Top Ten Most Important Miami Restaurants of the Decade

Let's end the year with a bang-bang look at the most important restaurants of the decade. Caveat: It must still be in business. And we're skipping those historically important places (like China Grill, Joe's Stone Crab, Versailles, etc.) whose main impact occurred prior to 2000. So, alphabetically:

Barton G
In the early years of the decade, when so many chefs around town still thought cutting edge meant papaya salsa on fish, Barton G was spinning out one outrageously inventive dish after another after another -- always staying at least a few steps ahead of the competition on the latest gastronomic trends and technologies. And still is.

Giancarla Bodoni has quietly led the way towards use of organic and local product -- this is the first organic Italian restaurant in America  -- while maintaining Escopazzo's reputation since 1993 as one of the consistent go-to places for great contemporary Italian cuisine.

The River Oyster Bar
There was a time, not that long ago but before Oceanaire and the very recent Cape Cod Room and Fin, that David Bracha was about the only person serving fresh seafood in classic yet contemporary manner. It should also be noted that he was on the Brickell side of downtown before the Brickell side of downtown was cool. Bracha also pioneered the idea of an "oyster bar" -- well, not really, but The River remains one of the few places that has a reputable one.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Influential in so many ways, but perhaps most importantly it just about single-handedly jump-started the once-moribund, now-riveting Design District dining scene. Along with Giancarla, Michael Schwartz likewise championed local sourcing, and made pure, fresh, healthily-prepared foods really really fashionable.

Michelle Bernstein

was Miami's most nationally celebrated chef of the decade, which makes

this flagship restaurant of hers very important indeed. Michy's was

also one of the first of our serious chef-driven neighborhood eateries,

and helped to kick-start the MiMo area.

When it comes to brand

name chefs, Miami is the Second Hand Rose of American cities. Quite

frankly this can be a drag, but nobody complains about Nobu Matsuhisa

coming to town -- his restaurant was one of the very first and is still

pretty much the best of our imports. It could be argued, in fact, that

Nobu's arrival first signaled to the rest of the country that Miami was

ready to become a legitimate food city.

Palme d'Or
Philippe Ruiz

has been at the helm of this Biltmore gem for the whole decade, and

throughout this time Palme has served as the benchmark for fine dining

in Miami. Period. Its Zagat sweep this year shows it remains relevant

as ever.

Pascal's On Ponce/Red Light
We're pairing these two because the respective chef/owners, Pascal

Oudin and Kris Wessel, have forged their personal visions into highly

influential restaurants that serve as beacons of pure, honest cuisine.

Plus they demonstrate just how far talent, dedication, and integrity

can get you, which is an important lesson in any decade.

Prime One Twelve

highest grossing restaurant in South Florida was a trailblazer in the

SoFi scene, swung open the corral gates to the contemporary steak

house craze, and remains top-of-the-list for those looking for an

upscale South Beach dining experience.

Most obvious

distinction might be that this is the only Sardinian restaurant in

South Florida. But the reason we deem it important is that it was a

forerunner to the whole wood-burning hearth oven pizza thing as well as

one of the first sophisticated regional restaurants around these parts.

Plus it sparked the Sunset Harbour area of South Beach, formerly home

only to Joe Allen but now a hopping hood.

I didn't leave anyone out, did I?

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein