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Jan 9, 2008 08:31 AM

Miami in March

We are heading to Miami in March and I was starting my restaurant search. You all helped me out last year with recommendations and we had some great meals (we ate at Table 8, Chispa, Michy's, Nemo, Blue Door at Delano, River Oyster Bar).
I noticed that Chispa in Coral Gables was now closed and wondered if the one in Doral is as good and worth going to. We are staying at the Ritz Key Biscayne and it looked like it might be a bit far.
We are definitely going to go back to Table 8 but other than that need new recommendations.
Is Sardinia Enoteca worth going to? Or is Casa Tua still recommended?
We are not interested in steak places or Joe's Stone Crab.
How about sushi? Is O Asian worth it? Does Nobu sitll not take reservations? How about Azul in the Mandarin?
Thanks in advance!

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  1. First of all you should do sunday brunch right where you are staying if you can.

    Sardinia is quite a bit better and far cheaper than casa tua.

    O Asian is ehh. Nobu does not take reservations.

    I would do Francesco's, Ortanique and Talula if I were you. You also have enough time to reserve Romeo's Cafe which I have not been in a long time but was excellent. If you can swing the res at Romeo's I would do it first...

    1. I have not been to the Doral Chispa but even if it's equal to the Gables location, I wouldn't drive out to Doral for it.

      If you liked Table 8 I'd highly recommend Talula. Husband/wife chef team, interesting food, kitchen is almost always hitting all the right notes, though service can sometimes be flaky (welcome to South Beach); a bit more laid back, less scene-y than Table 8.

      I like Sardinia quite a bit. Very nice vegetable, cheese and salumi antipasti, some good pastas, nice focus on regional Sardinian dishes. I haven't tried as many of their entrees. For better or worse (I tend to think worse), the menu was updated fairly recently and it seems they are adding more "generic" Italian dishes (witness the mozzarella and tomato salad, carpaccio, veal milanese ...).

      Haven't been to Casa Tua but many people say it's overpriced and overrated.

      Don't know about O Asian. Nobu still doesn't take reservations, except possibly for large groups. There's no knockout sushi on the beach (Nobu's is good but the highlight there is more the cooked foods), but I've been to Bond Street in the Townhouse Hotel a couple times and thought it was pretty good.

      Been a long time since I've ben to Azul (not since Michelle Bernstein left).

      1. Judging from your track record you'll probably enjoy Michael's Genuine in the Design District. If you're here on the 2nd Saturday of the month there's an art walk in the area so you could probably make a night out of it if you like.

        28 Replies
        1. re: lax2mia

          I did come across Michael's Genuine and it looked right up our alley. Talula has also been on the short list, so we'll probably try that as well. What is Francesco's and Romeo's? What type of food. If you don't recommend Chispa, is there another tapas place you think is better? Thanks!

          1. re: sibeats

            Francesco's is Peruvian.

            Romeo's is Italian.

            It's not so much that I wouldn't recommend Chispa as that I don't think it's worth the schlep.

            I thought the tapas at Xixon on Coral Way were excellent.

            Romeo's Cafe
            2257 Coral Way, Coral Gables, FL 33145

            Francesco Restaurant
            325 Alcazar Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

            2101 SW 22nd St, Miami, FL 33145

            1. re: Frodnesor

              Emphatically agree on not worth the drive part, especially with many better restaruants that are closer...

              1. re: Frodnesor

                I didn't think Chispa was a tapas place. If it was, it was probably more Latin American inspired tapas than Spanish. Xixon is unequivocably Spanish tapas (some classic, some modern). It's not as upscale as Chispa but it's honest, loud and fun. Plus you pick a wine from the shop and corkage is $10 or $15. It'd be good for a mellow night out in a less touristy part of Miami.

                1. re: lax2mia

                  Chispa was definitely tapas, not sure of the Latin American/Spanish distinction, but it had many of the same types of things on the menu at Xixon. Do you know if Xixon takes reservations?

                  1. re: sibeats

                    Really? I always thought Chispa was more Latin American/Caribbean. Oh well.

                    Xixon takes reservations. You'll need them, especially on a Friday or Saturday. Just to manage your expectations, it's a mom and pop tapas place. But it feels like you're in Spain (aside from the fact that there's no smoking in the restaurant here) both food and atmosphere-wise. If you go early enough you can go next door to Romanicos and pick up artisan chocolates to take home. Relatives in Cali love the Tropical collection.

