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Miami Spice 2014 Edition

Here we go again people: spice is around the corner, and here is the usual post to update with your experiences as they happen. The 2-month promotion has already been alluded to in 2014, but to keep it on track I'll include all the links here: beginning with the official site (reinvented again this year, and for the first time under the umbrella of the visitors bureau):

There is a whopping 567 participants this year, and one thing that hasn't changed is the infuriating randomizing restaurant list that shows only 5 participants at a time. So only 100 page changes until you have a complete picture, which is why this thread is an essential boiling down with the help of chowhound expertise.

There is a July 31 kick-off event which includes an iron chef type competition judged by Allen Susser: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/event/...

Another difference this year: Pubbelly can't wait until August, and i like that! Pictured is the Pubbelly Spice menu, which is being served already (and they've put on a great show in prior years).

Thanks to CFByrne for posting the prior year's wrap-ups:

2013 Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9091...

2012 Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8596...

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  1. Wading through the list, it quickly becomes obvious that something has gone wrong in compiling it. When i started reading through it, i joked to myself "what, are they going to include Denny's" - and they did. Also 3 McDonalds on the list - yikes! So to highlight some notables:

    The Dutch;
    Pubbelly (not sure about Pubbelly Steak, and Sushi);
    Prime 112 & Prime Sushi;
    The Michael Schwartz restaurants;
    the 50 eggs places (swine, yardbird);
    The Bazaar;
    The Fountainbleau restaurants (Scarpetta and Hakassan, but no Gotham);
    Bourbon Steak (a fave serving spice dinner 7 days a week)

    Also some great new places I'm looking forward to trying:
    Michael Mina 74
    AQ by Aqualina (Dewey LoSasso's new place in Sunny Isles).

    Lots of gems, but this year they are "hidden gems" in a field inexplicably including fast food outlets, hot dog joints and scoop shops.

    Most Surprising omission: Blackbrick
    Most Unsurprising omission: Naoe (I've still never been)

    3 Replies
    1. re: non sequitur

      Blackbrick is already priced for spice. It does not make much sense for them.

      Gotham no longer exists - will become another Mina restaurant soon.

      Pb Steak does spice. Sushi does not.

      1. re: tpigeon

        Re Blackbrick: you are correct - the current lunch deal for $15 is simply too good a deal already to be included in Spice. And they couldn't add anything to it to make it worth $22 (it's more than enough. Food as it is).

        Didn't realize Gotham Steak was RIP - I loved Gotham as a NYer, but never even checked out the miami outpost because steakhouses saturated the market.

        PB steak I confirmed is in (already - in July too), with a "go fish/go steak" theme (attached)

        1. re: tpigeon

          According to the PB Steak website, their last day is today--8/3...says they are moving to a yet to be determined location. Reason given is rising real estate prices which would have forced them to raise menu prices....bummer, that was my favorite resto in Sunset Harbour.

      2. Can't wait for the usual roasted1/2chicken,churrasco,chilean salmon,and penne pasta choices that alot of restaurants fob off during miami spice.What a shame that what started out as a good idea with restaurants attempting to showcase innovative dishes has degenerated into a fundraiser for tourism bureau who wacks the participating restaurants approx $500 to $1000 each for "advertising".Every year i suggest participating restaurants just give a 20 percent discount on their regular menu so customers can try their regular dishes.For many people a free dessert which is what the spice deal amounts to is no bargain.

        1 Reply
        1. Wrap-ups reference doesn't work.

          1. Trail 6 is right - shouldn't have pasted.

            Here is the 2013 wrap up:

            And the 2012 one:

              1. re: CFByrne

                I think they tried too hard to fit it into a gimmicky "A-Z" format, sacrificing some top picks in the process.

                Miami New Times has had great coverage in past years, and virtually nothing so far this year!

                Made reservations for Bourbon Steak and Oolite this morning.

                1. re: non sequitur

                  I thought the same thing when I saw "Seasons 52" listed...

                  But still, there are some useful tips here. And the article promises more detailed "Best of" lists in the coming days.

              2. Unlike previous years, I am not seeing any menus. A few, but not most, of the restaurants show the Spice menus on their websites...Difficult to know what to choose!

