Miami Spice 2008
Miami Spice is doing a "sneak preview" this summer from June 16 to June 30. Participating restaurants are listed on the site, Regular Spice starts in August. Tuscan Steak is always a "must do" during Spice. I'll post back with more recs as the menus get posted.
Lunch Winner- Abokado (Mary Brickell Village-downtown Miami)
I was in the Brickell area today around lunch time and figured it was a good
opportunity to finally try Abokado. They are one of the few restaurants that are open for lunch on the weekend AND offering a spice menu. I was hesitant to do the spice menu at first because I really wanted to try some of their interesting rolls. However, after reviewing the menu it became obvious that their spice menu was a great deal based on their regular prices. My meal would have easily been 2x more. (whether the normal prices are too high can be the topic of another post and irrelevant to this one)
In a nutshell, the meal was very good and much better than I anticipated. I did go in with low expectations despite being a big fan of the sushi chef from his prior stint at Bond St. I have no idea if he is still affiliated with Abokado but I assume so since I have not seen anything to the contrary.
I started with the Crispy Cheese which is a combination of roasted tomato, gorgonzola, cilantro, queso blanco and wrapped in a spring roll. It comes with a chili based dipping sauce. The spring roll portion was light and did not interfere with the cheese and roasted tomato. Portion size was small (2) but that was fine for a four course lunch. Probably not somethimg I would normally order but it worked and I enjoyed it.
Next up was the Himachi Tiradito. This combination was serrano pepper, cilantro, guacamole and a chil ponzu sauce. This was a good size portion with I think 6 pieces of Himachi. (Tiradito is similar to sashimi.) Flavor combinations worked well and the Himachi was fresh. I would order again.
For the next course I opted for the Revolucion roll. (2 other roll options were available) The roll was a good size and the individual pieces were sized perfectly. Oh yeah, the roll was spicy tuna with asparagus topped with albacore tuna and a ginger ponzu sauce. Great roll. Fresh and a tasty combination. Rice played a small roll and did not get in the way.
I also had the opportunity to try the spicy snow crab roll which I haven't seen outside of New Orleans and was very good. For dessert I opted for the yuzu cheesecake. Not a dessert person but this was a nice end to the meal.
I would definitely recommend trying their spice menu if you are in the area and I look forward to going back for dinner and trying more of their rolls and sushi.
We went to Red Fish Grill last night, figuring that it has been noted as "good but overpriced" which made it a good target for a reduced cost dinner. We sat inside as the weather was iffy.
Peppercorn seared tuna. Very good. I loved the soy ginger reduction to the point of spread the rest of it my my bread.
Crab Cake. Good but not exceptional. Full of meat but a bit dry.
Blackened Mahi with sweet potatoes and blue cheese sauce. I was iffy about this combination but it went together beautifully. The Mahi was excellent, possibly the best blackened fish I've ever had with a thick spicy crust and a very moist melty interior.
Grouper Aqua Pazza with mashed potatoes. Very good, but basic poached grouper. The poaching liquid was included as a sauce which tied the meal together nicely.
Coconut flan. Eh. Not bad, very coconutty.
Key Lime Pie. Excellent filling, real key limes, etc, but the crust was dry to the point of crumbly. They could have put some of the 1/2 stick of butter from the sweet potatoes in here.
Service: -2 for having to ask for the Miami Spice menu, but it was quickly and politely produced when we asked. Otherwise: polite, attentive and amusing.
Ambiance: +5 even though we sat inside.
We would go back.
I've had 2 Miami Spice dinner so far: Ago and the Restaurant at the Setai.
Ago was good, but nothing to write home about. Started with an eggplant parmesan type of dish, and for my entree I decided on the gnocchi with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. The appetizer was better than the main entree. The highlight of this meal was the tiramisu for dessert. It was excellent.
