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Miami Spice 2012 Edition

It's that time again. Full list of participating restaurants at www.ilovemiamispice.com/participants.htm
New this year is the bifurcation of participants into a $23/39 "luxury" group, and a $19/33 "regular" group.
For at least one restaurant - Bourbon Steak - this is a good thing because in prior years the steak option always carried a $10 supplement (taking the $35 base to $45). This year they have a wagyu ribeye without a supplement, and that is one of the best values this year.
Reviewed here: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shorto...

As usual, lots of insightful coverage in New Times, including:

Never been to Bianca at the Delano, but this article puts it on my to-do's this year (though a $30 supplement for truffle taglietelle is a little daunting - these are summer truffles, not white or black):

So my "for sure" list is:
Bourbon Steak (at least 2x
)Scarpetta (New Times cites a weekday bonus course, though I don't see it on their posted menu)
Hakkasan for dim sum brunch

My "wish list" are:
1500* at Eden Roc
Tuyo (new this year)

Please update this thread with your actual experiences, beginning July 1.

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  1. Is it just me or do all the restaurant offerings this year pale in comparison to last years?

    2 Replies
    1. re: brkak132

      It seems to get worse every year.

      1. re: brkak132

        I'm not a huge fan of Spice, but just from looking at menus, I actually think a number of places have done a good job with it. For years, my big gripes were that (1) many places participated for which a $35 meal was no great bargain, compared to their regular prices; and (2) too many places seemed to approach it with the sole goal of minimizing their food cost, leading to the ubiquitous Atlantic Salmon / Chicken Paillard / Churrasco menu trifecta.

        While I think the split into "luxury" and "fine dining" pricing categories is confusing, it does at least theoretically help distinguish those places where a (now) $39 meal might be a "bargain."

        Of the menus that are up, I see plenty of things I'd like to try at Area 31, Azul, Bourbon Steak, The Dining Room, The Forge, River Oyster Bar, Sugarcane, Toscana Divino, and Tuyo (and several don't have menus up yet).

        Palme d'Or and DB Bistro's menus aren't that exciting but I'm sure they're well done, and to get out of those places for $39 is a deal.

        Among the lower price rung, most don't have menus up but Pubbelly (9 dishes for 2 people) and Mercadito (drink, guacamole, ceviche or botana, 6 tacos, side and dessert for 2 people) both seem like great values.

      2. I'd skip Bianca , Spice or not. Overrated, overpriced Italian food.

        1. The last couple of years, many restaurants have upped their game on miami spice. Some restaurants still offer a menu that is

          a) metaphorically phoning in the effort, or

          b) not necessarily a good deal when looking at their regular menu

          Scarpetta, Gotham, Sugarcane, Hakkasan and Bourbon Steak all did a great job last year. Though some places are essentially offering the same menus as last year (Scarpetta), they were so good that I would go again. It'll also give a chance to check out some of the new places that I haven't gotten a chance to check out (Edge, La Gloutonnerie, etc.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: madtheswine

            Scarpetta's menu has been pretty much identical since it first joined either 3 or 4 years ago, but since I only travel down once a year that's ok with me (polenta alone makes it worth the drive).

            The list does seem to be growing - Pubbelly is new to the list even since the thread began, so I'll be making that a 'for sure' too since I haven't been yet.

            Luca Bella in Aventura is a good example of your (b) above - being on the "Luxury" list, I think you'd dine cheaper using the regular menu.

            1. re: non sequitur

              I'd say the same thing for Randazzo's too. It's far from being a "Luxury" establishment...

              This year will be the first time I go to Scarpetta! :D

          2. Miami New Times added to earlier referenced posts with its specific recommendations, in a 3-part series. Only the 3rd of which matters if you want their "best" picks, which you will find here: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shorto...

            Not sure I totally comprehend MNT's selection criteria. Tuna's Raw Bar in NMB? "makes it to our 'great' list every year'? Really? I went years ago, but maybe need to give it a second chance.