                4 Replies
                1. re: gblcsw

                  I found many of the restaurants had posted menus on the spice website at the time of the original post. The link is http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/specia..., and I see that as of now they wisely whittled the list down to 175 participants. If you have the patience to scroll through the 35 pages of participants (5 per page), you should be able to click on the restaurant name, which opens a page with the days of participation, and yet another link on the left to view the menu.

                  1. re: non sequitur

                    I really must be doing something wrong... I get 614 participants, 1/2 of whom don't show anything(Chalan, Charlotte, Folie, etc, etc...).

                    1. re: trail 6

                      Try this "at a glance" list, which I just found, and which seems way more focused and better organized: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/specia...

                2. I tried the dim sum brunch at Hakkasan this weekend, to contrast that $28pp offering (available all year) with the $23 spice version (only available in Aug/Sept). The menu for each is attached.

                  We started with 3 steamed and 3 crispy dumplings each (compared with 4 steamed offered on the spice menu).

                  Next we had the choice between the BBQ platter or the stir fried chicken (you don't get both). The bbq platter we chose had one rib for each of us, and some slices of char Sui (pork).

                  The "vegetable" course was also a choice between 2 options: 4-veg or a type of bok choi called "pak choi" (we chose the latter).

                  Lastly are the sides/starches. The fried rice and wanton soup we got were both single-sized portions.

                  Unlike my spice experience at Hakkasan, I left the $28 lunch a little hungry. I then looked at this year's spice menu and see that the "pak choi" is actually given as an option for a main (!). So if you go for spice, I'd recommend going with the deep fried snapper as the main without question. That, and 2 good looking dessert options make it not a bad deal, but seemingly less generous than in the past.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: non sequitur

                    We tried the Spice Lunch at Hakkasan on Saturday and had a great experience.

                    I originally asked about the Dim Sum Prix Fixe menu and was told that it was not available. However, we were very happy with the Spice presentation.

                    The Dim Sum was incredible. We each got one steamed chicken, steamed mushroom, steamed shrimp and steamed ground beef dumpling. This was the highlight of the meal. The barbecued chicken was very good as were the bok choi and desserts. We tried both desserts. We really liked both the white chocolate panna cotta and the mango custard. I'm not sure I could say that one was better.

                    The noodles were a little disappointing. The dish was basically bland won ton soup with noodles and pork -- the pork was good though.

                    I left pretty full. The Dim Sum was so good, I could have easily eaten more. However, the portions were a good size for the average appetite.

                  2. Makoto today for lunch - our table had it all. Robata chicken is $10 on the regular menu, so the worst bargain as a main for spice.

                    The way to go: start with thr tuna on crispy rice (2nd choice is the salad), then rainbow roll (next would be the jicama tacos, but a distant 2nd), and the no-choice dessert is a matcha tiramisu, which is fantastic.

                    1. Great....looking forward to it as I will have 2 nights when I visit in mid-August....I have the choice at eating full meals at what I considered to be 2 expensive restos in SoBe but did not when I last visited for the month of May--Milos and Red the Steakhouse....will consider Bazaar by Jose Andres, Meat Market is ALWAYS a favorite spot of mine...and, lastly, they say Il Mulino will be participating--is it open yet?? (weren't they originally in SoBe but moved away?..if so, their new location is next to Milos, right??

                      If you had to rank 1, 2 and 3 in order of meals from above for dinner, what would be your top 3 choices? (Milos, Red, Meat Market, Il Mulino, Bazaar)?


                      1. Just had the Spice Menu at Palm D'Or at the Biltmore. The menu has changed slightly from that posted on the Spice and Biltmore website. http://www.biltmorehotel.com/dining/p...
                        The spice menu was presented along with the regular menu.