Last week, I decided to try the Restaurant at the Setai, since I probably wouldn't try it without the spice deal. I started with the slow cooked hen egg with straw mushrooms, duck breast, and some kind of broth. I like my food simple and straightforward, so this threw me off a little bit, but it was tasty. My dining companion had the hoki ceviche, which was extremely fresh, with huge coconut flakes, grapefruit, tomatoes and other fresh herbs. It was excellent. Next dish for me was the cantonese noodles with skirt steak. Very good. The steak was tender and cooked medium, just right. My boyfriend had the fish curry. Again, a little too complicated for my taste, but good nonetheless. For dessert, i had the jasmine panna cotta with lychees and chocolate espuma. The jasmine panna cotta was out of this world amazing! My boyfriend had the sticky rice with tempura bananas. The bananas were tasty, but I didn't think the sticky rice was that great.
If i had an unlimited budget, I would definitely try the Restaurant at the Setai again!
I had dinner at the Setai tonight and thought it was a wonderful experience. The ceviche app and the pork belly are musts- outstanding. The fresh, hot naan delivered tableside is a delectable gratis starter.
The fish curry with eggplant and okra entree was good but lacked oomph. The desserts we ordered, the panna cotta with chocolate espuma (reminded me of hot chocolate that had been left out too long) and pineapple with Jamaican pepper ice cream were fine but not revelatory.
All in all, I would say this is one of the better spice experiences to be had this year.
Four of us went to Timo last weekend and had almost all the offerings the Miami Spice menu had to offer other than the desserts where we all settled for the chocolate hazelnut torte. While the dessert was fine, it wasn't anything special as I had hoped; however, the apps and mains, especially the bass, were quite good. The service was excellent as usual. One caveat, because the prices on Timo's regular menu are quite reasonable, the Spice menu isn't as much a bargain as it would be at other fine dining establishments. (current spice menu: http://www.miamirestaurantmonth.com/P...)
Miami Spice Winner
The food was outstanding and you will have a very hard time finding more value from a Spice menu.
In addition to the three course spice menu, we were served the famous Trio of Duck Fat Fries with dipping sauces. Very good. Then they brought us a pan of potato focaccia bread drizzled with truffle oil. I'm not a pre-dinner bread guy but this was also outstanding and hard to resist
I opted to start with the cumin dusted tempura prawns which ended up being my least favorite part of the meal. It was just ok and nothing special. However, the filet rossini with foie gras in a pinot noir reduction was perfect. It should be noted that the filet was $10 extra. Desserts (beignets)were good not great.
Enjoyable meal and a Miami Spice winner for sure.
re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
i'm glad the fries came and potato focaccia -- both were good, wish mina had more trio or three way dishes on the menu. i agree the filet with foie was great (5 oz) the pot de creme with the beignets was tasty. i tried the roasted bone marrow (2), very fatty, didn't particularly like it, but the kobe burger was really tasty
re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
I knew you'd come through for me chowfather!
I'd planned to order the duck fat fries separately, but knowing now that it will come included, I won't ask (unless you think that was abnormal that you got it).
What appetizer would you pick now? Corn soup, or watercress salad (which sounds like something that would just make my stomach mad: 'where food'?)
Did they make any wine pairing recommendations? I think I'm going to bring a bottle (they have a very reasonable $25 corkage fee), and since it's a pinot noir reduction, that would seem to be the logical thing to bring.
I don't usually overthink things this much, but this is a big anniversary, and I want to indulge. I was even thinking of either supplementing the spice menu with an extra fois gras appetizer, or a third spice menu to split (which is probably the better value: then I can hedge on the appetizers by getting one of each, and some ahi to go with the steaks).
re: non sequitur
non-s, I was the only one drinking wine and opted for a half bottle of Au Bon Climat pinot in lieu of the BTG options. I thought it worked well with the filet. I posted the wine list on the wine board and obtained some good recommendations for my next visit
Wanted to bump this thread since subsequent ones ("positive m.s. experience", "negative m.s. experience) have divided and conquered a one-spot roundup.
Here's my limited initial contribution:
1. China Grill, lunch menu, positive.
Appetizers: calamari salad (huge, good, family sized) and dumplings (nothing unusual)
Mains: Drunken Chicken (this is a signature items, but not that impressed with it).
