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Sep 24, 2012 12:29 AM

Report: One year of visiting Miami (long)

Over the past year I've visited Miami a bunch (not on expense account). Here are some short reviews on what I've found so far. Thanks to all the South Florida CHers, with a special shout-out to the Frod and Chowfather blogs, for condensing such a big area into a navigable landscape.

Notes: Value matters in my equation so YMMV. For calibration, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area (I learned to trust Frod when he gave a lukewarm - at best - review of Zuni Cafe). The list leans strongly towards the mainland rather than Miami Beach.


Michael's Genuine: Big surprise, I know. Lots of great dishes. The duck confit and chicken for two weren't all that but most are from very good to excellent. My favorite place in Miami hands down. Their crispy pig ears are awesome.

Harry's Pizzeria: Casual, not too pricey, generally easy to get a seat, open late, good food. Polenta fries + salad + a pizza or two is our usual formula.

El Rincon Asturiano: Not all dishes are great, but lots of delicious stuff (especially the seafood but not the paellas), at a reasonable price point. I always order their jamon iberico de bellota platter, which is a good deal given how much it costs even in Spain.

El Palacio de los Jugos: Chicharrones are awesome, even if 1 in 4 is a dud (chewy rather than crisp skin). Not for the faint of fat, however. That plus some fresh fruit juices are the reasons to go. I haven't yet found something else that I was super fond of, though I do keep trying different things each time.

Shake Shack: Their food is better than it probably has any right to be, given their volume and prices. Very happy with the new branch so don't have to deal with South Beach.

Local Craft Food and Drink: Nice beer list (relatively uncommon in Miami, it seems). Food is solidly tasty and reasonably priced. Seems to have become a LOT more popular in the past few months. If there's anyplace where I'm a “regular”, it's here.

Red Light: one meal there so far, but the food was excellent. The booth where we were sat was awfully uncomfortable, though. Will return later in the fall when one can sit outside more comfortably.

Mr. Chu's: Good to very good Taiwanese-style Chinese food on the dinner menu. Their dim sum lunch menu isn't so inspiring.

Sustain & Sra Martinez: had one great meal at each before they closed. The egg yolk carpaccio at the latter was one of the best dishes I've had in the area. RIP.


Sushi Deli: the one time we went, we had to wait an hour and they were sold out of almost everything interesting. I think there's a secret formula of “call ahead on that day” and “show up around opening” or somesuch that increases the odds of securing the good stuff. Will try again.

Sakaya Kitchen: I think the flavors were generally a bit over-the-top, but at that price point it's worth the occasional visit.

Su Shin Izakaya: by Bay Area standards, very average at best. But by Miami standards it seems like a nice neighborhoody place to grab a decent Japanese meal. I'd avoid the ramen though, and I haven't tried their sushi or sashimi.

Barceloneta: one visit during Miami Spice and quite enjoyed it.

Josh's Deli: tasty pastrami sandwich. Super nice guy. A bit of a drive, though. If it were closer to central Miami I'd be there a lot more often.

Gigi: I think Frod's FFT review is pretty spot-on (“solid execution and bright flavors”). The steak looked awesome but I haven't had it yet.

Tropical Chinese: passable dim sum (I'm rather spoiled/picky). I liked it better than Phillip Ho by quite a bit.


Michy's: I know I'm in the minority, but the food was not nearly as good as Michael's and a lot more expensive. Plus I found the atmosphere stuffy to the point of feeling a bit uncomfortable.

The Dutch: very good food but expensive for what you get. The GF disagrees (but she didn't pay that day).

Sugarcane: nothing wrong with the meal, but it wasn't all that memorable either.

Yakko San: similar to Sugarcane. I'm not one to generally care about the setting but the enormity of this place is the opposite of what I prefer in an izakaya.

Talavera: Execution is decent but not nearly high enough to warrant the price tag. Doesn't help that I live in California.

Eating House: Maybe we ordered the wrong stuff, but none of the dishes really sang to me. The vibe is great, though, and super-friendly staff.