                        Amongst the four of us we tried three of the four apps, the duck foie gras ravioli, hamachi, and melon and Iberico ham. The presentations were beautiful. The hamachi had bright bursts of citrus flavor and the melon and ham came with mozzarella ice cream which really brought the flavors together. The choice of mains were limited to the duck, the beef with a $15 surcharge, and a "bouillabaisse" which replaced the two fish choices on the spice menu. The duck eaters at our table enjoyed their meal of sliced duck (no crispy skin). The bouillabaisse had no broth nor sauce and consisted only of a small chunk of charred octopus, a few small rings of calamari, a couple of small mussels and a few tiny shrimp. The flavors were good but the portion size was quite small. For dessert, two of us had the $6 supplemental cheese cart which consisted of a large selection of some interesting cheeses, although only accompanied by a small spoonful of a raisin purée and some more rolls from the bread service, the Napoleon was phyllo-less and instead was a rectangle of chocolate cake, mousse, with an orange liqueur infusion. The Vacherin also deviated from the classic but was a nice ending to the meal.

                        Overall, the service was top notch. The bread selection was quite good, as well. The food refined. Two glasses of wine and two cocktails and two coffees, tax and tip, and our Spice bargain for four set us back $300. For big eaters, you will leave hungry, but overall, the food was exactly what I expected from Chef Pugin, having last enjoyed his food at Le Cirque in Las Vegas a couple of years ago.

                        1. Heading to J&G Grill this weekend.

                          Any recos on which two of the three apps and entrees wife and I should order?

                          Menu in photo below (assuming it has not changed).


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: CFByrne

                            CFB: I was thinking of going, and hope you'll report. I hear the menu changes frequently, so I don't know if a review would be of much guidance, but I'd like to know if it's worth it (being dinner-only this year).

                          2. Looks like Miami New Times did eventually get around to its annual "good, bad and grudging" round up of Miami Spice (later than usual). The most important of the 3 is the "great" list, which is found at http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shorto....

                            The "good" article also worth a read: http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shorto...

                            "Katsuya by Starck" sounds interesting, and was not on my radar until reading the above.

                            I was away until this week, so it's time to get busy, continuing with Bourbon Steak this weekend.

                            1. BOURBON STEAK
                              The Spice promotion is for the "slow" season, but Bourbon Steak was full to capacity by 7pm last night. As a result the service was a little spottier than I've come to expect: at my table of 4, not a single appetizer or main was delivered to the right recipient, and while we received the customary trio of fries, there was no truffled potato bread (usually given as the second "amuse"). There was also an unwelcome surprise on the bill: the corkage fee was raised (2 weeks ago, apparently) to $35 from $25. At $25 it was a bargain I'd come to depend on; at $35 it's proof that inflation is coming, so make sure to ask for a raise at work.

                              I tried everything on the Spice menu except the sorbet. In the apps the "SWEET CORN & MAINE LOBSTER CHOWDER" was the clear winner: the kind of rich and decadent soup you expect to pay up for in an upscale location. The "TEMPURA SQUASH BLOSSOMS with ratatouille" came second, but would have been a contender if there were 3 blossoms instead of 2. The loser was the "HAND-ROLLED ANGEL HAIR PASTA with butter, black pepper, and pecorino" - I think there was a noodle substitution, because the noodles were flat, not round - but the real problem was overcooking: this was a little mushy, and the seasoning was uninspired - even a simple pesto would have been a big improvement.

                              In the mains, the surprise was that the weakest of the 3 was the steak! Ribeye is my favorite cut of meat, but the "CERTIFIED ANGUS EYE OF RIB EYE farro & english pea "risotto", grilled onion relish" did not live up the the steaks served at BS in past spice menus. Also, I have enough experience with this cut to say that the "eye" was really half of an eye in size.

                              The "TRUFFLE CHICKEN POT PIE breast roulade, hay smoked confit, sautéed pea shoots" was better option, but it was a real challenge to carve up the pie part of the dish with a massive steak knife. My favorite entree was the "TAPIOCA CRUSTED YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER coconut forbidden rice, sugar snaps, xo sauce" - this had a lot of complex and rich flavors and textures.

                              The best dessert was the "PEANUT BUTTER "SNICKERS" caramel mousse, chocolate ganache, peanut rice crispies". Second place went to the PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN PARFAIT vanilla pound cake, candied ginger, pineapple sorbet. Didn't order the sorbet, but would consider it over the parfait at least, because the parfait was pretty small. Compared to the decadent butterscotch pudding on last year's menu, the desserts were not as decadent or generous this year.

