Miami’s 20 Best Restaurants (Slideshow)
August 14, 2013
There's no shortage of world-class dining in Miami, and these are the best restaurants in the city
20) Tongue & Cheek
A veteran of the Wolfgang Puck organization and former chef at Campanile and Patina in Los Angeles — and former three-month apprentice at The Fat Duck in England — chef Jamie DeRosa loves bold flavors. His menu at this comfortable, casual restaurant, with its white stone walls and elegant feathered wood columns, ranges from chilled peach gazpacho to chicken-skin chicharrones with bacon-sriracha aïoli, from a beef-cheek burger with pimento cheese to Florida grouper cheeks with smoked almonds and wild mushrooms. His side dishes include homemade tater tots with garlic aïoli, and "poutine" of braised brisket with aged cheddar and pastrami-spiced fries. Need we say more?
19) The Dutch
Andrew Carmellini’s hotspot inside the W Hotel has been packing them in since coming onto the scene in 2011, and with good reason: his simple twists on traditional American cuisine are fun, inspired, and delicious. The second outpost of a New York gem, Carmellini is turning out dishes like Florida mahi with berbere spice, stewed red lentils, and lime; Australian lamb saddle with goat cheese polenta, and romesco; and chilled sweet corn soup with ancho chile and piquillo pepper. The oysters and 28-day dry-aged beef are also stellar, as are the pies, made fresh daily.
18) De Rodriguez Cuba
Cuban cuisine goes upscale at this AAA four-diamond South of Fifth restaurant. James Beard Award-winning chef Douglas Rodriguez has created a menu of traditional Cuban classics elevated to new heights, with seven ceviches featuring some of Miami’s freshest seafood; a spot-on Cuban sandwich (lunch only); crispy Cuban pork belly with Cuban oregano mojo, sweet peppers, and rice and beans; steak; seafood; and a wide selection of creative tapas including crispy shrimp chicharrón, foie gras and fig empanada, and warm octopus escabeche. Miami has no shortage of low-key Cuban restaurants, but "DeRod Cuba" elevates the classics to fine-dining status without forgetting its roots.
Located in South Beach’s legendary Fontainebleu Resort, the first American outpost of this upscale London-based Chinese restaurant that now has 12 locations around the globe is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and usually filled with jaw-droppingly beautiful people as well. But that doesn’t mean that the food isn’t some of the best Chinese fare that you’ll ever eat. Seemingly pedestrian dishes like sweet and sour pork with pomelo, steamed red snapper, crispy roasted chicken, stir-fried lobster, black pepper beef tenderloin, and hot and sour soup are elevated to new heights, and the nightclub atmosphere just might have you ordering that second bottle of champagne.
16) Khong River House
Brought to you by the team behind Yardbird, Khong is the city’s best Thai restaurant, and a super-traditional one at that. Offerings include Burmese noodle wraps with red chili and roasted peanuts; pork and ginger salad with fried curried rice balls; spice-rubbed ribeye; and jungle curry. The room is decked out with wood from old Thai crates and bamboo lighting fixtures made from Thai fish traps, and it’s overall a fun, wild ride of a meal.
15) Yardbird Southern Table and Bar
No one in his right mind would consider Miami the South, but Northern Florida-raised and Charleston-trained chef Jeff McInnis felt he needed to bring Southern cooking to the continental United States' southernmost state. The result is Yardbird, and it has received a lot of accolades since it opened last year. Most of the meals are served family-style and the bar is also Southern-influenced, with the majority of drinks made with bourbon. Even though McInnis left the restaurant and was replaced by Clay Miller last July, the restaurant’s philosophy hasn’t changed and it’s still going strong.
14) Joe’s Stone Crab
"Eat at Joe's" may have been a running joke in classic Warner Bros. cartoons, but this 100-year-old establishment is a serious Miami institution. The old-school seafood house boasts a massive menu, but your order should be simple: stone crab claws (jumbos if available, nothing smaller than large) when they're in season, hash browns, and Key lime pie. And the crabs are able to regenerate their claws after they're removed, so it’s a completely sustainable operation.
