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Jan 5, 2007 03:16 PM

Which Miami restaurants have "found their rhythm"?

Going by the standard truism that most new restaurants take at least a year to show their true colors, are there any restaurants opened in the last year or two that were harshly judged on this board and in the court of public opinion but that recent experiences have shown to be much better? How about those that roared out of the gate but have petered out?

I'm thinking first and foremost about Michy's as I've recently seen alot of positive reviews but it was savaged on here. I think it might finally be time to try it. Any other places come to mind?

Restaurant at the Setai
Creek 28
Mr Chu's
Lido at the Standard
Ginger Grove
Restaurant Brana
La Cofradia

Any others I'm missing, please comment as well.

Also, if you ate at a place soon after it opened and were disappointed, would you try it again, or are there just too many options out there to risk being disappointed again?

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  1. I love this post. It's a great break from the "I'm coming to South Beach, where should I eat" posts.

    You've got a good list so here's comments on the places I've been:

    Michy's - I think she's found her groove. Last two visits were great.

    Social - both of my visits were disasters, food, service, everything. Don't know if I'll give it a third try.

    Vix - I think it's about done.

    Spiga - hasn't this place been around for years?

    Creek 28 - only went once but it had its act together. Hope it can survive the out of south beach boundary location.

    Madiba - food and service were good, but damn expensive.

    Mr Chu's - They've got dim sum down compared to other places in Miami.

    Ginger Grove - had its act together from day one; however, all visits always found a half empty dining room. Hope it can weather out slow season.

    Restaurant Brana - the location is odd as I keep remembering the awful crepe restaurant that occupied it prior. You can tell the chef takes time and care with food and menu and service is great. This one should be a keeper.

    Sheba - food always comes out cold. Service this past time was very good, however, there were very loud and intrusive bellydancers. Still consider it expensive for what is basically stews.

    1 Reply
    1. re: lax2mia

      Re: Spiga - Yes it has been around awhile, I was thinking of something else - Vida in the Gables.

    2. That's so funny, I was just thinking of doing a "Have you tried these 'new' places yet?" post. My 2c based on those I've been to:

      Michy's - I thought this place was unfairly bashed (here) in the first place; it can be somewhat hit or miss, but the food is pretty inspired, often quite good, and certainly different than what you'll find most other local places. I continue to believe that much of your experience depends on how you order, as we have had some really awful things there (the conch done escargot style, the brussel sprout salad that accompanies the duck, the greasy fatty lamb ribs) but some that are exceptional (the white gazpacho, tuna tartare, short ribs, sweetbreads). Sometimes that will happen when a chef is willing to go out on a limb (although I would agree it's a little more common than you'd expect, particularly given the raves the place generates in mainstream media). Nonetheless I go back pretty regularly and will continue to do so.

      Social - tried this once about 3-4 months ago and have no particular interest in going back, at least not for a dinner. Fun place to hang out though.

      Setai - had a drink at the bar, looked at the menu and couldn't afford without taking out a second mortgage. Know at least 2 couples who have gone and say it's a pretty special experience. At those prices it better be.

      Vix - went about 6 months ago, the menu looked fantastic, but the actual execution was just nondescript and boring. Disappointing and very pricey.

      Mr. Chu's - dim sum is outstanding, this is a regular rotation place for us now.

      Brana - went once shortly after they opened, really ought to go back and give it another chance. They're clearly trying hard and take what they do seriously, but nothing really jumped out at me when we were there. I'm certainly not writing the place off, but will withhold judgment until I can try it again.

      Cofradia - I've had a couple lunches there, it's pretty interesting stuff, but not a place I yearn for. In fairness, this could be a product of the whole "familiarity brings contempt" syndrome - it's about 20 yards from my office, so during the day I want to get a little further away, and at night I don't want to head back to my office for dinner.

      Sheba - haven't eaten in the restaurant for some time, but have gotten take-out a couple times. Pretty tasty, and certainly different and a nice change of pace. Expensive for what it is (basically stews made from quite inexpensive ingredients). The drawback of take-out is that the travel time allows the clarified butter to separate from the stew and you can see just how much grease you're eating.

      Vida, by the way, is already gone, and I believe that Mama Lila's Bistro has taken that space.

      I'd also include:

      La Goulue - had a very nice meal there a few weeks after it opened. Haven't been back since but am looking forward to it.