                              While not as impressed as in years past, a great meal overall, and I'll check it out again in September if the menu changes in the second month (as it has previously).

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: non sequitur

                                I loved the lobster and corn chowder...Agree with everything you said about it. My husband and I both had the rib eye. Portion size was a joke and mine was overcooked from medium-rare to medium. My husband ate it, but we told the server when she inquired. She sent over the manager ...Nothing but an apology.
                                I did enjoy the risotto, however. Agree that "snickers" dessert was quite good. My husband felt the pineapple upside down parfait was just "okay." We, too, were very surprised by the $35 corkage charge. They are, however, very gracious and even decanted our wine for us.

                              2. SHIKANY:
                                Had a truly memorable meal here last night (note: Spice menu originally described on the website to be 7-days, but subsequently changed to exclude Friday/Saturday, so confirm availability of the menu when reserving - some Yelpers were disappointed when they didn't).

                                First time visiting, and though I spent a lot of time in Wynwood this summer, I had no idea the restaurant was just around the corner from the LAB business incubator where my kids went to camp.

                                Great open-concept space with the bar at one end and the kitchen at the other.

                                Started with an amuse (always nice to see in a Spice menu) and an
                                Old Fashioned ("Bulleit Rye Infused with Orange, Cloves, Granny Smith and Gala Apple") served with an infuser of "habanero water" to spice it up - cutting edge beverage program. My date had a mojito with sage and rosemary in addition to the traditional mint (both $14). We were looking forward to trying the "Samsara" cocktail (fruits steepted vodka in a vessel called a Porthole), but they were transitioning the selection, and the Portholes were out of use.

                                The menu included an appetizer not on the spice menu: Wagyu tartare. When you see the word "wagyu", you don't second guess, so we both went with that: a beautiful cube of chopped beef topped with a quail egg - very good!

                                For mains I went with the "BRAISED CHINESE ‘5’ SPICED SHORT RIBS triple cream goat brie turnip mousse, nasturtium, soy sake jus" and she with the "COBIA WELLINGTON gouda, shiitake watercress leek duxelle, kaffir lime sake strawberry syrup, black truffle caviar". There were no losers here: both were amazing dishes, though I'd give the nod to the shortrib - really, really rich and amazing. The fish was like no other fish I've had: really meaty and again a great presentation.

                                We also diverged on the desert: "FRUIT AND CHEESE mascarpone cream, nitro fourme d'ambert, seared peaches, rosé wine stewed black mission figs, crispy serrano" was a real palette of many different taste notes, and all those listed ingredients allowed for much experimentation. I didn't try much of the "ZA’TAR BOMBOLONI arabic black tea cream, black walnut croquant, balsamic gelée", but again there were no winners or losers in this course: both options were amazing.

                                The reviews on YELP were very hit and miss, so on the strength of Chowfather's recommendation, I was really looking at Spice as an opportunity to draw my own conclusions, and it exceeded my high expectations. In 2014, I think Shikany is THE place to go for Miami Spice, even defeating long-time favorite Bourbon Steak.

                                1. TIMO

                                  After a few years not participating in Miami Spice, or offering some parallel version (but at dinner, not lunch), Timo in Sunny Isles Beach is back on board for 2014 and a great M-F lunch option for those of us in the north end of Dade. We used the holiday Monday as our annual opportunity to get a family spice lunch (which are more uncommon on weekends).

                                  There were 2 choices at each level. Kids each got a nice $12 wood-fired pizza (though one would have been enough for 2 kids to share).

                                  One really interesting thing about Timo's spice menu is that it's the same at lunch and dinner, so with the lunch one priced $23 and dinner $39, guess which is the better deal (dinner is apparently larger portions, but lunch was big enough that I basically skipped dinner).

                                  App choices were a duck/foie-filled pasta, and a tuna tartare. There was not much foie taste to the pasta, and the portion of the very fresh and light-tasting tuna dish made it the winner by a slight margin. I was looking forward to the "grilled octopus over crispy gnocchetti", but that option disappeared with the month of August (Timo changes the menu at the half-way point, and I appreciate that a lot, though I missed the first month).

