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TOP MIAMI SPICE

I just got through perusing many of the lunch menus for Miami Spice thanks to the link LAX2MIA provided...and I am wondering not only who has the best menus, but more importantly who has the best execution of said Spice menu.

Here are some intitial observations: why do some places only offer 2 or even just one in the case of Pascal's lunch choices? This really ought to be uniform to participate, no? 3 apps, 3 entrees and 3 desserts seem to be the norm. Some offer just a soup or salad for an app? Is that really an app? It used to be considered a standard fare with your meal deal soup or salad, and still is in many places outside of this place!

Having only looked at the lunch menus, and mind you not all of them, I look forward to checking one out today for lunch. Any feedback you send that can steer me away from making a bad choice or solidify my sentiment would be most appreciated.

Emeril's - I know he's a chain, but the lunch menu looks very interesting! Anyone been lately? Spice or otherwise?

Mark's - looks ok for lunch too...any recent feedback from that hidden sobe gem?

Timo - although scaled down to just 2 choices for each course looks like a winner to me. However there has been much bashing of this place here on CH as of late.

Cacao - looks devine and I have heard amazing things about this place from a neighbor of mine. Unfortunately, they do not do Saturday lunch which is what I have been searching for since 8am! I guess that's what makes me a true chowhound?

Talula-looks good, but come on guys just one choice? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeze!

Pascal's-again, just one choice? Something tells me the entree is good, but not being a francophone and not being fluent in their cuisine due to a serious lack of it here it the MIA, I have no idea what it is!

Looking forward to hearing your TOP SPICE stories. Bon appetit Miami!

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  1. I had a delectable meal at The Setai.
    The new chef has changed the menu and I heard that the price points on the regular menus will lower soon as well!
    My companion and I split an order of shumai (better then Mr. Chu's, thank you very much) and a crunchy green papaya salad. Both entrees (the split roasted chicken and the beef redang) were exquisitely prepared and presented. The menu features food from Asian countries and in our meal Chinese, Indian and Indonesian dishes were featued. (The chefs from the featured countries literally prepare the dishes right next to you in the open kitchen). The chicken was accompanied by a compartment of cauliflower and potato, spicy sauce and rice. The beef redang (lovingly presented by our Indonesian waiter) featured sticky white rice, a fiery veggie concoction and anchovies and peanuts. The meal was beautifully capped with a pandan panacotta that was as light and unusual and delicious as anything I've had in recent memory.

    Beautiful meal and surroundings. And what a deal!

    4 Replies
    1. re: chocolada

      That menu actually caught my eye! I went in there the other day just snooping around, WOW what a place! Really cool ambiance...I think you just made up my mind for me-thanks chocolada!

      1. re: chocolada

        Freaky food at the Setai Asian Restaurant. Is that Papaya salad the same one I see on countless Thai menus? It is scrumtous! I hope it's not just my wishful thinking? They had a Coconut & Lemon Grass slow cooked Beef on the menu for lunch today that was amazing. My guest took one bite and was not at all into it. I gladly gave up my Spitfire Chicken for the Beef...the desserts were interesting too! I'll be honest, those are flavours I had never tasted before. Love those $6 iceteas...they were a little slow on the refills for that price!

        $72 for lunch out the door with 2 teas, tax and service of 18%. My guest said that Papaya salad was $20 in the regular menu? Can that be the same one I see for $7 on every Thai menu in town? Someone please tell me yes! It stands to reason if the tea was 3x as much...

        Service was so-so. I am not a big fan of the team approach to service where there's a front and a back waiter, or a capitain and/or a ??? I never know who's in charge!

        The ambiance really takes center stage at this place. We had a great two top overlooking the meditation pool.

        Their Grill (only open for dinner) does a completely different menu and FYI, their pool bar restaurant had a totally different menu for Spice going on for lunch.

        1. re: netmover

          I looked at the Setai's regular menu on menupages.com and yes indeed that is a $20 papaya salad app.

          Net, I disagree that there should be any requirement or expectation that restuarants offer multiple choices. The tradition of a reasonably priced "prix fixe" lunch is a longstanding one, and it is not unusual at all for it to be one set menu. Doesn't particularly bother me unless it's not an interesting menu, and then I'll just skip the place.

          And an "estouffade of beef" is just a beef bourguignon, or, even more simply: beef stew. Mighty heavy for a summer lunch, but cheap to produce. The Pascal's menu (and mind you, I like the place) is a classic example of the "how can I do this as cheaply as possible?" approach - soup of the day (whatever vegetables are looking a little tired); beef bourguignon (use the trimmings from the choicer bits), and rice pudding (how much do rice & cream cost?)