Garcia's Seafood: pretty decent food. I would consider going back - probably should re-visit, in fact.

El Mago de las Fritas: I love burgers in general, even only decent ones, but the chorizo in the patty didn't really do it for me.

Edge Steak & Bar: Good food but I found it pricey, even with Miami Spice helping to supplement it. It didn't help that it was 95% empty when we were there.

Burger & Beer Joint: Ok, but I'd choose Shake Shack 19 out of 20 times.

TO TRY LIST: NAOE, Bazaar, Joe's Stone Crab (once crab season begins again), Matsuri, Tuyo (tasting menu). I need to spend more time working through some recommended Cuban spots.

Any suggestions on obvious holes in my explorations are welcome!

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  1. Wow, you've gotten around in a year! Enough so that you've even got some of the sentiments of locals (the Yakko-san space is cavernous compared to their old spot which was cramped and awesome) but kept the Californian standards (I too am ambivalent about Talavera). Disagree about dim sum. To me Ho > Tropical.

    If you need other suggestions I'd add Blue Collar (neighborhood place near Michy's, try the burger and the spicy oxtail special), Jimmyz Wynwood (if only for the mofongo, a mashed plantain concoction w shrimp, roast pork or chicken criollo), Pubbelly if you haven't been (Pubbell Sushi not so much).

    1. You should try nemesis bistro. You should also try bazaar.

      1. It felt very good to read this (glad to have helped make Miami a little more manageable), and it's a very good list.

        Your "TO TRY" list is right on target. Naoe is definitely the best sushi in Miami (though priced to match). Bazaar is excellent. Joe's is a classic experience where the food is still good. I'd not been to Matsuri for several years before making a couple recent trips and I found it quite good, though the rice can be a little dry and the wasabi a little too heavy-handed. I've also had a couple very good meals at Tuyo.

        You may also wish to check out Estiatorio Milos. Though the regular experience is mind-bogglingly pricey, the $20.12 lunch is a great deal, they have a $49 "pre-theatre" dinner special, and you can also eat over on the Marketa side where they have a good selection of mezes for $7-12 a plate, plus a few raw fish and seafood items.

        If you liked Barceloneta you will probably also like Pubbelly, which I find to be the best of breed of the group (Pubbelly Sushi can also be fun if you "suspend disbelief" as to what a sushi bar should be like and give in to eating maki with pork belly and fried clams).

        Salumeria 104 and Nido Caffe are a couple nice Italian places that keep it simple and don't try to do too much. I prefer Salumeria but Nido's decent too. I also like Sardinia Ristorante, for great vegetable antipasti, salumi, the pasta with bottarga and several other things too.

        Sounds like you had a bad experience at Philip Ho - I'd encourage you to return on a weekend, they seem to do much better on weekends when it's more heavily trafficked. I definitely prefer it to Tropical though Tropical may be more consistent.

        You may also like La Camaronera, a sister restaurant to Garcia's with a fantastic fried fish sandwich ("pan con minuta"), plus the black-eyed pea fritters, the shrimp, and the fish soup are all good too. Very casual, stand-up counter service only.

        If you're willing to go down south, I had very good Vietnamese recently at Pho Thang down in the Palmetto Bay area.

        Since you're from SF you know from Michael Mina, but even so, Bourbon Steak is one of the best restaurants in Miami and worth visiting.

        I've not had a "regular" meal at Azul, but a couple special event dinners (one for Cobaya when Chef Joel Huff was still there, another very recently when Brad Kilgore cooked a special menu for a small group of us) were outstanding.

        Gigi - I've not been in some time, but my visits there were getting progressively more disappointing each time. I should probably go back if just to re-calibrate my review, as I think it may be a pretty different place than when I visited - original chef is long gone, menu is pretty significantly changed. Who knows, maybe for the better.

        6 Replies
          1. re: Frodnesor

            Thanks to all for their suggestions.

            We did go to Philip Ho on a weekend (Saturday, I think) and both the GF and I agreed it wasn't as good as Tropical. But it sounds like it might very well have been an off-day for them.