                  2. re: lax2mia

                    What about OLA? Is that good? And I heard that David Bouley's place closed already...what happened there? I did check out the Xixon website and it looks great...that's definitely on the short list!

                    1. re: sibeats

                      I was going to mention OLA. Haven't been to the new spot but enjoyed it when it was at its former location.

                  3. re: Frodnesor

                    I checked out the Romeo's website and it said there is no menu but that they "create" a 6 course meal on the spot. Tell me more about this...does every table get the same meal? Interesting...!

                    1. re: sibeats

                      24 seat restaruant, booked at least 3 weeks in advance. Romeo visits your table and asks you what you like to eat and makes you a six course meal. If you don't like something, you can send it back and he will replace the course. It is a pretty unique dining experience. I had a detail review a few years ago but can't find it.

                      1. re: tpigeon

                        Sounds like an interesting process. Do you think it rates high on the recommended list in terms of the food quality?

                        1. re: sibeats

                          It did when I ate there, but that was over a year ago...

                          Much better than casa tua in any case...

                          1. re: tpigeon

                            I thought I saw where Romeos closed? I guess not. I must say, it sounds like a very unique dining experience.

                            OLA is still strong and well worth a visit.

                            Why not Joe's? If you have not been, it is worthy of your time and money.

                            1. re: netmover

                              Where did OLA move to?
                              As for Joe's, everything I've read about it is just a turnoff...unbelievable long waits, having to "grease the palm" of the maitre'd to jump ahead of everyone else, all for stone crab? Maybe I'm missing something (or misinformed), but I don't get it. Would be happy to hear the positive side of it though!

                              1. re: sibeats

                                OLA is just north of Casa Tua on the eastside of James St.

                                Joe's is Joe's. You sit in the courtyard, have some drinks and apps and wait...or, go there early or right before closing, or go to Joe's Takeaway, or grease some palms. It is the quintessential Miami Beach Restaurant(.) If you have been down here before and not dined at Joe's, you my friend are not a Chowhound!

                                1. re: netmover

                                  Bottom line is Joes is a great seafood restaurant that serves other great food too. It is one of the very best restaurants in Miami. It is high maintenace though and unless you go to the takeout it is something you have to be in the mood to deal with.

                                  1. re: netmover

                                    Well, if that's what makes a chowhound, I guess I'm not! I still haven't gotten any persuasive argument to go. When we are on vacation I'm just not into high maintenance places, especially those that let "greasier" people slip ahead of you! Okay, maybe it's me that's high maintenance (and yes, it is), but I guess Joe's is just not what I'm looking for. All the other recommendations sound great though, so I don't mean to be ungrateful!

                                    1. re: sibeats

                                      Stone crabs are a unique and wonderful delicacy, and they are always great at Joe's. You can also eat them elsewhere in S. Florida, but eating there is its own experience, and YES, you should go at least once. But, go for lunch, it's from 11:30-2 or go for dinner right when they open at's usually not that bad at those times, and just get the stone crabs with delicious mustard secret sauce, and key lime pie, and whatever other side dishes appeal to you...The takeaway place is cool is you just want to sample the claws and get some pie to go and go walk over to the beach and eat it there...anyway, netmover is right, you must experience Joe's, unless of course you have a shellfish allergy, but even then, go have a slice of pie! Joe's is Miami. Stone Crabs are Miami---spend your money there for a unique meal you won't get somewhere else...lots of places can do haute cuisine, but stone crabs are indigenous to these parts...---

                                      1. re: janie

                                        Don't get me wrong, I'm not just looking for haute cuisine, and I appreciate all of the great places recommended here and all of the different opinions. I've had stone crabs before, and I've had them in florida, and they were tasty. There are just so many other places that are far more appealing to us. It's like the great New Haven pizza debate down in my neck of the woods. How many hours would you stand on line for Pepe's pizza? Depends if you like that kind of pizza! Different strokes for different folks!

                                        1. re: sibeats

                                          well then if you've had stone crabs, and you're not wild about key lime pie, then skip it if it doesn't appeal to you (for me, it's a place that if I can afford it, I love it)...and if I were you I would go to Las Culebrinas (2 locations) or some other Cuban spots certainly...this didn't seem to be on your list...Michaels' Genuine seems a good bet, as well. So, so far, that seems like 3, how long are you staying?