      Canela Cafe - pretty charming little spanish/cuban place on Biscayne around 50th. The food was good not great but I got a kick out of it and would go back for a casual meal.

      El Carajo - I've talked up this place before and will continue to do so - fantastic little tapas bar in the back of the Citgo station on 17th and US1. See earlier post:

      Cheen Huaye - New Yucatanean place on Biscayne near 163rd. Been twice already - the sopa de lima is delicious, the cochinita pibil quite nice, seems like a seriously authentic place. Prevously mentioned here:

      Sushi House - also on Biscayne near 163rd. I thought it was pretty good, especially the maki, my spouse was not as impressed, and sentiment seems to be mixed:

      Oishi - also same neighborhood. We've not had the Thai food, but do sushi (and the Nobu-knock-off dishes which the chef learned while working there). The Nobu-knock-offs are pretty darn good, the sushi has been somewhat hit or miss (not terrible, just not always great).

      Karma - (Coral Gables) reasonably decent semi Nuevo-Chinese with sushi rolls too. I've never been to a PF Chang but I imagine this is what it must be like. Inside of the place looks like it wants to be a nightclub. No great shakes but a decent lunch if you happen to be there.

      Max's Place (Coral Gables) - woops, already gone. Went there for a few lunches, decent but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

      To add a few others I haven't tried (and haven't heard much about yet from the CH's):

      8 1/2
      Astor (w/ Johnny Vincenz back) (can't wait to get there
      O Asian
      Duo (have heard fantastic things)
      Karu & Y

      You raise an interesting question as to when I'll go back to a place that didn't impress first time around. There are definitely some places I immediately write off, and others that I'll give another shot. I've never really thought about why, but if I try to, I suspect it depends on whether the failings appear to be a result of failure to care, or just failure to execute. Price also plays into the mix.

      Vix, for instance, had all the pizazz, the menu sounded great, but nothing actually tasted like much (other than the bread basket with indian dips, which was quite good). I doubt anyone had actually tasted anything before it was sent out. At those prices, I have very little tolerance for failure.

      On the other hand, at Brana it's abundantly clear that everyone there really cares about making great food. I was not knocked out by everything I had there (although the pork belly with peanut & px sherry reduction was great) but I will give it another chance.

      1. I'd say social, mr chu's from your list insofar as sobe locations. I would add to that list sardinia. I have not been to creek 28 & setai (which I hear got lots better recently). I have not been to quattro since it started getting busy so I cannot really say if the food is any different there than it was when I tried it twice a few months ago.

        Madiba has gotten worse since it opened and is merely good but overpriced now...

        1. Brana is fabulous! I'm happy you all seem to have heard of it; most people to whom I've recommended the place haven't. I think part of the prob is that it's totally self-financed by the chef/owners, no backers, so no p.r. machine hyping the place. But they've also had problems getting all except one of the concierges in nearby fancy hotels to recommend them to guests-- which is a big chunk of business-- because of underhanded vindictive nastiness: The hostess of the very famous, established restaurant in which they both used to work has evidently been bad-mouthing them (saying they stole staff and other crap) and throwing her weight around to get them basically blacklisted. Too bad. Some famous chefs are very supportive of their young protegees when they strike out on their own-- like Allen Susser is a renowned nice guy in this respect-- and others immediately start back-biting... Cooking as a competitive sport. Yuck.

          Vix was fabulous when it first opened, because the original chef (who conceived the menu concept and dishes), James Wierzelewski, was [1] a humongous food geek; [2] very well-traveled in a useful way-- worked as a chef in all the countries whose cuisine he cooked and, possessing an analytical mind, was able to synthesize the different cuisines' essences and use that in his own very personal but also very evocative creations; [3] hugely enthused for, like, the first year he was there; and [4] was well-supported by the Victor Hotel's owners re. space, equipment, astonishing ingredients to play with, etc. But eventually there was a major falling-out; he walked out; and the restaurant went downhill.

          1. Brana apparently is gone. Although I did get the feeling that care was taken with the food, I really did not have a desire to return after the first visit visit.

            I have eaten dinner at La Cofradia three times; many months ago and then this past Friday and Saturday nights. The restaurant is physically striking, the service excellent. The food is more Peruvian influenced than Peruvian with some exceptions. Every dish we had was very good to excellent. It is a bit pricey, but it is a high end location. It is the only place I have been to that served its single-malt scotch in single malt scotch glasses. It seems somebody is really trying.