          On the other hand, Talula's lunch sounds great - spinach bacon & manchego empanadas, snapper w/ wild mushroom potato hash, and banana-chocolate bread pudding? Too bad I'm never on the beach for lunch.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            Agreed, they all should do a pre fixe throughout the year. However this is a special event for these places and it makes sense that they highlight their best dishes, even if they must scale down it's size so the numbers work. The benefit of offering more than one dish for these places is that they can showcase more of their arsenal and we benefit in trying multiple dishes. Wherever we go, we try to sample different dishes so we can better understand the place. We try to avoid ordering the same thing. One pre fixe does not allow for the above, in fact if you do not eat beef Pascal's Spice menu is ruled out all together!

            Hey, I'm just happy we're having this discussion! Poor folks in Broward, and the rest of the state for that matter, gotta come to the bottom to savour the Spice!

      2. Just got back from Talula for dinner last night. The choices looked pretty decent online with at least 2 choices in each category.

        Appetizers: ricotta salata-fig tart/shrimp risotto
        Entree: panko crusted grouper with truffle oil/hanger steak/pan roasted chicken
        Dessert: smores/key lime pie

        Thing started off very well. The appetizers were both very good. I preferred the shrimp risotto but the tart was also very flavorful. The risotto was topped with 3 well cooked crispy, garlicky shrimp and the risotto itself was well prepared. The entrees were a little weak. The grouper was a dish of cliches--panko crusted with truffle oil. Not sure if the truffle oil added or took away. Worse than that, my piece was over cooked. Tough, stringy, dry. I noticed that other people's portions looked better prepared though. The cous cous was good. The hanger steak was a bit overcooked more medium-well than the ordered medium but very flavorful. Desserts were both good with maybe the smores winning out. We were also talked into the one of the baked pasta side dishes (dressed up mac n cheese) which was decent but not as good as the waiter made it sound. Appetizers and dessert were solid, the entrees were hit and miss. No attitude by the waitstaff for picking the Miami Spice menu. I think my grouper dish was just a misfire but I'd be interested to hear what other people think.

        Sounds like Setai is the winner so far.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Porthos

          We just went to Talula tonight, not particularly for Miami Spice. Sat at the kitchen table, one of the kitchen chefs asked if we were there for Miami Spice - when we said no, just a regular visit, he let out an unguarded "Thank God!" Watching the kitchen, it is pretty remarkable to see just how much Spice is a draw. I would say that at least 9 of every 10 orders was from the Spice menu. Chef also said it had been pretty dead through July, as if people were waiting for Spice. Place was packed tonight - we were there fairly early and it was already half-filled, completely filled out within half an hour and then was backed up with folks waiting at the bar when we left.

          Did several apps and one main - soup (corn & leek chowder - delicious, the soups there are always great); caesar salad (also done very well there, but this one had a little too much softer romaine for me and not enough crispy); tuna tartare (they do a good rendition); scallop (a nice pair perfectly grilled over a little pumpkin pancake and some smoky, hammy lentils); and pork chop (big old Fred Flinstone bone-in chop w/ a grainy mustard sauce; an onion stuffing was a little oozy and superfluous; scarlet runner beans were a nice accompaniment along w/ some garlicky sauteed spinach). It's been a little while since we've been here and the food is still excellent.

          Service was almost a little too attentive - please don't ask every time before pouring the wine and show me the bottle again, just keep pouring until it's gone! - but certainly better than being ignored. But speaking of wine, their wine list, which used to be a pretty good one, has really gotten out of whack in the pricing. First, there is absolutely nothing - I mean nothng - under $45. And, those that are $45 are wines that retail for $10-12. And, there's just not that many good wines under $100.

          For lack of seeing anything that looked like any kind of reasonable price, I went with a $75 2000 bordeaux from St. Estephe that I'd never heard of, figuring "good vintage, decent region, how wrong can I go?". Well ... not awful, but nothing particularly interesting or endearing about it at all. I'm not sure what could sell this wine other than that it is a 2000 bordeaux. Can't find it sold anywhere in the States and can't find the wine reviewed anywhere either. Oh, and the kicker - there's a European retailer selling it for 11.40 euro (=$15). I just paid a 5x markup for a mediocre bottle of wine! This just really frosts my ass and I would have tried to say something to Andrea or Frank if it hadn't been so busy.

          The smores from the Spice dessert choices looked pretty good by the way.