                                          1. re: janie

                                            What's Las Culebrinas? Haven't heard of that one yet!

                                            1. re: sibeats

                                              few different locations---supposedly the one at flagler and 47th the original is best...but let's see what other posters think--a friend of mine has had many good meals at the Coconut Grove location, also...I don't eat pork, but if you do, their pork chunks in avocado sauce is supposed to be very good...good seafood there...and prices very reasonable and portions large. For other cuban, refer to the best of cuban thread..I'll go over and make a post and revive it, and see what's going on at the moment...

                                              1. re: janie

                                                Second the Coconut Grove location as my preferred one. Better ambiance IMO as well.

                                          2. re: sibeats

                                            I love Joe's and Pepe's and treat them the same way, I get there when they open. Lunch at Joe's is always my first stop when I drive down to Miami Beach from the Boca/Delray area. Last time I went to Pepe's the line was just out the door so I grabbed a table at The Spot with no wait. Just as I can't skip Wooster Street when I'm headed up 95, I can't hit Miami Beach without a lunch at Joe's, two of America's great restaurants.

                                            1. re: stuartlafonda

                                              Hi Stuart...I think we always end up in Miami the same time--janie from outer boroughs! I agree with you, Joe's is classic, and I'd rather spend money there and know that I'll always leave satisfied...I like to go to the takeaway and eat it on the beach--this is such a treat to me!

                                              1. re: janie

                                                Hey Janie, this year I will be down in Febuary and I plan on trying Sardinia based on all the good reports from reliable hounds. I also plan on going to Ola as I loved Patria and had many good meals when I lived nearby a decade ago. Somehow I have missed the boat on El Rey de la Frita but I will remedy that situation next month. Enjoy your trip and eat well.

                                  2. re: netmover

                                    Where is OLA now? I lost track since they left Merrick park and the savoy at the Beach...

                                    1. re: viscalbarsa

                                      Ola is now at the Sanctuary Hotel at 745 James Ave.

                                      I think some things there are quite good - ceviches, the "raspado de pato" duck dish, but others have been only Ok.

                    2. I would skip the Boondocks Chispa and Casa Tua, but would not miss Romeo's, Sardinia and Azul. I am from Spain and not crazy about the tapas at Xixon, even though they are unfailingly friendly and sweet, and I often buy my paella ingredients there. If you are looking for Spanish food, try Ideas in the Grove, even though it is cold and uninviting, there is no Spanish food like this anywhere this side of the pond. For Latin-American cuisines, the best comes from Peru, and in Miami you can't do any better than Francesco's. If you really want to try Cuban, go to Versailles and keep pepto-Bismol around. For Mexican, try the taqueria El Mexicano in calle Ocho.
                      In my view, Michy's and Blue Door are still at the top, and Azul is close. When it comes to South Beach people-watching, instead of getting mugged for unedible food at Casa Tua, why don't you try Quattro, or Social at Sagamore, both more moderate in price, and so much hotter!
                      I didn't know Bouley had closed. It's a pity, the food was good, but way too expensive.

                      28 Replies
                      1. re: viscalbarsa

                        Taqueria Mexicano is in reality Taqueria Colombiano and hardly worthy of mention on this post, let alone this board...

                        I applaud your other choices especially Ideas where your Spanish heritage speaks volumes and fortify my beliefs.

                        1. re: viscalbarsa

                          Social is only a hotspot on saturdays. I think quattro is overpriced but not so much as casa.

                          Foodwise, I like blue door but would not consider it among the very best miami or even sobe has to offer.

                          Bouley is in the process of becomig another Bouley concept.

                          1. re: tpigeon

                            We definitely aren't looking for the trendy hotspots, just good food. We loved Table 8 when we went last year and would like to go back again. We thought the food at Blue Door was very good, but we wouldn't go back. We went to Azul when Michelle Bernstein was still there and loved it, went to Michy's last year and it was just okay. Last year when I asked for rec's, many people said Casa Tua, which is why I asked about it this time, but I don't think anyone thinks it worthy now, so we'll cross that off the list! I've never heard of Social or Quattro, so I'll have to check them out.

                            1. re: sibeats

                              I have not been to social in a while and they somewhat recently changed the menu so I can't give you guidance on food there. Before they changed, the dishes ranged from ok to very good but were not amongst the best miami has to offer.