            The participant list continues to grow, to the point that I miss the geographic regional separations in past years. Another new edition: Zuma (!) - I'll hit that up for a lunch, since I'm told it's 'the most expensive restaurant in Miami' (one place where spice HAS to be a great "deal").

            7 Replies
            1. re: non sequitur

              Don't know who told you Zuma is the most expensive restaurant in Miami but I'll tell you it isn't and going for Spice would probably be a letdown.

              1. re: lax2mia

                It is definitely one of the most expensive restaurants in Miami and was great for Spice when I went a couple of years ago.

                1. re: SobeChower

                  Zuma might be one of the top 50 most expensive restaurants in Miami. I sincerely doubt it's among the top 5. I haven't been in some time but the prices in my experience are comparable to other local Japanese places like Makoto or Oishi, and still not quite as inflated as Nobu. They've not posted their menu so it's hard to say whether it's a great deal or not.

                  1. re: Frodnesor

                    I'd love to go to the Zuma that is priced comparably to Makoto.

                    1. re: SobeChower

                      Zuma's online menu does not list prices but when I was there and noted the prices (which I'll admit was a while ago), appetizer / robata items were mostly priced ~$8-16, maki were $13-15, sushi items were mostly $7-10 for 2-piece orders, entrees were $20-35, desserts were $10.

                      Both the Herald and New Times reviews report prices in the same ranges: Herald says "$12 cocktails, $5-$36 for small shareable plates, $85 chef’s selection tasting menu, desserts $10-$12;" New Times says "Sushi (two pieces) is generally $7 to $10; most small plates and salads $12 to $20; mains $21 to $36; and desserts $10 to $12."

                      Have those prices changed significantly? If not, that is certainly in the same range as Makoto (and far from the most expensive restaurants in Miami).

                      1. re: SobeChower

                        Zuma IS priced comparably to Makoto... I've been to both and there is very little difference in prices... maybe $1 or $2 here or there but its almost identical otherwise.

                2. re: non sequitur

                  Did Zumba for spice today - wow, how far downtown Miami, and its lunch scene, has come in 10 years. I barely recognize anything from my days as an associate at 200 biscayne,when the only real "power lunch" to be had was at the capital grille.

                  There is huge value in spice here beginning with free valet parking at lunch (until 4pm), saving me both meter change and a walk from the intercontinental.

                  It wasn't clear to me online, but the meal starts with both the soup AND salad (the latter of which is refreshing, the former unexceptional but welcomed).

                  For mains I tried the sashimi, which was eye candy and mouth candy, though the beautiful presentation somewhat hid the main attraction: salmon, tuna and hamachi. My wife, between court dates, met me and had the miso cod which we were told is a signature dish (and is on a parallel spice menu for about $10 more). This was a generous portion, and so rich it would have been hard to eat it without some sharing.

                  The dessert was the biggest standout: some kind of chocolate concoction with candied nuts, a 'birds nest' of miso flakes I've never seen before, and some excellent ginger ice cream that was almost spicy. Amazing meal for $23 and free parking. If I still worked downtown I'd be here weekly during spice.

                3. New Times "Best" pick Mercadito is running a groupon-type promotion that gives 2 spice menus for the price of one: http://miami.dealsaver.com/engine/Spl...

                  Deal runs for 6 days from date of this post. Kind of like "extreme couponing" in that it's a discount on top of a promotion.

