Miami Restaurants Bet On Better-For-You Menus

Le Jardinier

Maine Lobster Roll at Le Jardinier

Nave

Steak & Potato at Nave

Planta

Planta

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By: Lee Brian Schrager, Founder and Director, SOBEWFF

New Year’s resolutions may have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean Miami residents have given up on getting healthy. In fact, thanks to consumers who continue to crave all things green, vegetable-forward and overall healthier restaurant concepts are springing up around the city, even appealing to the most carnivorous crowd.

Le Jardinier
Le Jardinier

Le Jardinier

The incredibly popular Le Jardinier, conceptualized by Michelin-starred Chef Alain Verzeroli, brings an upscale experience for diners looking to get their veggies in. Located in the Miami Design District, the restaurant concept extends what Chef Verzeroli views as Miami’s healthy, active lifestyle to fine dining.

“Of course, after living 18 years in Japan, where eating highly seasonal ingredients is key to your daily routine, it became quite natural for me to create a concept like Le Jardinier, as it is the way I like to eat myself,” says Chef Verzeroli. “I’ve noticed that very often here in the U.S., the vegetables are considered as a side dish while the main concern is the protein. I wanted to reverse this approach and give the seasonal vegetables the main ‘role’ in the dish conception.”

Rooted in classic French technique, plants play a prominent role in the menu. Look for dishes that include heirloom beets, roasted cauliflower, pearled barley, lemongrass, parsnips and honeynut squash just to name a few. Even dishes with salmon, chicken and lobster feature a variety of vegetables and fruit accompaniments that add a twist to classic flavors.

And the better-for-you experience doesn’t stop with the main course. According to Verzeroli, thanks to the restaurant’s talented corporate Pastry Chef, Salvatore Martone, the ice cream for Le Jardinier made with plant-based milk (rice, oat or cashew) is even more delicious than the milk-based kind. He also touts the gluten-free bread program created by in-house master baker, Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

Planta Burger
Planta Burger

Planta

Patrons looking for a totally animal-free plate can head to South Beach’s South of Fifth (SoFi) neighborhood for an innovative 100%-plant based menu at Planta. Chef David Lee, Planta’s Executive Chef and Co-Founder, says of the restaurant, “Providing a plant-based dining experience for everyone to enjoy was my inspiration. I developed a menu through my travels and was inspired by plant-based ingredients. We work closely with farmers here in Florida who provide us with fresh and trending ingredients.”

Items like cauliflower tots with truffle almond parmesan, or the famous Planta burger topped with queso, dill pickles and chipotle aioli, will have even meat lovers’ mouths watering.

Chef Benjamin Goldman, Planta’s Chef de Cuisine, adds, “Overall, people are paying closer attention to their own wellbeing nowadays. A lot of it has to do with mainstream culture, like celebrities and documentaries raising awareness on what we're consuming. Miami has always been known for its fit, beautiful people, so appealing to the fitness crowd is something the food scene has always aimed to do. Now, with the rise of wellness, restaurants are seeking to not only help guests reach their fitness goals, but to give them all the vitamins and nutrients they need and then some.”

Navé
Nave

Navé

Eating healthy and fresh doesn’t have to limit diners to only vegan or vegetable-forward concepts. Chef Michael Beltran, whose personal health journey is one that inspired his menu at Ariete in Coconut Grove, has applied his focus on fresh ingredients to his latest restaurant concept, Navé, featuring smartly-sourced and simply elegant seafood and pasta dishes.

Beltran says of his latest venture, “The menu was built to really highlight amazing seafood. The pasta part of the menu only made sense while developing the menu with my Chef/Partner Justin Flit to highlight his talents and love for pasta. I think that fresh items and clean eating is a product of frequent dining out, which is amazing. People are looking to eat out more often and that means they want cleaner options - like seafood and pasta.”

Seafood standouts include caviar panna cotta, clam pizza, octopus with ‘nduja vinaigrette, and scallops a la plancha, while pasta dishes such as bucatini with clams, rigatoni with bottarga, and wild boar ravioli round out the menu.

He adds, “Miami is a city that you will never pin to one thing. We have an incredible melting pot of cultures and people. The chefs that are really adopting what Miami offers from a produce and landscape perspective are the ones that are representing the city the best.”

Planta's Dining Room
Planta's Dining Room

Healthier Beverages

And, it’s not just food that’s getting healthier. Better-for-you beverages and Low ABV cocktails (also known as low proof) are a growing segment of the drinks category for imbibers who want to stay social, sans the buzz.

At Navé for example, the restaurant offers several low ABV cocktails like the Honeymoon in Turin made with chamomile infused cocchi americano, native guy wildflower honey, Benedictine, bitters, and Mediterranean tonic; and the Spritz Siciliano made with blood orange and juniper infused Aperol, sparkling wine, agua gasificada. For lunch, there’s a spritz of the day that changes at least once a week along with other low-ABV cocktails that the bar team creates weekly.

At Le Jardinier, instead of offering a classic "Amuse Bouche" just before the beginning of the meal, guests can enjoy an alternative " Amuse Juice" based on fresh fruits and/or vegetable juice combined with herbs and spices. According to Chef Verzeroli, “This Detox juice serves as a delicious and very logical way to begin your experience at Le Jardinier.”

Chef Goldman of Planta adds, “As the health and fitness communities continue to grow, those who are becoming more health conscious aren’t drinking as much alcohol anymore. It’s in our best interest to create non-alcoholic options that are still creative and delicious.”

SIDEBAR: Chefs’ Guilty Pleasure Go-To’s

If you think these top chefs are all about clean eating, check out what they said when asked to share their favorite guilty food pleasures!

Chef Michael Beltran - Frosty and fries from Wendy’s
Chef Alain Verzeroli – I’m totally consumed with dark chocolate
Chef Benjamin Goldman – Cheeseburgers (Plant-based of course!)
Chef David Lee – Snacking on chips is my favorite!

Read More:

Happy Vegan Bakers
Best Miami Farmers Markets
Where To Eat Healthy Food In Miami
The Best Places To Explore Miami’s One-Of-A-Kind Farm-To-Table Cuisine

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