                                  The mains were a filet of dorade over vegetables, or a strip steak with a mini-stack tower of potatoes (a richer dish, maybe a little too rich for lunch when it's 94F outside, but perfect for the "autumn").

                                  Desserts were a pumpkin "popsicle" with candied walnuts (again, a great fall dish, but like Oktoberfest beer this week, the weather just does not match the season), or orange creme-filled cannelloni (which I liked better of the 2 options).

                                  So Timo is another example of a good spice menu where you really can't go wrong whatever you choose. If you go as a couple, I'd recommend ordering different items (not like Makoto, where everyone should order the same things because some choices are so much better than others).

                                  1. OOLITE
                                    Lunch September 6.
                                    A much smaller number of restaurants participate in Miami Spice on the weekend. Cris Wessel was visible in the flesh at his new SoBe restaurant yesterday, so I think everything was a representative sampling of the menu.

                                    On the Spice website, the BBQ shrimp is listed as a main course at Oolite, but on my visit it was an appetizer, which is a shame, because as the best thing I had in the lunch, a larger portion as a main course would have been preferable. The appetizer-sized portion was tasty, with about 5 shrimp (right-sized for an app). The sauce is the star, and I'm surprised there's no bread or anything else to sop it up with - should be served on a plate with a square of focaccia or something. It was a shame to send it back to the kitchen.

                                    The other app I tried was "coconut-Conch, Salsify & corn chowder". After having an awesome corn/lobster chowder at Bourbon Steak this year, I was interested in Wessel's take (regular menu price $11). The soup looked and tasted like a mexican tortilla soup, not a chowder (more of a manhattan-chowder than a new-england style). There were no conch pieces to be found (maybe blended?), and no coconut taste, so I almost wonder in retrospect if I got the wrong soup (but there's no other soup on the menu, so I doubt it). Verdict: disappointed.

                                    So in the app choices, BBQ shrimp wins hands-down.

                                    On to mains: I had the Palomilla Steak "Hialeah" Style (regular menu $22, so on a $23 spice menu I thought it would be the best value). There wasn't much art in the presentation: the strip steak at Timo last weekend beat it on quality/taste/presentation. There was a lot of meat here, but it wasn't much done with it, and the tostones were pretty bland too.

                                    Other choices were the "ropa vieja", a chicken sandwich, and a fish of the day, which was grouper over greens. I tried the fish also, and again it wasn't really particularly memorable.

                                    Again I have to contrast with Timo: each dish there was beautiful, and the restaurant was completely empty from noon to 1pm. Oolite was packing them in yesterday, but I was much less impressed.

                                    There were 2 desserts options. Being a mango lover I tried the "summer mango pie" ($7 regular menu). It looks like a key lime pie, but with toned-down flavor. Came with a nice mango drizzle, but as a whole I was again unimpressed. I tried a little of the chocolate dessert also. Very rich chocolate flavors, and probably the option I would choose if I went back in time.

                                    Go? If you work near Lincoln road maybe. Service was good, and I LOVE that they offer filtered sparkling or still water gratis (an emerging trend I really appreciate as a hater of bottled, imported water), but the most important thing has to be the food itself, and other than the BBQ Shrimp, I didn't see anything new or unique.

                                    1. PUBBELLY
                                      Went to Sunset Harbor for a Sunday birthday dinner. I have a lot of envy for people living in this area: 3 pubbelly restaurants, the best pizza/calzones in Miami at Lucali, a Publix AND a Fresh Market. Just an embarrassment of riches.

                                      The most important thing to say about the Pubbelly Spice menu is that is is in fact $33, not $39 (as published on the spice website). There is a lot of selection and a lot of amazing bites to be had for that price, and they are also generous in offering it on Saturday and Sunday.

                                      Our table of 2 (after taking the young'uns for calzone) had:
                                      Starters: DATES AVEC CHORIZO goat cream, bacon, spicy tomato, HAMACHI CRUDO lemongrass romesco, garlic chips, hazelnuts, and FRIED SNAPPER SALAD tomatoes, japanese escabeche, shiro soy. The Hamachi was 2 sashimi-sized pieces of the fish. If I did it again I would have cajoled my date into trying the Buffalo-style sweetbreads, which look amazing. As for what we had, the Snapper salad was a fave. The dates are hot and not easy to eat in bites - it's all or nothing, so wait until it cools off.