                  1. Timo Spice report: Went last night. They have the $39 Spice menu although they are not listed as a participating restaurant on the Spice website. The choices sounded interesting enough and three of our party of seven ordered a variety of items offered on the Spice menu. Let me preface my comments by saying Timo is our family's go to restaurant when getting together with extended family. For whatever reason, last night, both the service and flavors were lacking. Hopefully, it was an aberration and not a hint of things to come as the manager acknowledged without details, that they were having issues in their kitchen. There were two choices each of apps, mains, and desserts. I didn't get to taste the shrimp app (3 medium sized shrimp with some sauces) as I ordered the olive/sundried tomato/goat cheese tart. What was delivered was not a traditional tart, but instead a small round of baked pizza dough topped with three sundried tomatos, three small black olives, and a few crumbles of goat cheese accompanied by a small green salad, neither very interesting or particularly tasty. For mains, one got the pork chop which was a large chop in a brown gravy/sauce and I had the swordfish atop mussels with leeks. The best part of the dish were the leeks and mussels as the fish was a thin fillet that was rather dry and smoky flavored. The two desserts looked very appealing, although the chocolate and peanut butter log with toasted mashmallows was reported to have an odd taste to it. The lemon poundcake with berries and ice cream fared better. As noted above, I've eaten at Timo's countless times, but last night was a major meh. There are far too many more appealing spice menus to try out before I'd recommend anyone heading to Timo's for theirs.

                    1. Sunday at Scarpetta:
                      Along with the usual polenta app and spaghetti main, highlights included swordfish bresaola (somwhere between a carpaccion and what you'd expect from a bresaola) as an app and porchetta with canellini beans as a main. Desserts were excellent as usual (coconut panna cotta with guava soup is still my favorite after a heavy meal).

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: lax2mia

                        Thursday at Scarpetta:
                        Polenta, Spaghetti were all killer. My only possible complaint with the spaghetti is that it may have been too basil'ish, if that is a word. The porchetta with canelli beans had great depth of flavor, but some of the beans were chalky. I'd say 90% of the beans were cooked well. The porchetta rocked, tho it seemed overcooked as I got to one of the tapered ends. The chocolate terrine was on-point. The only negative was the Budine di Mascarpone. The Budine tasted great but was a litte stiff. The mango sorbet was great on it's own, but didn't work well with the budine.

                        I'd love to know what they to do to those mushrooms with the polenta app. I can just eat that and be happy.

                          1. re: Frodnesor

                            Thanks Frod, I'm going to try this soon

                      2. I made reservations for lunch at makoto, brunch at hakkasan and dinner at tuvo

                        any suggestions on seating-
                        i am dining alone-

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: jpr54_1

                          Skip Hakkasan's spice and order off the menu. The dumplings are delish but fried beef balls and overseasoned lamb skewer to start are pretty mediocre ( and greasy). The chicken congee is also not a standout. The service is fantastic there and our waiter was phenomenal. He knew we weren't happy and said that the spice dinner was far superior to the brunch. It seemed that a lot of people were not enjoying the spice version for lunch.

                          1. re: jessierandall

                            Huh. That's too bad to hear about the Hakkasan lunch. I went last year and thought it was great. Has anyone else tried it this year?

                            1. re: jessierandall

                              That stinks. Last year's lunch menu was a steal. This version actually wouldn't be bad if I'd never had the one last year. Guess they set the bar high.

                              1. re: lax2mia

                                We had the spice dim sum brunch last year and the year before and it was the best value of all the spice dinners/lunches. This year's menu looked a little paltry but I was hoping that they would still pull it off. Sounds like it's not the same. We have reservations for Sunday. We'll have to supplement from the regular menu, I guess.

                                1. re: tlubow

                                  I was not attracted to the spice menu at hakkasan when I went last weekend for brunch so I did not get it. The only thing I will say in their defense is three of the tables in my area did order it and they all seemed to be enjoying their meals from what I could tell. I realize that this is not much to go on...btw, If I went again, I would still get the dumplings and not do spice.

                            2. re: jpr54_1

                              tuyo will be awkward dining alone, unless you're ok eating at a table solo in a smaller quiet room with other groups dining at other tables.

                              1. re: Blind Mind

                                In years past, the Spice lunch was a deal and the food was superb. This menu definitely has some serious weak spots. I do think Hakkasan is worth a trip - but only if you're going off Spice.

