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Mar 14, 2008 01:05 PM

Please help us make a decision: Restaurants in Miami

Dear Chowhounders in the Miami area:

My gf is coming into town this week and we want to try two of the following restaurants:

Bond St. Lounge
Chef Allen's

So... if you had to pick two of those restaurants, which ones would you chose? Please consider price points, overlap in cuisine, and food quality. We are not the big on decor or ambiance. However, we consider ourselves to be very "adventurous" eaters (with a bias towards French cuisine). And - for the record - we are both from Miami so we have tried many other restaurants not on the above list.

For instance, here is a little bit about our tastes:
We are both allergic to shellfish (I know, it sucks)
Favorite restaurants in Miami: Pascal's on Ponce, Michael's, Cacao
Restaurant we think are overrated: Michy's, Prime 112

Thanks for helping us make this decision. We are both grad students -- so eating at places like this is a definite luxury for us and, obviously, we like to overanalyze these types of rare consumer experiences!

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  1. A few scattered thoughts on each -

    - AltaMar - sorry, haven't been.

    - Azul - garnered its reputation when Michelle Bernstein was there, she is long gone. I have not been since she left. Current chef Clay Conley's background is with Todd English's Olives, which you can read into what you wish. I just took a look at the online menu which seems interesting, but it also seems astonishingly high priced. Apps quickly reach into the $20s and most mains are over $40. This includes a "braised beef shortrib, coconut curry braise, wagyu jasmine rice (???), cucumber & cilantro salad" for $43. Even assuming that this is actually wagyu beef (rather than wagyu rice), I don't care if the short rib comes from a cow that's the reincarnation of the dalai lama, there is no way an economy cut should cost $43 - especially when there is not a single luxe ingredient in the dish. Short rib, rice, cucumber and cilantro? What do you think the ingredient cost is on this one? Incidentally, is there really a point to wagyu short rib? The best thing to to do with a short rib is to braise the crap out of it - does it really add something to use the best beef in the world for a braise?

    Sorry, I seem to have gotten a little sidetracked. I really don't know if Azul is good any more, but it probably wouldn't be in my top 2. Definitely not on a grad student budget (unless someone else is buying).

    - Bond Street - I've enjoyed this place for pricey sushi and a short list of various cooked items (including some interesting daily specials) the couple times I've been, but there's been a chef change since my last visit. Original chef is gone to go run Abokado in Mary Brickell Village; new chef coming in is a former Yakko San guy who was briefly doing the sushi bar at now-closed David Bouley Evolution. Not sure what to expect.

    - Chef Allen - haven't been for a long time, never particularly one of my favorites but I can't castigate it without recent experience. For this type of thing, though, I'd sooner do Mark's South Beach which many folks often forget about.

    - Timo - one of my favorites. Menu changes pretty regularly, interesting without being avant garde, every once in a while a dish will fail, but usually not. They do a very nice 4-course fixed price meal (pretty reasonable, under $60) which is a ton of food and we'll sometimes do that for Diner #1 and just add on a couple apps for Diner #2. Like many places, the apps are often the best items. Very good (carefully selected rather than encyclopedic) and pretty fairly priced wine list.

    - Sardinia - I really enjoy this place and I'm not usually a big fan of going out for Italian food. The regional Sardinian focus makes it a little more interesting to me. The vegetable, salumi and cheese antipasti are a great way to start a meal or can even make a light meal themselves. Usually lots of good stuff for the adventurous eater - sweetbreads, spaghetti w/ shaved bottarga (salted & dried tuna roe), oxtails, rabbit, suckling pig.

    I guess my 2 choices are clear.

    1. Wow, you've listed some of my favorites. Big fan of Bond St. but have not been since the chef change. I doubt they will skip a beat but can't be certain.

      AltaMar is one of the better spots on the beach. Great fish and daily specials.

      I'd go Sardinia and AltaMar. I'd consider Timo in lieu of one of the other two if you are staying in the area.