Side: Veggie fried rice (a high end version of your local take-out)
What I'd do differently: wish we'd ordered the mushroom pasta as the main
Overall, the lunch menu at C.G. seems to be identical to the dinner one, and I can attest that the sizes are the same, so going for lunch over dinner makes a lot of sense.
2. Escopazzo, dinner, positive
Appetizers: Mozzarella sticks (yum! Much better then you'd think from the name); salad
Mains: Pasta of day (tagliatelle with zucchini - good); risotto of day (gorgonzola - very good), penette with pumpkin puree (not that impressed with this - looked like "kraft dinner")
What I'd do differently: wish they had the gnocchi (we were the only ones there, and they are made to order, and I think the chef didn't want to make them)
Comments: Escopazzo is an expensive place, and during Miami Spice the cost of 3 courses is equal to the price of the main, which is why you won't find me there in any other month except August/September (in this economy, I can't afford $30 pasta).
Bourbon Steak (which will be new to me)
Capital Grille (no surprises expected there)
re: non sequitur
My spice review #3: Bourbon Steak. Though a Wednesday, restaurant was well attended and many seemed to be enjoying the spice menu, judging by the trio of duck fat fries gracing every table.
Wanting to indulge, we made the foolish move of ordering 3 spice menus (for 2 people). This was a mistake because the portions were generous (and supplemented with the fries and potato/truffle bread).
The menu changed slightly from the one posted at the miami spice website. Appetizers were the same: watercress salad, tempura prawn and corn soup with grilled cheese (the soup/grilled cheese was the clear favorite, with the prawn being more like chinese takeout, and the salad being superfluous). The tuna was replaced with swordfish, and the cheesecake was replaced with a donut with cinnamon ice cream (good, but I'd planned to with the cheesecake).
I brought a bottle of Russian River pinot noir which was properly decanted and well treated for the $25 corkage fee.
What I'd do differently: 2 menus, not 3. Stick with the corn soup. I also would have tried to arrange to go on a Friday between 6 and 8pm next time, as that is the only day with the 'social hour' featuring half price specialty martinis.
re: non sequitur
re: non sequitur
Bumping thread with my 4th report: Capital Grille, which I greatly enjoyed last night.
As noted elsewhere, CG offers the spice menu for almost less than the price of an entree, making it a great deal. We opted for 2 signature entees: kona crusted sirloin and porcini crusted filet, both were excellent and came with mashed potatoes and broccoli. We both started with the ceasar salad (nothing special) and finished with the generous flourless chocolate cake and creme brulee (both were large, and excellent). I wouldn't have done anything differently. We shared the meal with our 2 young ones (this is one place I'm comfortable bringing them because the booths are good for containment), and all left sated. $20 corkage was a huge bonus (wine cellar is filling quicker than it is emptying).
re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
Trying to identify good Spice targets is a worthy endeavor, and I do the same menu-scanning myself, but if you're a "professional" (sometimes those quotation marks really come in handy) food writer and all, it sure seems like a writer doing a "preview" column might have, oh, actually tried out some of the Miami Spice preview menus available the past month, no? And I love how fellow New Times writers chime in with comments on the author's "credibility". Isn't that for readers to decide?
Would have been nice to note that the filet rossini w/ foie at Bourbon Steak is a $10 supplement.
Not sure what's stingy about the Palme d'Or menu either, w/ smoked salmon w/ avruga caviar app, wild striped bass or beef tenderloin as entree (no farmed salmon, no skirt steak, no chicken, my favorite "cheapskate" tells).
Pascal's menu has a great typo, "Grilled Anger Steak".
No mention of Talula, which I find always does a pretty good job with these (and also regularly change their menu, in part I think to keep the cooks from slitting their wrists with their chefs' knives from the boredom of cranking out the same dish over and over).
BTW, I think it's been noted elsewhere already, but while MGF&D is not participating in Miami Spice, they are offering prix fixe lunch ($22) and dinner ($35) weekdays only thru September. And it is pretty much impossible to put together an app, main and dessert at Red Light for more than $35, which I believe is now staying open 6 days a week. I had a nice dinner of grapefruit, goat cheese & arugula salad, braised oxtails, and dragonfruit & ginger sorbet for about $25 last night.