                                1. re: jessierandall

                                  It shouldn't be an issue to order spice and then supplement with menu items, right?

                                  1. re: tlubow

                                    I highly doubt they would object. In fact, I think they would encourage it.

                            3. @non sequitur

                              In regards to the add'l course at Scarpetta, they gave us each a bite of watermelon with burrata and basil. Not sure if that's always the bonus course, but it was on that night.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: madtheswine

                                Aha! I've never had any amuses in past spice experiences, so maybe that was it.
                                Not really worth planning around, from the sound of it.
                                I always leave Scarpetta stuffed during spice anyway.

                                1. re: madtheswine

                                  Seems like it. I went to Scarpetta on Friday, and the bonus course was a spoon of burrata with compressed watermelon and basil.

                                  Tried their famous spaghetti, it was pretty amazing, never had anything like that before. Wasn't a fan of the noise level there though.

                                  1. re: madtheswine

                                    On my visit it was a shot glass of white gazpacho - may have been coconut. Yum, but not worth changing a weekend reservation to a weeknight.

                                    It was as good as every year, polenta app is the must-have.
                                    My only gripe is the "discounted" parking for $12 - yikes! There is a public lot a couple blocks north, but only for MB residents, otherwise $20! Double Yikes!

                                  2. Does anyone know if the Setai is still doing Miami Spice lunches? The lunch menu (or days) are no longer up on the Miami Spice website AND there is no mention of such a thing on the Setai website.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Mega

                                      If they're only listed as serving dinner on the Spice website and there's no lunch spice menu on their own website, I think you have your answer.

                                    2. Barceloneta spice served sharing style. Phenomenal way to try a slew of different dishes. Aside from an overly salted fideua and meh dessert it was one of the better Spices I've had (sister restaurant Pubbelly is also worth a visit)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: lax2mia

                                        We went to Barceloneta this week also. Sat at the bar and enjoyed the eight course meal. Plenty of food. (The couple next to us were so upset they weren't given the Miami Spice menu, with each new course we received they became more disappointed and frustrated). We had the salted caramel mousse dessert and it was OK, not one of my favorite flavors, but the bread pudding seemed too heavy after so many courses. I was wondering if you have three people how they do sharing, or if four can you try all the dishes since there are two choices for most courses. The sharing thing always gets me confused so we go as a couple for those menus.

                                      2. Bourbon Steak was predictably solid. Love the "extras" like duck fat fries 3 ways (with 3 sauces, I guess that makes it "9 ways"?), and the truffled potato bread that I haven't seen for a few years.

                                        Wahoo was the app-winner - great presentation and flavor.
                                        Steak is the only way to go for the main.
                                        All desserts fantastic.

                                        Together with the fact that parking is free (a $12 savings over the Fountainbleau eateries), and it is a tremendous deal. Even if the menu is unchanged in the second month, I will go again.

                                        My one warning: forgo the $15 Foie supplement - I got suckered on that one (the 3oz size translated into something that would fit in a soup spoon, and not a large one at that).

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: non sequitur

                                          +1 for Boubon Steak. Went last night. Spice menu good value. Food, service and vibe terrific.

                                          1. re: zook

                                            I agree with that! Food, service, and ambiance all top notch. For the desserts, if you get one of each (which will probably be likely if you go with a date), you should eat the blueberry shortcake first as pecan parfait is overwhelmingly sweet!

                                            1. re: brkak132

                                              Hit Bourbon Steak last night. Winners are the local wahoo and corn ravioli appetizers and the ribeye entree. The ribeye was especially awesome. It was juicy and had an intense beefy flavor. The smoked eggplant and cherry tomatoes on the side were great too. The pork cheek entree was sweet and vinegary, perhaps a little too much so. The texture of it was right on point. The cornbread was moist which I appreciated.