                                      Then in the "dumplings" course, we had PORK BELLY & SCALLION DUMPLINGS su-shoyu, shichimi, onion marmalade and the SHORT RIB & CORN DUMPLINGS black truffle, corn soy, sorrel, parmesan. You get 2 of each, so 1 per person of each. My favorite of the 2 was the short rib, but I don't think there's such a thing as a bad dumpling at Pubbelly.

                                      In the "PIG OUT SECTION" we had the PORK BELLY kabocha squash, butterscotch miso, corn powder, and the BRAISED PORK CHEEKS black truffle gnudi, asparagus, japanese mushrooms. My vote would be for the pork cheeks - it was a really full size plate with lots of great gnudi (like gnocchi).

                                      The above came at the same time as the "EAT YOUR VEGGIES SECTION" pick, the justifyably famous BRUSSEL SPROUTS (bacon miso, sea salt). A few years ago Pubbelly made it clear to me that these thanksgiving staples (which always ended up in the trash) could actually be amazingly tasty.

                                      The dessert was CHEF'S CHOICE, and in our case the bread pudding. I would have preferred to try the Chunky Monkey, but this was a great dessert, and I was pretty full by now.

                                      With the $6 "savings" from the regular Spice menu elsewhere, I got a sake-cocktail ($11), and all of these have a lot of thought, effort, and great taste. Also got some "fat bastard" oysters at $3 each, which were a great opener to a large meal that hardly needed supplementing.

                                      Great meal, and highly recommended for Miami Spice.

                                      1. SCARPETTA

                                        All the Fountainbleau options are expensive, and Scott Conant's place is no exception, with mains easily topping the mid-$30s. For this reason it's a regular stop every Aug/Sept during spice, but my verdict is that has lost a little of the "wow" of prior years (perhaps due to Nina Compton's departure earlier this year?).

                                        I've been here enough to never stray in beginning with the CREAMY POLENTA (served with fricassee of truffled mushrooms). Too bad, because the other options sounded pretty good this year, and the appetizers as a group were more interesting then the mains (choice 2 - TUNA BRESAOLA; choice 3 - MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA stewed baby tomatoes).

                                        There was a 4th choice: STEAK TARTARE, but with a supplemental charge of $12, which doesn't make much sense: it's $22 on the regular menu, and the Polenta and Carrozza are $18. An upcharge of $3, or even $5 would be sensible, but $12 is out of line.

                                        The Polenta has for many years been a staple of my "last meal", but it seemed to have lost a little of its magic last night. Even still, it remains a "must-have" item on the Spice menu (but if you go with a date, maybe branch out a little with your second diner's choice).

                                        MAINS: the $12 supplement for the famous SPAGHETTI on the MS website requires explanation: this is to get the dish WITH a main, not INSTEAD of a main. If you've never had it, it's fantastic, but if you also get the polenta app, you are going to leave the table very full (so I'd recommend it as a "share", not a "solo supplement").

                                        MAINS: The LOCAL SNAPPER (w/ fregola, shrimp & mushroom-fennel brodetto) was not the most beautiful appearance I've ever seen, but a good piece of fish with crispy skin. I skipped the OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN because it's hard to impress me with chicken. I also skipped another $12 supplement on the PRIME SIRLOIN OF BEEF (again: $12 supplement, on sirloin, is a little out of line).

                                        The CORN RAVIOLI (baby zucchini & chanterelle mushrooms) was more up to Scarpetta standards: great looks, very rich, and delicious. If I were Italian I would protest at the thought of a pasta as a main dish, but if you go, this is worth a try (or sharing).

                                        DESSERT options have not changed in forever, and the way to go is still the COCONUT PANNA COTTA (with caramelized pineapple & guava "soup"). I also had the COFFEE SEMIFREDO, and it was a distant second.

                                        So Scarpetta is an example of a place where guidance helps, and if you go with the polenta and the panna cotta, you are going to have a great meal no matter what you have as the main. Also nice is a 3-flight pairing option for $25. Not so nice is the cost to valet: $12 with validation - whew.