A Guide To Miami's Culinary Scene

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By Shayne Benowitz

Miami is a youthful, energetic city with an ever-expanding culinary scene.

Whether you’re here to immerse yourself in Cuban and pan-Latin cuisine and culture or you’re looking to indulge at a flashy hotel restaurant helmed by a celebrity chef, Miami has so much to offer adventurous foodies. There’s also a solid locals scene of homegrown talent redefining what it means to dine out in Miami. Here’s your primer to the city’s exciting culinary scene.

 

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Cuban & Pan-Latin Cuisine

Cuban culture has been fused with Miami since the 1960s when the first wave of immigrants moved to the city en masse. The heart of the Cuban community is found in Little Havana and Versailles has been its gathering place since 1971. This is the place to sample everything from sweet and strong Cuban coffee to the Cuban sandwich (made with honey-glazed ham, marinated pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickles pressed on a crusty Cuban roll) and traditional entrees like ropa vieja (stewed beef) served with served with black beans, rice and sweet plantains.

Over the decades, Miami has become a melting pot of Latin and Caribbean culture including Central and South America. Peruvian food, in particular, is especially popular in Miami and you can indulge in fresh, citrusy ceviche at casual corners and upscale restaurants all over Miami. This signature dish of raw seafood marinated in lime juice with red onions, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro can be sampled in its many varieties at Jaguar Latin American Kitchen. It’s one of Miami’s original Peruvian restaurants. You can also opt for a classic entrée here like lomo saltado, a beef stir fry with onions and peppers.

Authentic Mexican restaurants can be found in Little Havana, Homestead and South Beach. Miami’s also seen a rise in trendy spots offering their version of the street food or cantina-style taco. Try Coyo and Taco Stand in Wynwood and Taquiza, Bodega, Lime and HuaHua’s in South Beach. These spots serve up a range of authentic, traditional tacos, as well as inventive recipes ranging from beef barbacoa to fried chicken tacos.

 

 

    Flashy hotel Restaurants

    At Miami’s glamorous hotel restaurants, the lavish design and buzzy ambiance are just as much a part of the experience as the menu. Take La Mar by Gaston Acurio at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The chic dining room also has an expansive outdoor patio on the water with glittering views of downtown Miami. This upscale Peruvian eatery boasts favorites like clasico ceviche made with fluke, the Nikkei tiradito with both tuna tataki and candied tuna in tamarind leche de tigre and the stir-fried tenderloin lomo saltado. You can’t go wrong with the chef’s tasting menu at $75 to sample a little bit of everything. Their brunch is also outrageous.

    The Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a true foodie’s paradise with three signature restaurants. London import Hakkasan serves haute Cantonese cuisine in a sumptuous setting, while celebrity chef Scott Conant’s simple, yet legendary spaghetti dish is a must-order at Scarpetta. Finally, Stripsteak by Michael Mina is a stylish, glittering, two-level steakhouse helmed by one of the country’s most creative chefs. Indulge in their raw bar’s seafood tower and then move on to your favorite cut of steak or try something different like the lobster pot pie.

    Faena is a palace of opulence, dripping in red velvet, leopard print and gilded flourishes with art by contemporary masters, and its restaurants follow suit. Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann is a carnivore’s dream. The legendary Argentinean grillmaster specializes in flame-fired preparations, including skirt steak with chimichurri sauce crowned by crispy domino potatoes. For inventive pan-Asian cuisine, make a reservation at Pao by James Beard Award-winning Chef Paul Qui. The unicorn dish has earned cult status, made of sea urchin with grilled sweet corn pudding, sake aioli and chili de arbol. From there, opt for anything from Pekin duck to roasted fish to the wagyu ribeye—and don’t skip one of their specialty rice dishes to share.