I hear you but I'm willing to cut him some slack on this one. It was a blog post and not a weekly print column and I understand and can appreciate what he was trying to do. He's been to most if not all of the participating restaurants and can certainly comment on the spice options. Does he really need to sample the salmon, chicken and pasta dishes being served at some of these spots?? Nah. I prefer to have him spend his time trying and reviewing new places.
Interesting to note that Bourbon Steak changed it's menu (which had been critiqued as "stingiest" at 1 app, 2 entrees and 1 dessert choice) in an earlier review in the Herald. Guess they recognized their error and the current menu looks like it will be worth a try (I have a feeling Mina's time in Turnberry may be as short as Bouley's in SoBe, so this will probably be my only chance).
I'm probably only going to get out 3 times, so I'm going with Bourbon Steak, Blue Door and Capital Grille or Escopazzo.
My first of the 3 will be mid-August, so hope to see some user reviews here first! Especially Bourbon, which laypeople seems to be very critical of (online reviews), but pros rave about (Herald).
re: non sequitur
Heard rumblings about Bourbon Steak? I don't see the same fare as Evolution just because (I) the place has been packed everytime I've gone and (II) Mina is under contract with Fairmont I believe to have restaurants in their resorts. Besides that it's one of the, if not the best restaurant in Miami. The Spice menu is a steal with the quality and service you're going to get.
On a separate note went to Prime Blue Grille for the first night of Miami Spice. They're offering free bottomless pours of select wines through Saturday. Couple that with he spice menu and it's a recession special worthy of national attention. Only problem was that the food was God awful. Lobster bisque was watery and our medium far steaks were well done. Even the sides were awful. It was like cruise ship food. I do have to say that the wines and surprisingly attentive service slightly made up for it. I'd recommend the spice deal till tomorrow when the wine promo has its last stand. After that......meh.
re: non sequitur
NS - I actually haven't heard anyone critical of Bourbon Steak here or elsewhere, other than perhaps the prices. I also don't recall their Spice menu being particularly stingy. I looked at their menu last week (it's been updated since) and there were a few choices, all regular menu items, and if you were to reconstruct the menu at regular prices it would be $70+. To quote The Who, "I'd call that a bargain."
I'm sure Bourbon Steak is slow right now but I think L2M is probably right that the Mina/Fairmont affiliation will keep it around for a while.
L2M - I've only been once but I also was not impressed with the food at Prime Blue.
The point I was trying to make was that the revamped Bourbon Steak menu is much improved from the preview, which the Herald wrote "With only one appetizer (a blue cheese, bacon and avocado salad) and two mains (short ribs and snapper), Bourbon Steak has the stingiest Spice menu I have ever seen. Still, it's an affordable way to enjoy a place where ordering from the à la carte menu would cost you way north of 100 bucks." So if that was a bargain, then I agree the new one must be even better, which is why I'll go.
The full rundown of best bets in the Herald is at http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/restaurants/miami-dade-dining/story/614194.html
An example of a user comment that was not singing the praises is at
The author seems a bit snotty though, so I don't know how much stock I put in his conclusions. I will find out for myself in August.
It's that time of year again!
My first Miami Spice 2008 - Por Fin (Coral Gables).
Possibly the longest Miami Spice lunch menu I've ever seen, with a choice of a half dozen apps and nearly a dozen mains, but only one dessert on offer. You can also choose to skip the dessert and get app and entree for $20, which is what I did (I'm particularly not big on dessert at lunch). The lunch menu is here ->
Por Fin has been doing an executive lunch deal for some time now, so this is probably not incredibly different from their standard executive lunch.
Started with the bunuelos de bacalao, a generous serving of 5 over a bed of nicely dressed greens, with a squizzle of romesco over them. Nice, light, not overly fishy, and with the greens underneath a pretty substantial appetizer. Followed with the seafood stew, a nice broth with a couple decent pieces of white fish (cod?), and a couple each of shrimp, clams and mussels. My fellow diner got the pork chop, a pretty substantial chop served w/ sauteed mushrooms and a shmear of apple sauce. Nothing revelatory but a good meal.