                                              The blueberry shortcake was well constructed. The shortcake crumbled perfectly and created a great textural contrast that pulled the dish together. I agree that the pecan parfait was too sweet (which I usually don't mind in a dessert), but the butterscotch tasted too much like the candies I had growing up. It was the only blip on an otherwise excellent MS meal.

                                              One thing that I noticed was that they charged 9% tax on the meal. When I asked, they told me the add'l 2% was a resort tax. I questioned why that's not noted anywhere, but didn't get a clear answer. Perhaps the valet is not as free as we believed.

                                              1. re: madtheswine

                                                No, valet is 100% free and managed by an outside service so the restaurant eats the charge every time they validate. 2% resort tax is charged everywhere in large hotel/resort properties like Turnberry. You'll see the same thing at Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, etc.

                                                1. re: Blind Mind

                                                  Never noticed it before at Fontainebleu or Eden Roc, but I don't always look at that line item. The tax was easily noticeable because it was exactly half of the tip added to the bill which signalled to me that it was 9%.

                                        2. Making the rounds on Miami Spice -- been to Setai, The Dining Room at The Shelburne, Toscana Divino, Mixtura (Coral Gables and Surfside - Peruvian), Fogo de Chao (Brazilian steakhouse). Next up are BLT Steak and Tantra. Milos doesn't have MS but found out they have a $20, 3 course lunch that I'm trying tomorrow. So far thumbs up on all the places except The Dining Room which was just alright. Fogo de Chao is the best value but come very hungry. Love Zuma (haven't tried it this year for MS) but I'm not a big eater and I find the portions small. Makoto is very noisy.

                                          1. Went to Pubbelly's for dinner. Lots of courses but tiny amounts of food for each. Surprisingly though, at the end of it I was full, even though I was certain that I would still be hungry. Their menu is slightly different from the one shown on the Miami Spice page, but here's what we got:

                                            Snapper Tiradito - Pretty good, small dish though, basically equivalent to 1 piece of sashimi per person.
                                            Fried Chicken - Great! The winner hands down.

                                            Duck and Pumpkin dumpling
                                            Pork belly and Scallion dumpling

                                            Pork belly
                                            Pork tenderloin - this was the better of the two dishes imo. The polenta was amazing.

                                            Brussel sprouts - They messed up and made this instead of the green beans, so they gave it to us anyways. Very glad they did because this imo was amazing. The best brussel sprouts I've ever had in my life.
                                            Green beans

                                            Came with 3 people so we got 2 desserts
                                            Bread pudding - amazing
                                            Berries and waffle ice cream thing - I don't even remember because the bread pudding blew this away. I remember that there wasn't enough waffle though...

                                            All in all, a great dinner! Would highly recommend :D

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: brkak132

                                              Happy to see theY were doing spice on Saturdays and arrived early this weekend to get a seat.
                                              Brkak132 is right about thinking "I'm going to leave hungry" at first, but by the end it's a satisfying meal.
                                              The sharing is weird. We had a group of 4, and for each thing you chose they scale it to the number of people. So far so good, but there is lots of sauce and garnish that you can't really fight a group for... With chopsticks!
                                              Dumplings and croquetta apps were amazing and I could have eaten all 4 portions myself.
                                              Pork belly was the best main - really amazing.
                                              Bread pudding and brownie desserts were a "tie", but again the sharing becomes a real issue when you are given a gooey bowl of dessert, and 4 spoons. If you are a germaphobe, you better have a few beers from pubbelly's amazing selection before dessert course arrives.
                                              PS: A new $1/hour municipal lot opened up very recently, so don't park at publix and get yourself towed.