    One of Miami’s newest luxury hotels is the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club in Surfside. The historic property was once the playground of Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill. The original club was restored by Richard Meier, blending Old Florida glamour with modern architecture. They’ve imported Le Sirenuse, a stunning, family-owned restaurant from Italy’s Amalfi Coast. A true fine dining restaurant, you’ll delight in delicate crudos, pastas and steaks accompanied by some of the best hospitality in the city.

     

     

     

      Celebrity Chefs

      When Jean-Georges Vongerichten is at the helm of the hotel’s food and beverage program, you make a reservation immediately. At The Miami Beach EDITION, snag a table at Matador Room and enjoy the French master’s interpretation of pan-Latin and Caribbean food, ranging from sweet pea guacamole to Florida black grouper tacos and more. For a more casual dining experience, duck into Market just off the hotel’s lobby for black truffle and fontina pizza, kale salads, rigatoni and meatballs and all manner of delicious fare.

      French chef Daniel Boulud recently debuted a new concept at the JW Marriott Marquis downtown with Boulud Sud. Bringing a Mediterranean twist to his classical French cuisine, the menu includes crispy artichokes, Catalan grilled skirt steak, pumpkin and sage agnolotti and Andalusian gazpacho. Housed inside a chic, high-ceilinged dining room, it’s the perfect place for a power lunch or romantic dinner.

      The flamboyant Spanish Chef Jose Andres has opened not one, but two over-the-top, fine dining Spanish restaurants in Miami at the SLS South Beach and SLS Brickell. In South Beach, The Bazaar by Jose Andres celebrates Spanish tapas with an inventive twist that is Andres’ hallmark. Think, tacos made with Iberico ham and caviar, a tiny, light-as-air Cubano sandwich made with molecular techniques inspired by Little Havana’s iconic Versailles and smoked oysters. In Brickell at Bazaar Mar, he’s transformed the concept with an emphasis on seafood.

       

        Locals Only

        When Michael Schwartz opened Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District, he single-handedly ushered in Miami’s farm-to-table movement. The cozy, yet chic restaurant specializes in a well-rounded seasonal menu featuring everything from lamb chops a la plancha to grilled swordfish and kale pizza. The fashionable neighborhood grew up around the restaurant and Schwartz eventually opened Harry’s Pizzeria a few blocks away. The enterprising James Beard Award-winning chef also has Italian restaurant F’ilia at SLS Brickell and the new Amara at Paraiso condominiums in Edgewater overlooking Biscayne Bay.

        Giorgia Rapicavoli made a splash by winning Food Network’s Chopped not once but twice. The Miami chef soon went on to open Eating House in Coral Gables where diners clamor for his creative and hearty dishes, including pasta carbonara with black truffle, Applewood bacon and egg yolk, as well as beef short ribs with charred onions. At brunch, his Cap’n Crunch pancakes with condensed milk, candied cereal and vanilla butter have earned a cult following. His follow-up restaurant, Glass & Vine, is a popular spot in Coconut Grove set in a glasshouse amidst Peacock Park overlooking Biscayne Bay.

        When Chef Jose Mendin and his team opened the original Pubbelly restaurant in South Beach’s Sunset Harbour, they kicked off a modern day renaissance amongst local, homegrown restaurateurs. Specializing in inventive fusion cuisine with a Latin flare, Mendin has gone on to open the wildly popular Pubbelly Sushi in neighborhoods stretching from Aventura to Kendall.

        Dinner at 27 Restaurant at The Freehand hotel is one of the best ways to get a taste of today’s local South Beach dining scene. Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta have created an eclectic and cozy restaurant inspired by the melting pot of cultures and fresh flavors in Miami. It’s the follow-up to their wildly popular Broken Shaker cocktail bar, which is also on the property. At 27, you’ll find everything from Gabe’s arepa platter to tostones and yucca fries inspired by Latin American cuisine. The crispy pork shoulder griot and pickles dish is a taste of Haiti. And there are plenty of Mediterranean and Israeli dishes to choose from, like Elad’s stewed tomato and baked egg shakshuka.

         

         

         

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