                              Do not do quattro if you just care about food. It is overpriced. Go to Osteria del teatro, it is much better and is around the same price. Sardinia is also quite a bit better than quattro.

                              1. re: tpigeon

                                For those recommending Social based on past visits, the menu created by Michelle Bernstein is gone and the new one seems to be quite different and a lot more pedestrian.

                              2. re: sibeats

                                btw you should also look into Alta Mar.

                                1. re: tpigeon

                                  I checked out the Social menu...looked a little mixed in style, pizzas, soft tacos, then some tandoori, etc. What is Alta Mar? Haven't heard that one yet either! The Quattro menu looked interesting, but I'll check out the other one as well. Thanks...

                                  1. re: sibeats

                                    Alta Mar is a fish seafood place that serves very good food. Prices are not as good as they used to be but it is a better value than most of the higher end places which this is among...

                                    1. re: tpigeon


                                      How would you compare to Maison d'Azur ?

                            2. re: viscalbarsa

                              If not Xixon, where (if anywhere locally) do you like for tapas?

                              Ideas is a very interesting place and is indeed unlike any place else in town (and remarkably like many more upscale places I ate at in Spain). However, unless you have a real hankering for that particular style of Spanish meal, I'm not sure it's someplace I'd generally put on a short-list for a visitor.

                              I've not heard much good about Quattro - if you want to people-watch on Lincoln Road I'd just as soon go someplace much cheaper and sit outside (i.e. Rosinella's).

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                I am not sure that tapas is a concept that travels very well; and the only good place I can think of in Miami is La Dorada, where you have many appetizers that are usually served in Spain as tapas (navajas, fried smelt, clams, etc.), but the whole concept of tapas includes snails, and callos (veal stomach, anyone?) as well as chorizos and hams that cannot be imported. If you are interested in paella, I hear that now Ideas makes them on Sundays, and I assume they will be good (unlike any others in Miami).

                                I didn't know about the change of menu at Social. I doesn't sound good.

                                I enjoy my food every time at Quattro, and I don't even think it's too expensive. I have been there with Italians and they have liked it enough to return. I also like Alta Mar very much.

                                I forgot, my recommendation on O Asian Grill is to steer clear of it. The menu makes no sense, the food is unremarkable, the lighting is insufficient to see the food, and the service is unfriendly.

                                My recommendation for Asian food would be Tropical Chinese. Anyone has any better?

                                By the way, anyone has a recommendation for a good mexican place? (I stand corrected on Taqueria el mexicano)

                                1. re: viscalbarsa

                                  Yes please to the veal stomach - folks here know I'm a big tripe fan.

                                  Actually, the tapas concept in both more and less authentic versions has been very successful in many places around the US - just not so much in South Florida, for some reason. Jose Andres has been hugely successful in DC w/ Jaleo (multiple locations); NYC has lots of options; Cafe Ba-Ba-Ree-Ba (not terribly authentic, but nonetheless tapas style) has been around in Chicago for years ...

                                  The "small dishes" concept has taken hold in less overtly Spanish form, though - Michy's does pretty much everything in the menu in small tapas size portions. Michael's Genuine also has several small dishes and snacks that you can order tapas style.

                                  They used to do a very good tripe and garbanzo stew at Tapas y Copas on Miracle Mile, though I don't think it's on the menu anymore. Taberna Giralda does nice bacalaitos and some good octopus dishes. El Carajo in the back of the Citgo station at 17th & US1 (literally in the back of the gas station) used to have some great stuff, including an incredible piquillo pepper stuffed w/ bacalao w/ a squid ink sauce, but I heard the chef left. I've heard good things about Delicias de Espana and have had catered food from them, but have never gone there to eat. Casa Juancho actually has a pretty good menu of tapas available at the bar, but I've never tried (have always been for sit-down meals there, which have been good not great).

                                  Have you tried any of these?

                                  I've never tried La Dorada, always thought of it as more of a sit-down dinner type place.

                                  As for the hams, I understand that there is now one producer that is being permitted to import true jamon iberico, which is supposed to become available in January (this month). The even rarer acorn-fed jamon iberico bellota is supposed to be coming in the summer.

                                  I'm hoping to find a restaurant or store in So Fla. that's getting some. If anyone hears anything, please advise!

                                  1. re: Frodnesor

                                    Delicias de Espana apparently has jamon iberico. I'd call just to make sure. Thanks to Carolina at Menupages.