          1. re: Frodnesor

            That's too funny TP! 5x is a freaking abomanation. I recently read the owner saying his business was down 7% this year! Blamed it on competition? Maybe he's his own worst enemy! Volume does wonders for the bottom line. Sell that bottle at 2.5x cost and sell 2.5 more bottles...even that's too much if they really want to pump 'em out. I cannot understand why they would not want to? Let's say they went with 2x, that'd be 45, they're still pocketing 30 bucks for twisting out a cork and pouring 4 glasses! That's a heck of a lot more then they'll make on their entrees profitwise where there's a heck of a lot more labor involved. + maybe you'd have bought two!

            1. re: netmover

              What's strange about it is that the food pricing actually remains pretty reasonable, by South Beach standards at least. With the exception of a couple steaks, there was nothing over $30 in the entrees. There's just a complete disconnect with the wine list. Very frustrating.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Any chance they changed the wine list to make up for lack of sales from the Spice menu?

                btw...went to Michy's last night with a party of 10. There was no mention of the spice menu being an option and we didn't ask for it either. I think given the nature of the menu, they really don't need a spice version but shouldn't they at least let diners know it is available?

                1. re: scscr

                  No, I recall the wine list being overpriced the last couple visits as well. Subconsciously, this may have been one of the reasons Talula's not been regular rotation for us lately.

                  A little odd Michy's isn't mentioning the Spice menu since they are listed as a participant.

            2. re: Frodnesor

              Sorry Frod, seems at 1am I confused you for TP? Not sure how that happened...

          2. I'm on a roll today. Spice Lunch and Dinner! See Setai Asian lunch review above. For dinner tonight we went to the ole standby OLA...and were we sure glad we did! My guest was bumming about the Setai lunch, it was a little too foreign for our(mine to a much lesser extent) Miami taste buds. Of Latin America did not dissappoint. Dougie Rodriguez has created a solid menu for this event. One that showcases his style and genre while at the same time appears to be economically sound from a business point of view.

            Ham Croquetas with a Parmasean Ice Cream? My guest was so famished from the lack of lunch, those 4 stubby croquttes were gone in a blink of an eye! Fortunately I was spared some of that Ice Cream which I proceeded to mop up with their amazing version of Colombian Pan. A taste of ice cream and croqueta would have been nice but was not in my cards tonight. The Sololmillo with the Rioja reduction stole the show and I did muscle in on a taste or two. My guest wants to repeat that meal as soon as Monday! I went for the Baby Paella keeping in stride with my routine of multiple tastings, next time all bets are off as the Tenderloin was too good! Desserts were strong, if a little budget minded. Cup of fruit with cream and a rolled chocolate cake. 1 vino blanco and 1 $18 Bellini and we were out the door for a buck 30 with tax and 18% tip included. This menu was well executed.

            6 Replies
            1. re: netmover

              Net>

              Two $35 Miami Spice dinners are "a buck 30 with tax and 18% tip included..."

              ::sigh::

              I have to say I have my own "reservations" about Miami Spice, and reading the posts on chowhound that report snide waitstaff comments and skimpy choices on featured menus makes my fears harder to overcome. My workweek is hard enough that I do not want to risk a treasured weekend out feeling like a Punter at the mercy of some resentful server. A long time ago, I accompanied a friend to a neighborhood Chinese restaurant and she wanted us to order from the set menu (Chinese Spice is "one from column A and one from Column B"). The waiter spoke little English and struggled to understand the orders. We pointed and nodded and smiled until he wrote down our choices. Once he was done, we started to resume our conversation only to hear him turn to the kitchen window and shout, "TWO CHEAP, one wonton, one eggdrop..."

              This has become our anthem when ordering from set menus. That "AH-HA" moment in the red lacquered Skylake restaurant when a guy who didn't speak English called out TWO CHEAP...

              Last night we ended up driving past the Miami Spice options in favor of the REAL Miami Spice in North Miami - Cuban food. We downed 2 delicious mojitos with creamy ham croquettes while the kitchen slashed and flash-fried 2 giant red snappers and served them with sweet bananas, rich black beans and steamed rice. We ate til we were ready to burst and left the gracious waiter a generous tip. Total for a great Saturday night out?

              Fifty bucks.

              For me - the real "Miami Spice" is TOO CHEAP to pass up...

              AG

              1. re: advisor_Girl

                OH!

                In case you're in North Miami and feeling hungry - Little Havana. 12727 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami. (305) 899-9069 Just north of 125th Street.

                NB: The dining room toward the back of the restaurant is much nicer than the room to the right of the front door...

                AG

                1. re: advisor_Girl

                  We love Little Havana. You get great food at great prices!!! I highly suggest trying this place if you want really good cuban food.

