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Dec 28, 2009 11:58 AM

South Beach Vacation: What's For Dinner?

I understand that this topic has been touched on (most recently in a March 2009 post, I believe) but thought it warranted an update.

I will be vacationing in South Beach in early March 2009 for a week and would like some restaurant recommendations.

I have extremely high expectations and am very picky. I expect the highest-quality ingredients and prefer a restaurant with small portions and tasting menus. I regularly eat at five-star restaurants and (right or wrong) don't think it's worth settling for less. I don't mind neighborhood restaurants that are more casual as long as they have high standards.

Also, if a restaurant isn't doing something innovative (whatever that may be) I am not interested. Meat and potatoes and creme brulee bore me, no matter how good they are.

Of course, I will go to Michy's and Sra. Martinez. But I don't see any other clear favorites on this board. Any great seafood restaurants? Sushi?

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  1. Honestly, I just wouldn't come to Miami if these indeed are your standards.

    3 Replies
    1. re: lax2mia

      Are you saying you think Miami doesn't have any 5-star quality restaurants?

      1. re: filleparfaite1

        I'm confused (easily though) by your post, primarily because you refer to a March of 2009 visit. Assuming you are visiting in the near future, I would recommend doing the tasting menu at Talula. Michael's Genuine, Michy's and Senora Martinez may be up your alley. I have not been to NAOE yet but highly trusted sources would steer you there. (do a quick search for a lengthy thread)

        1. re: The Chowfather

          Right you are. Vacation is March 2010. Thanks!

    2. (1) Miami is not strong on restaurants that strive for a 3 Michelin star dining experience (I'm actually not sure what a "five-star restaurant" is). It's been tried on occasion - perhaps most recently by David Bouley with the short-lived Evolution in the Ritz-Carlton South Beach - but it rarely takes hold.
      (2) You sound more than a little bit unbearable. Just sayin.

      Having said that, the places that might best fit the bill ->

      - Talula - one of the few places in town that will offer a full 7-course tasting menu (though many of the items are 'borrowed" from the regular menu), and also I think hands-down the best food on South Beach.
      - NAOE - excellent omakase style meal, with a bento that usually includes 4-5 items, and then a procession of the chef's choice of nigiri that is hands-down the best fish I've had in Miami. Food is almost kaiseki in style though service is much less formalized.
      - Setai - I have somehow never been, but the menu features a number of (high priced) small plates with something of an East meets West theme. I see they are now also offering a multi-course "Menu Gourmand" that is described as "share style" with lots of luxe ingredients.
      - Sra. Martinez - the tapas style menu lends itself to something of a multi-course format but it will not be organized into a dish-by-dish procession, rather things come out as they are ready -as you'd experience in a Spanish tapas bar. The menu changes often and has some interesting items.
      - Michy's - also does almost everything in the menu in 1/2 portions, which lends itself somewhat to a tasting menu format. Don't regularly offer a tasting menu but may do one on special (advance) request. Lately I've found the menu at Sra. M more adventurous than that at Michy's.
      - Michael's Genuine - perhaps not as fussy as you might like, but the food is excellent - very possibly the best in town. Another place with a menu that features many small plates, but not someplace that does a formal tasting menu.
      - Pacific Time - another place doing the small plates format, with something of an East/West theme (though not as pronounced as the original incarnation on South Beach).
      - Palme d'Or - I've not been but know they have several different 4-5 course menu options, and the reviewer for Miami New Times recently raved over it.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Frodnesor

        I appreciate all the detailed thoughts. Perhaps I am unbearably picky, but I find that being up-front about it makes for a happy meal.

        As for the five stars, that is how Chowhound rates restaurants--which I have always wondered about. The New York times uses four and Michelin uses three--the system could use some standardization.

        1. re: filleparfaite1

          You would probably enjoy Hakkasan too. Its at the Fontainebleau hotel on Miami Beach. I strongly recommend NAOE but be prepared for a long meal. You will enjoy it though.

          Miami Beach, FL, Miami Beach, FL

          1. re: Blind Mind

            Nobu is considered the best of the best Sushi. How does NAOE compare to Nobu Miami? Which is the must go? Not sure if Florida is the place to be going for sushi but it's under consideration as we're hear for one night before our cruise in March/April.

            1. re: syoung

              Actually most locals think of Nobu as a place to go to for the cooked dishes moreso than the sushi. Personally, I find the Miami branch fatally flawed as a sushi place because there is no actual sushi bar. I have not been back to Nobu in more than a year at this point but my last omakase experience was a disappointment - not because anything was actively bad, but only becase the lineup was uninspired and poorly thought out and the food was unexciting.

              If you are a patient and trusting soul (i.e. ready to spend 3 hours on a meal and willing to accept that the chef will select what you're eating), I think the sushi I've had at Naoe is leagues better than what I've had at Nobu.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                If you want a unique experience I'd pick NAOE. There's nothing like it anywhere in the city. And it fits your requirement of small portions, high standards and innovativeness (sp). The chef's face isn't splashed all over magazines and the location is out of the way, but the care taken to procure each ingredient (including soy sauces and sakes from the chef's family in Japan) is amazing. Naoe doesn't have the flash of Nobu, but it's infinitely more interesting, plus you're close enough to the chef to actually converse about what he's making.

              2. re: syoung

                Thanks for your help Frodnesor & lax2mia. We love sushi and reviews for NAOE everywhere have been spectacular, even better than Urasawa in LA or Sushi Yasuda in NYC according to some. However, when I think Floridian cuisine, I think cuban/Latin or American food; I don't immediately think sushi/Japanese, so that's my only trepidation.

                1. re: syoung

                  There is not a huge Japanese population in Miami and so your inclinations are on target. It just so happens though that a couple of our best restaurants - Naoe, and Hiro's Yakko-San - are Japanese. Go fiture.

                  Many people expect sushi to be a strong suit because of our proximity to the water, but in most places a lot of the fish is shipped from Japan anyway.

                  Naoe is, I suppose, sui generis for South Florida. I've not been to any of the LA or NY sushi palaces so I can't compare, but it is a special place.

            2. re: filleparfaite1

              Funny, I never even noticed the Chowhound rating system as it seems to not get much use here on the Florida board. Good luck getting a standardized restaurant rating system - most people can't even figure out what one source's star system means, much less get different sources to agree.

              Hakkasan is another good suggestion, I should have also mentioned Scarpetta (a spinoff of the NY restaurant) also in the Fontainebleau. I don't believe either do a tasting menu but they do have good food. Area 31 has an interesting focus on regional seafood and does a good job with it, and is currently offering a five-course "sustainable seafood menu."

              If you're willing to head up to Palm Beach, I've had some good meals at Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud. The menu is divided by "theme" (seasonal, traditional, simple, global) and I believe they may do a tasting menu as well.

              I should have also mentioned Nobu, which typically offers a few different omakase options. If you've never been to Nobu before, their "signature" omakase hits many of the classic Nobu dishes, several of which are very good. It's been so long since I've done it I no longer recall everything it included, but believe it had the toro tartare w caviar, the "new style sashimi" (sizzled with hot oil), the black cod with miso, beef toban yaki, a sampling of sushi, miso soup, and a dessert (and I'm probably missing a couple things). I have had mixed results otherwise with their omakase - sometimes great, sometimes mediocre.

          2. Agree with Frod's number 2. Glad you're at peace with it.

            Personally. I think you're looking for Hakkasan in the Fountainbleu, Boulud in Palm Beach, Palm D'Or in the Biltmore and the Restaurant at the Setai.