            Thanks for the heads up on Pho Thang. The GF likes Hy Vong but I don't find the food very traditionally Vietnamese which kind of turns me off. Plus the line seems disproportionately long (probably because the service is brutally slow) relative to the quality of the food.

            1. re: bouncepass

              Pho Thang is authentic though nothing special. The room is the classic nondescript, strip mall place -- punishing atmosphere. In the plaza closer to US1, Caribbean Delite (check the spelling) is an authentic Trinidadian place with tasty roti. Sango is also there for Jamaican/Chinese Jamaican. All have been there for years.

              1. re: bouncepass

                Nice feedback. I'm in your camp... Tropical > Ho

                You should check out Lokal in Coconut Grove for a burger. Definitely do Bazaar, NeMesis, and NiDo too.

              2. re: Frodnesor

                I agree about Milos being a great experience and relative value at lunch.

                Interestingly, the $20.04 lunch is now $24.04. I asked our server about the price increase and she said that people had been complaining about the small portions; so they increased the price to offer larger portions. I noticed no increase in size to the scallop starter or the sea bream entree. However, the Greek yogurt desert was actually smaller.

                Nonetheless, the $24.04 lunch is still a great value and experience.

                1. re: Frodnesor

                  I agree about Milos being a great experience and relative value at lunch.

                  Interestingly, the $20.04 lunch is now $24.04. I asked our server about the price increase and she said that people had been complaining about the small portions; so they increased the price to offer larger portions. I noticed no increase in size to the scallop starter or the sea bream entree. However, the Greek yogurt desert was actually smaller.

                  Nonetheless, the $24.04 lunch is still a great value and experience.

                2. Updating my progress! Thanks again for all the suggestions.

                  NAOE: very high quality, but pricey. Ordering any extra nigiri after the fixed menu really adds up very quickly. The fixed menu itself is pretty reasonable, though, so I'd go again and try and stick to that knowing that I might be a bit peckish soon after.

                  Bazaar: huge menu. Stuck mostly to the more traditional Spanish stuff. A majority of the dishes were very good to excellent. Two medium eaters split 5 dishes and that was already too many (since one was the rather sizeable but delicious rossejat). Definitely would return to explore more of the menu.

                  Milos: we went to the marketa for lunch. They were out of half the dishes. Service was terrible (I rarely care about service as long as it's not totally incompetent, but this was egregiously slow and started out slightly hostile). Food was decent but pricey. Not sure I'm dying to return.

                  Joe's Stone Crab: stone crab claws and key lime pie were both great. Next time will do takeout instead of restaurant, and try the $5.95 fried chicken too.

                  Next up: Pubbelly, Macchialina, La Camaronera, Jimmyz Wynwood for mofongo,

                  7 Replies
                    1. re: tpigeon

                      Is mofongo always available at Pubbelly? It appears to be right now. If so, that does make life a bit easier by cutting out one destination.

                      1. re: bouncepass

                        Yes. The mofongo is a regular part of the menu.

                        1. re: tpigeon

                          At Pubbelly mofongo is a side, Jimmyz mofongo is a meal. I agree Pubbelly's is better but Jimmyz serves with well prepared proteins. Pubbelly mofongo with Jimmyz creole shrimp would be ridiculous.

                          1. re: lax2mia

                            I like Jimmy'z too, btw and agree with your statement. To be more specific, if you just want to have some mofongo and the best mofongo, Pubbelly is the way to go, if you want to make a meal of it, you may want the portions and variety Jimmy'z provides. But on a pure taste basis, Pubbelly wins.

                    2. re: bouncepass

                      I won't go back to Milos because of the service and I'm not someone who usually complains about service. The two times I've been there have probably been the worst service experiences I've ever encountered.

                      1. re: emily

                        Milos seems like a place to launder Greek money.

                    3. my 2 cents:

                      Totally agree about Michy's but loved Sugarcane. Especially the ceviche, chicken meatballs and scallop crudo with truffle, apple and jalapeno. Also, we had fabulous service at Sugarcane.

                      thought Philip Ho's was just average. would not return.