Becky Randel

Miami Spice Keeps Things Hot this September

You don't want to miss out on what the city's best restaurants have to offer this month

While the rest of the country eases out of summer, Miami is keeping things hot and spicy. Month two of Miami Spice — when the city's best restaurants come together to offer discounted meals — continues, and the deals are better than ever.

The program, which runs until Sept. 30, goes as follows: participating restaurants (of which there are over 200 this year) offer three-course meals for a set price: $23 for lunch and $39 for dinner.  What they fill those meals with is up to the restaurants, so naturally, certain offerings are better than others.

Below, you'll find some of the best options around town for taking advantage of Spice. Most are on the upscale end of the spectrum (because isn't it more fun to utilize a fixed price on fine dining?), and the list even includes some of the newest, buzziest spots in town.

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Beaker & Gray
One of the hottest restaurants to launch in Miami this year was this industrial-styled Wynwood hangout (a former ice cream factory), opened by two born-and-raised Miamians. Beaker & Gray’s global menu is tapas style, and this month it’s offering some excellent Spice selections. Diners are allowed the choice of two savory dishes and one dessert; and these tapas dishes are a heck of a lot more than a few bites.

Selections include basil ricotta with savory granola, onion compote, and Jamon Serrano; steamed mussels with coconut, saffron, and chorizo; and the Pot de Crème dessert with jivara milk chocolate, chantilly, chocolate, and puffed rice. And if the desire to add-on strikes, the Spanish octopus with cilantro, watermelon, and palmito is a winner.

Reservations can be made here.

Dragonfly Izakaya & Fish Market
Doral is an area of Miami that many have never heard of, other than it being home to the airport. But, this formerly corporate region has recently become home to some of the most exciting food offerings in town. One such restaurant is Dragonfly, a modern Japanese pub that gained fame as the go-to spot for University of Florida students in Gainsville.  Dragonfly's large space, cute Japanese market, and seriously creative food are all the reason you need to head over to Doral.  Their generous Spice menu is just the icing on the cake.  Dive into dishes like Hamachi crudo, pork katsu sandwich, baked sushi, and Kakigori Japanese shaved ice before purchasing some Japanese soda on your way out.

Reservations can be made here.

The Market @The Edition Hotel
Chef Jeremy Ford of The Matador Room at The Edition Hotel may have recently won Top Chef, (and it was well deserved), but it is famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's more casual eatery, The Market, that has caught our eye for Miami Spice.  An excellent place to head to when you feel like just a touch of "scene," but don't want to wear anything but jeans, The Market serves up consistently tasty food, and its Spice menu is no exception.  The restaurant's lunch is particularly attractive — for $23 (and free Wifi), you can choose between an appetizer like tomato gazpacho or three grain salad, an entrée such as the popular mahi mahi sandwich, and a dessert like its decadent chocolate cake.  Dinner steps it up with offerings like calimari, meatballs, seared salmon, and the DO-NOT-PASS-GO sundae with salted caramel ice cream, candied peanuts and popcorn.

Reservations can be made here.

The Restaurants of the Fontainebleau
Every year, the restaurants at the famous Fontainebleau Hotel turn it out for Spice, and every year people flock to get a deal at these swanky outposts. Michael Mina's Strip Steak is staying true to its name, offering a wood grilled 6 oz. filet mignon with jalapeno chimichurri, arugula, and shaved red onion as one of their mains.  Starters include salmon ceviche with citrus, fennel, fresno chili, and pear purée as well as a fresh and sweet roasted baby beets salad with dried cherries, haricot verts, goat cheese, and walnuts. The toughest decision is between the chocolate ganache cake or key lime pie for dessert.

Scott Conant's Scarpetta is a great place to stretch $39.  Start with the creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms, as it's just that amazing. And yes, they're offering beef short rib Agnolotti and oven roasted chicken as mains, but there's really no reason to get anything other than Conant's famous spaghetti. You'll never look at the "basic" pasta the same way away.  The Torta Di Moscato with mascarpone crema & olive oil gelato is a nice take on a classic Italian dessert. The hotel's Cantonese restaurant, Hakkasan (George Clooney loves it) is always a Miami Spice favorite. With four menus including various takes on lunch vs. dinner (this is a great place to head for lunch, btw) as well as two vegetarian offerings, the options are endless and the portions are generous (they actually include four courses).  Whatever you choose, be sure to get some dim sum — it's seriously world-class here.

dB Bistro Moderne
Sometimes when restaurants include a dessert course on its Spice menu, it feels like an unnecessary add-on, but that is most certainly NOT the case at Daniel Boulud's db Bistro. Here, Japanese-born and French-trained pastry chef Saeko Nemoto serves up some serious sugary goodness.  Executive chef Clark Bowen changes the Spice menu every two weeks, so you know they're keeping things fresh. September highlights include trout with green beans, almond grenobloise, and crushed potatoes; mussels with chorizo, piperade, and grilled sourdough; liverwurst with house-made pickles, mustard, and country toast and the aforementioned enchanting desserts such as the peach melba sundae with raspberries, almond crumble, and vanilla ice cream or the banana chocolate bar with coconut sablé, mango crémeux, and guava sorbet.

Reservations can be made here.

Bar Primi at The Dutch
Andrew Carmellini’s trendy New York pasta bar is popping up at The Dutch in Miami this month, and diners can not only indulge in the cooking of chef/partner Sal Lamboglia, they can do so at Spice prices. The restaurant will offer a three-course menu, featuring dishes from Bar Primi’s menu such as Sal’s antipasti salad with salami and provolone; ricotta crostini with truffle honey and hazelnut; and mussels Rosso with peperonata, and garlic focaccia ($6 supplement). Entrees (secondis) include choices like rigatoni alla Norma with roasted eggplant and mozzarella; spinach ricotta cavatelli (Veal Bolognese), and grilled branzino with olive muffaletta.  Head straight to the warm Bombolini with raspberry marmellatta and chocolate sauce for dessert.

Reservations can be made here.

Pao & Los Fuegos at The Faena Hotel
If you haven't yet been to the visual marvel that is the Faena Hotel, now is the time. The new spectacular, part of the three-block development from visionary Alan Faena, features two prominent restaurants from celebrated chefs, both of which are offering very appealing Spice menus.

Pao, from Texan chef Paul Qui (another Top Chef winner) features bold Asian-fusion cuisine in a plush setting. First course options include Filipino ceviche known as Kinilaw with hearts of palm and coconut milk; east side king chicken with sweet chili sauce and roasted banana ketchup; and diver scallops with oxtail consommé (you may add caviar for an additional charge, should you please).  Main course selections include smoked shot rib asado (featuring 72-hour wagyu beef), wild mushroom rice (this is actually a decadent and delicious risotto), or pan roasted grouper filet with ginger rice. Another Filipino dish, the green and coconutty buko pandan, is a fun dessert option. And for an additional $20, you can add on the now-famous Unicorn — a bowl of grilled sweet corn pudding with sea urchin, kalamansi (a citrus), chile, and aioli. This dish really and truly is worth the twenty spot.

The hotel's other offering, Los Fuegos, comes from Argentinian food royalty (and Gwyneth Paltrow buddy), chef Francis Mallmann.  The contemporary asado experience with its open-fire kitchen, is a site to see. First course selections include almond soup with watermelon, pink grapefruit salad with avocado and hazelnuts, and a wood oven empanada with prime fillet (the obvious choice if you eat meat).  Second course choices are wild mushroom and spinach cannelloni (turns out Mallmann knows his way around pasta), local snapper, or skirt steak "a la Parrilla."

Reservations can be made here.

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