Since 2011, master sushi chef Makoto Okuwa has been serving some of the city’s best sushi at the Bal Harbour Shops in Miami Beach. The protégée of Masaharu Morimoto receives shipments from Japan three times per week, and while his sushi is flawless, it’s the signature dishes like the Kobe Air Bread (a seared slice of Kobe beef on a horseradish foam-filled cracker) and the Frosted Kobe Beef (Frozen Kobe, onions, and sesame seeds, charred with a blowtorch) that really put it over the top.
Chef Rainer Becker’s downtown hot spot is inspired by the traditional Japanese dining style of izakaya, where small skewers of meat are simply grilled. That informal technique is on display here (and at the restaurant’s other locations in London, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, and Bangkok), but elevated to brilliant fine dining levels. There are beef skewers with shishito peppers and smoked chile soy, king crab with ponzu lime butter, and grilled scallops with pickled plum, shiso, and mentaiko butter, and a selection of noodles, tempura, sushi and sashimi, and signature dishes including spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chile, and sweet soy. At Zuma, Becker has taken the most enjoyable aspects of Japanese cuisine and translated them into a fun, accessible, and lively experience.
11) Pascal’s on Ponce
This contemporary French restaurant located in Coral Gables is one of the city’s most consistently stellar restaurants, thanks to chef Pascal Oudin’s strong guiding hand. The dining room is simple and small, and the menu is equally simple and refined, with classics like bouillabaisse and Gruyère soufflé complemented by inventive entrées like diver sea scallops topped with beef short rib, young fennel, carrot vichy, and fava beans. It’s not one of the flashier restaurants on the scene, but it’s a temple to French cooking at its most precise.
Miami’s first Asian-inspired gastropub, Pubbelly is quickly on its way to become well-known across the country. The brainchild of Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro, this perpetually packed casual spot, located on the west end of Miami Beach, is not only one of the most creative restaurants in Miami, it’s also one of the most fun. Pâtés, duck and pork rillettes, terrines, sausages, and pickles are all made in-house, and round out a charmingly creative menu that changes daily, but always includes ramen and udon in ways you’ve never seen them before (like carbonara-inspired), a raw bar, dumplings will fillings like short rib and corn or pastrami and sauerkraut, and a wide selection of small plates for sharing, like fried chicken, BBQ pork wings, and grilled octopus. For the adventurous eater, no visit to Miami is complete without a visit to Pubbelly (or its sister restaurant, Pubbelly Sushi).
9) Prime 112
This steakhouse from renowned chef Myles Chefetz is one of the centerpieces of the popular South of Fifth neighborhood. Steaks range from an 8-ounce filet mignon to a 48-ounce porterhouse, served with a vast selection of sauces and butters, and are dry-aged for up to a month. Sides include the classically decadent truffled mac and cheese, house-made tater tots, and other steakhouse classics, but you’ll have a great meal even if you’re not big into steak: there’s a wide selection of salads, seafood, and even Chefetz’s interpretation of chicken and waffles.
For sushi lovers, you won’t find anything to top Naoe in the city. The sushi here would be considered some of the best around even in Japan, and at this tiny, eight-seat temple to raw fish, you can let sushi master Kevin Cory, called the "Omakase King," be your guide. The accolades for Naoe just keep piling up: Five stars from Forbes Travel Guide, named one of the country’s best sushi restaurants by Travel + Leisure, a nomination for best new chef from Food & Wine, and so on. If you can snag a reservation (only 16 guests are served each night), you’ll be presented with a selection of some of the freshest seafood imaginable, from both Japanese and local waters. There’s horse mackerel topped with fresh wasabi, fresh-roasted and basted eel, urchin-topped egg tofu, cured squid, Scottish salmon belly… the selection goes on and on, and by the time your meal is through, you’ll never look at sushi the same way again.
