out an impressive array of southern French dishes that make liberal use of seafood, olive oil, and a bounty of vegetables like eggplant and sweet bell peppers that have become adored with the rest of Mediterranean cuisine. Here, beignets are paired with delicate tempura squash blossoms and stuffed anchovies, and a thick, bone-in section of turbot ($38) is washed in a fragrant olive oil and white wine sauce and served with braised wedges of fennel and sweet cherry tomato. This white-tablecloth restaurant also offers classics such as Niçoise salad, bluefin tuna tartare and Ossetra caviar, and escargots with garlic butter and fresh herbs.
Mister O1's masterworks are star pizzas that come flecked with spicy salami and a vegetarian iteration layered with paper-thin shreds of eggplant and zucchini. The crusts are folded and filled with milky ricotta that leeches onto the pie as it crisps in an imported Cuppone oven. Besides the flagship South Beach location, Mister O1 has pie shops in Wynwood, Brickell, and Naples, Florida. If you really love the pizza, there are franchise opportunities, offering potential to make some (pizza) dough.
5 SW 11th St., Miami 786-391-2392
Momi's bowls filled with rich, glossy, almost sticky tonkotsu (broth) remain the best in Miami. Just remember: Sometimes Momi is cash only, and sometimes your credit card will be accepted. Sometimes there's only char siu pork and pork belly, and sometimes there's oxtail and pork innards. You never know what you'll find.
One evening at Naoe, chef Kevin Cory proudly held up a jewel-like orange-red sack of salmon roe. "Only available for two weeks every year when the salmon are spawning," he said. Other than that, Cory didn't boast about the fish that's flown in daily from Tokyo's Tsukiji Market. He speaks softly and wears a paper cap that seems a nod to sushi's past as Japanese street food. Naoe's subtlety and precision are what make it stand out not only in Brickell but also in all of Miami. It doesn't have to tell you it's the city's best restaurant. It knows it.
Before coming to Miami, Carlos Garcia was best known for his Caracas restaurant, Alto, which holds a spot on Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants. Obra is a Brickell favorite thanks to its inventive takes on Venezuelan cuisine that include classic arepas ($14) and hamachi tiradito with rum leche de tigre and crispy kale ($18).
Like erstwhile neighbor Tobacco Road, the River seems to have little time left since a Colombian investor purchased the property in 2012. Nevertheless, the smart Brickell office workers shield their faces and march past the dusty construction to reach David Bracha's daily oyster offerings and whole-fish entrées. The secret here is the bar menu, with small bites such as clams casino, steamed Chinese duck buns, and oyster po'boy sliders for less than ten bucks each.
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