                2. re: advisor_Girl

                  Nice take AG! Obviously, I was thinking about the value factor last night when I realized Ham Croquetas cost like 50 cents or maybe a buck each per order. Ya, they were the best my guest ever scarfed down, but still what did they cost to put out, 1, 2 maybe 3 bux?

                  This Miami Spice is not a cheap night or day out on the town, not with the price of beverages on SOBE that is. One thing TP mentioned I found interesting, sorry my bad Frod mentioned (at 1am I must not have been seeing too clearly?) Talula empty in July, full in August with 9 out of ten diners ordering Spice and the chef letting out an unguarded sigh of 'thank God' upon learning they were NOT there for the Spice menu. On the one hand they should be thrilled to death they're full and on the other hand they were obviously NOT. Your 50 bux compared to my 200 dollar Spice day that comes along with the "two cheap" or should I say "too cheap" resentful attitude of staff reminds me of the old cliche 'a fool and his money soon part ways'!

                  I have to say though, at no time in either the Setai, nor in OLA were we made to feel that way. Mind you, this is the first weekend. BTW, Setai presented us with two menus, OLA incorporated SPICE within theirs (1st page in fact). I think Dougie has created himself a profitable little money making menu, so why not put it front row center?

                  Anyhow, I think what this does is gets people out to these places in a painfully slow time of year who ordinarily would not go. Honestly, I doubt you'd catch me doing the Setai for Lunch and OLA for dinner the same day.

                  I think it's win/win, now if only staff and ownership would see it that way too!

                  1. re: netmover

                    Let me be clear - I think the "Thank God" was not so much "Thank God, a $50/head instead of a $35/head" as much as "Thank God, if I have to turn out one more risotto/hanger steak/smore I'm going to shoot someone". We're there often, the guy recognized us, and I just thought it was funny more than anything else (I should also note he wanted to comp us a dessert but we were too full). Every restaurant owner and even most line cooks are probably happier being busy than having an empty restaurant, but when you see them working you can understand how it can get tiresome. I can tell you they were busting their butts to get a quick second turn of the tables though.

                    AG, the "TWO CHEAP" story is a classic.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Just got taken back to The Setai again for lunch today. Service was off and the lunch wasn't as wonderful as the first experience. A lot can be said for continuity....

              2. Talula proved to live up to their hype! Thanks to all the chowhounders who have recommened this place in the past.

                No reservations on a Saturday night is not a good idea, however 4 prime seats magically opened up at the bar where we had drinks and a couple of very solid apps. Octopus and Tuna Tartar were both right on. My friend asked for a vodka redbull, which apparently they don't carry(redbull). I can't imagine why in this day and age when that drink seems to be synonmous with the new millenium. Anyway, the barkeep was sharp and quickly redirected our attention to Patron's Expresso Tequilla. I must say, not being a big fan of the spirit to begin with, I was intrigued and went for it...wow is all I can say, it was actually very pleasing to the palette. Much better than the libation solo.

                After about an hour, we secured the prime four top in the back. The Spice empanada and ceviche apps were both great. The Spice Menu was front row and center along with the main menu. The petit filet was 86'd right after we ordered it and they were quick to sub a skirt steak which granted is a lesser cut of beef, but I got to give them kudos for subbing out a different beef rather than not offering any red meat option. It too was good as was the Wahoo I choose. This is by far one of my favorite local fish and not very easy to find on the menus of most places down here. They cut it nice and thick and the miso glaze with the wasabi apple mashed potatoes were a nice accompaniment. Service was a little off, but it was the last seating of what was a very busy Saturday night. Another guest chose the Snapper entree off the regular menu and that was really good too.

                The flan excelled and the bread pudding flailed in it's dryness.

                This place has one of the best reputations in town on this board and rightfully so.

                1 Reply
                1. re: netmover

                  sip it as you would a cafecito is my one caveat regarding the teq/exp concoction feedback above...salud!

                2. Anyone tried the China Grill's Spice?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: netmover

                    Not this summer, but the items are all regular menu items incl. some of my favorites (calamari salad) and I think it's a pretty decent deal.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      China Grill was a good choice 4 spice...thanks for the last minute tip Fro. I have had it in the past and forgot how good it really is. It was like a shrub! Signature caliber for sure.

                      Our server seemed like a fellow chowhound so we just went with her guidance. 1st thing out of her mouth was calamari salad followed by dumplings....yummy x 2! She also suggested the skirt steak, tuna and pasta which were all stellar.

                      Desserts were very solid in deed. Bananas ??? and another tower of ???

                      This sobe standby just moved way up on the TOP SPICE chart.

                      Enter your votes now...and may you have a Spice y September!

                      1. re: netmover

                        My Azul experience was good! I expected mediocrity and received polite service, no scamming, and delicious food!