                                    And man, I miss Jaleo. I'd go to the Bethesda location at least three or four times a month. Wish I'd tried minibar at the DC Jaleo. Wonder if Mr. Andres would ever want to open a Jaleo here? It'd be the perfect city for it!


                                    1. re: lax2mia

                                      It's on their own website menu too, looks like I've got to make a visit!


                                      1. re: Frodnesor

                                        I don't think you'll be disappointed. Although I think we can all agree that the variety of hams or foods naturally are no where near what is available in Spain.

                                        Also permit me to say that viscal does have a valid point in that "downsizing" and calling them tapas is a stretch compared to what he meant. I think what viscal "said" is the type of tapas available in Spain and therefore the callos reference. Lets face it, while chowhounds are adventurous by their very nature, the rest are maybe not so much. In Spain, you grow up accepting callos, tripa and pigs feet etc as common food again not so much here. Even pulpo is viewed warily by most not in the know.

                                        That being said fried smelts at La Dorada and maybe sardines too (wishing) I'm definitely checking them out.

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          Picked up a pound of paleta iberico bellota at Delicias de Espana last night, and wow is it excellent. Unfortunately they do not have the bone-in whole hind leg jamon iberico bellota, only the paleta (boneless shoulder section). They do have the hoof-attached and bone-in regular jamon iberico (pig is not acorn finished, just regular grain fed). The paleta iberico bellota was $100 a pound and was machine sliced; they are not hand slicing at the moment unfortunately. Slices from the regular jamon iberico were going for $78 a pound but I did not get any this time.

                                          1. re: sumfrequency

                                            Awesome. The real bellota isn't supposed to be hitting the states until the summer. Apparently there's one producer that the USDA or whoever is responsible spent a lot of time scrutinizing and finally gave the seal of approval. Their first round of bellota while under USDA scrutiny is due to be released in the states in July, I believe.

                                            1. re: sumfrequency

                                              I'm sorry is that a typo or are you saying $100/lb? Dang I knew the dollar had lost value vis a vis the euro but thats astronomical! Especially considering that Prosciutto di Parma is significantly lower and you may even find kobe cheaper!

                                              1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                I'm sure $100/lb is right. Jamon iberico de bellota is much more rare than even real prosciutto di parma and is expensive even in Spain.

                                                Consider that nova salmon is probably about $40/lb, for instance, and this ought not seem too outrageous.

                                                1. re: Frodnesor

                                                  Well Frod,

                                                  Let me know when you're going to buy and Pleeze throw me a scrap will you :). Perhaps they imposed some incredible tariffs too I bet.

                                      2. re: viscalbarsa

                                        As far as the Chinese food, has any one been to Tony Chan's Water Club? I've been a few times and enjoyed it thoroughly, though I'd definitely gravitate to the slightly pricier dishes (Red Lantern Shrimp at around 22 bucks if I remember correctly). Don't know about Mexican really, without going to Homestead. I liked Rosa Mexicana a lot, but when my sister went she put it on par with Rancho Grande, another friend of mine placed it next to another restaurant near Aventura, I believe. Eduardo de San Angel is good, but in Ft. Lauderdale.

                                        1. re: Icantread

                                          It's been ages since I've gone to Tony Chan but it was good. Neither Mexican nor Chinese are particularly a strong suit for Miami.

                                          I was underwhelmed by Rosa Mexicano. Rancho Grande is serviceable and reliable but nothing special. The place in Aventura was probably Paquitos. Also goes in the serviceable but nothing special category for me.

                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                            Might as well throw in French as weak too.

                                            1. re: eatnbmerry

                                              Pascal's on Ponce is very good.
                                              Maison d'Azur was pretty solid.
                                              I like Le Provencal.
                                              Gourmet Diner has great bistro food even if it doesn't look like a French bistro.
                                              Les Halles is decent.
                                              Bouchon du Grove is decent.

                                              Not a "strong suit" but not incredibly weak either.

                                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                                BTW, I guess it's a matter of degrees like everything. But when you start pulling out the likes of Bouchon you only reinforce my post.

                                                1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                  Maybe we can settle for not quite as weak as mex and chinese :).

                                  2. I second the recommendions Sardinia and Michael's Genuine.
                                    For sushi, I highly recommend Matsuri.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ankimo

                                      I also second Sardinia. Great experience from the olive oil to the food. I especially enjoy going on quieter days, like Sunday for a more relaxed experience.