We recognized Zuma as Best New Restaurant in our most recent "Best of Miami" issue. Yet a number of other excellent dining establishments have come to town over the past year -- many since our "Best Of" issue was written. Here are five other newcomers for which we are grateful:
5. City Hall
There's a big-city feel to this boisterous, two-level restaurant. Chef Tom Azar (formerly of Emeril's) oversees a menu of popular American classics presented in an up-to-date fashion. A big slab of meat loaf, gravy, frizzy fried onions, green beans, and mac 'n' cheese boosted by chorizo and maple -- that's just one plate of food! Seafoods, steaks, pizzas, and old-school desserts such as chocolate banana pudding pie pile on the comfort. City Hall is fun, affordable, and culinarily satisfying. It's just what every neighborhood needs.
4. The Dining Room
Twenty-four seats surround linen-draped tables in this petite SoFi charmer on Washington Avenue. Executive chef Horacio Rivadero and chef de cuisine Christian Alvarez create almost shockingly flavorful plates of food. Ubiquitous calamari gets reinvented with chili, citrus, cilantro, and kalamata olive purée. Duck confit is introduced to the New World by way of grilled apricots and kumquat vinaigrette. Even humble vegetarian butternut squash soup is electrified via green apple, celery sprouts, and vanilla. Entrées and desserts are equally inventive and delicious. Service is amiable and attentive, the room is intimate, the owners on hand.
3. Haven Gastro-Lounge
With wraparound LCD screens projecting images ranging from snowcapped Himalayas to the Miami skyline, and a DJ to synch in music, diners here are immersed in atmospherics. Haven is a 21st-century lounge with an electric crowd that stays plugged in till 5 in the morning. But the gastro portion of the business is not to be underestimated. Chef Todd Erickson's food pulsates with an exciting energy of its own. The globally inspired mix of small plates is thoughtfully conceived and delicately composed. Eel sushi is draped in soy-caramel barbecue glaze and spiked with green apple and cucumber. The ceviche in the photo is stocked with lobster and wild-caught scallops in passion fruit/coconut/key lime juice finished with vanilla oil. "Crisps" include fried coconut-crusted rock shrimp with wasabi-sour peach marmalade; sliders, skewers, and salads excel as well. Ice creams are blasted with liquid nitrogen per order, and cocktails are nitro-smoky too. This place is a gas.
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2. Tudor House
Diners start with hot puffs of pretzel roll with red-wine mustard and finish with desserts such as homemade Oreo cookies or Kit Kat bars with a brown-butter "popcorn" milkshake. In between, chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Jamie DeRosa craft ethereal renditions of contemporary American (and Mediterranean) fare. Pea soup is vibrant green and fluffed with puffs of lime marshmallow. Niçoise salad is a toss of fresh field greens highlighted by Spanish anchovies, soft-boiled quail egg, and olive-oil poached tuna. Branzino, langoustines, and luscious lamb belly are a few of the entrée anchors. Almost every main plate comes garnished with miniature local vegetables -- including multicolored varieties of cauliflower and tomatoes, as well as carrots, beets, and green onions -- along with light accents and sauces. Vegetables are teeny, portions are modest, and flavors are enormous at Tudor House.