                                            2. Kind of unrelated but does anyone know if restaurants regularly offer the Miami Spice menu during Labor Day?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: brkak132

                                                Went to Bourbon Steak last night and, as always, they really delivered on the Miami Spice menu. Started with the complimentary duck fat fries which are irresistable. We turned down an offer of bread (sigh). We had the wahoo crudo and the grilled peaches with coppa and house made whipped ricotta to start. I loved the crudo which has a southwestern feel - avocado, cumin, sliced pepper. My husband loved his peaches and cream - it felt light despite the meat and cheese! For mains I had the wagyu filet and he had the porks cheeks. They were both outstanding. We were reluctant to stray from the beef on the 2nd entree, but glad we did. It was tender and gooey and smoky. We had both desserts. The blueberry shortcake was the clear winner. The biscuit was flaky and sweet and the corn ice cream was just sweet enough. We were stuffed at the end of the meal. The cocktails were also fantastic. They were surprisingly busy for a Wed. night. Make a reservation and take advantage of MS before it ends!

                                              2. Checked out Estiatorio at Milos, the new Miami outpost of the New York Greek seafood restaurant. Though it's not the MS menu, I'm mentioning it since it has a lunch menu now for about the same price, $20.12 for three courses, which is a very good deal considering the prices at dinner and allows you to sample the place. Started with the Greek mezze, good but not outstanding. Much better was the diver scallop on a skewer with couscous, excellent quality (yes, one scallop), which my friend had. I followed it with the wild salmon which was exceptional and I mean exceptional (quality, way it was cooked). It came with broccoli. For dessert we had the greek walnut cake with ice cream. There's also a top quality fruit plate (oh those plums, haven't had such good ones in years). Both choices are very good. It's worth going here for the fab fish, the best I've had in Miami, and the attractive setting. There are special wines by the glass with the lunch menu but they're only 4 ounces. Best to spend a few dollars more on the regular wine menu and get a 6 ounce glass. Also, be careful about what you order that's additional as the bill can add up quickly.

                                                1. Anybody tried Two Chefs? Their menu looks really good for Spice.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: netmover

                                                    Wow - lots of choices anyway. If you go to their website, it looks like their entire menu is eligible for Spice!

                                                    My only experience is when they briefly had a second restaurant in North Miami (in the original Mark's Place location). I recall everything was cooked properly and well, though the style is maybe a little dated and unexciting, and the dessert souffles are excellent.

                                                  2. After a difficult start at Bourbon Steak - seated at 9.10 despite an 8.30 reservation - the entire experience was fantastic. For seating us late we were each offered a glass of bubbly, and a another nice touch - I was given a birthday letter (despite not telling them it was my birthday). We ordered off the Spice menu - portions were not massive but each of us was totally full after the meal. The ahi tuna and the beef carpaccio appetizers were ok, but the corn ravioli was spectacular. My wife got the grilled cobia, which she thought was delicious and the rest of us got the new york strip. It was absolutely delicious, with a perfect char and perfectly tender. Overall, a fantastic meal which I am still dreaming about.

                                                    1. The dutch has really good spice menus going for lunch and dinner. The corn soup, in particular, for lunch is killer.

                                                      BTW their current pie is banana cream with a chocolate chip crust. It is their best pie yet. Unfortunately, this is not on the spice menu but is highly recommended.

                                                      One more thing, I tried their NY Strip and it is almost as good as the ribeye.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tpigeon

                                                        Agree, The Dutch similar to Bourbon Steak has really taken Miami Spice seriously this year. The Dutch lunch and dinner menu are great. Really liked the Asian White Boy Ribs, B.E.L.T & Italian Hero (sausage) on the lunch menu. I tried most of the dinner menu and highly recommend the foie agnolotti and the skate dish, which is fantastic. Josh Grippers desserts are great too plus they are offering a Miami Spice cocktail menu with $8 drinks. Here are some pics http://www.thechowfather.com/2012/08/...

                                                      2. I'll just update thread to note that when spice ends, FLL version begins, but it's dinner only, and nmay or may not warrant a separate thread. It seems badly organized (took some work to find the website, which seems to change yearly).
                                                        Find it at http://www.sunny.org/dineout/

                                                        Miami wasn't always so organized either. I remember when they actually had the URL "miamispice.com" and then lost it, which is why today we have the stupid "ilove" prefix.