7) Bourbon Steak
Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, located inside the Turnberry Isle Resort and Club, is anything but a traditional steakhouse, largely thanks to the skill of chef Gabriel Fenton. Steaks like the 18-ounce dry-aged bone-in rib eye and the 24-ounce Kanas City Strip are flawless, but the chef shows his real skill with dishes like an elegant curried carrot soup, hand-rolled fettuccine carbonara with smoked duck confit, and rack of lamb with fresh garbanzo gremolata and roasted eggplant. Make sure not to miss the duck fat fries.
6) J&G Grill
This hotspot comes from none other than Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and chef Brad Kilgore is serving his take on global cuisine from a bright, spacious dining room overlooking the ocean. Taking inspiration from this proximity, seafood is abundant on the menu, with items ranging from simply grilled yellowfin tuna and pumpkin swordfish to steamed black halibut with spiced jade emulsion and celeriac.
5) Michael’s Genuine
According to Michael Schwartz, winner of the 2010 James Beard Award for Best Southern Chef, the most important thing you can take away from dining at his 2008 New York Times top 10 establishment is: Know Your Source. The restaurant procures its Old World rustic-breed chickens, for instance, from North Carolina's Joyce Foods, the only producer of Label Rouge poultry in the U.S. Heirloom tomatoes figure not only on the menu here (more than once), but also as décor in the minimalist dining room.
4) Palme d’Or
For high-class fine French dining, Palme d’Or, located in Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel, has been consistently rated not just one of Miami’s best restaurants, but one of the finest in all of Florida. Light woods, white tablecloths, chandeliers, and, of course, palm trees create a stylish and classy, yet unstuffy, atmosphere, the perfect location to enjoy a five-course prix fixe menu that utilizes only the freshest seasonal ingredients in ways that elevate traditional French cuisine to modern, envelope-pushing extremes. Appetizers include sea urchin with lemongrass, ginger gelée, and lemon cream; and marinated langoustine with Osetra caviar, passion fruit tapioca, and vodka gelée; entrées include potato-crusted sweetbread with green asparagus, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Ibérico ham, and warm black truffle vinaigrette, and foie gras-stuffed quail with porcini, creamy mash, and black olive sauce.
3) DB Bistro Moderne
When Daniel Boulud puts his name (or, in this case, his initials) on a restaurant, you know it’s going to be good, and in this case he’s exceeded all expectations. The sleek, stylish bistro in downtown’s JW Marriott Marquis features 16-foot ceilings, a posh bar and lounge rich with cream-colored leather, a ground-level terrace, and two private dining rooms. Chef Matthieu Godard’s menu is a mix of classic French, international fare, and modern American, with dishes like Peruvian ceviche next to duck foie gras terrine, with plenty of seafood, homemade pastas, French classics like coq au vin and a côte de boeuf for two, and, of course, the DB Burger, a sirloin burger with braised short rib, foie gras, and black truffle.
2) Michael Mina 74
Located in the heart of the landmark Fontainebleau, this high-end bistro not only offers some of the city’s finest cocktails, including barrel-aged cocktails and punches on tap, it’s also where you’ll find some of the city’s freshest seafood, fresh-caught daily on the hotel’s private boat, the BleauFish. The selection of items served via roving trollies adds a bit of whimsy, as do items like truffle donuts.
1) The Bazaar by José Andrés
Chef José Andrés is one of the country’s finest, and at The Bazaar, which also has a location in Beverly Hills, he’s experimenting with Spanish cuisine in a way nobody else has. Located in a stunning space in South Beach’s SLS Hotel, the Philippe Starck-designed restaurant features playful lounge spaces, an indoor "piazza," and an elegant main dining room. The fascinatingly experimental menu artfully combines the Old World and the new, with everything from Singaporean street food to a "bagels and lox"-inspired cone to smoked oysters to Cuban-inspired coffee-rubbed churrasco pushing the boundaries of fine modern dining. Some call it molecular gastronomy; we call it genius.