Miami Restaurants

Miami is home to all types of restaurants, from casual “joints” serving local and ethnic foods to a growing number of world-class establishments with renowned chefs. We had a chance to sample a number of them on this trip. From the most formal (and generally expensive) to the least, these include:

Juvia. This was an incredible treat. We surprised David, who manages a large, airport parking garage, to a restaurant atop the most famous parking garage in the country–Miami Beach’s 1111 Lincoln Avenue Garage (see our Celebrating Miami Architecture blog).

For those who are interested, the parking garage, designed by Herzog & Miller, Is a treat: The restaurant is even more interesting, not to speak of having much better food. Exit the elevator and walk into a lobby that leads to a large, be autopilot outside dining space (at which we ate) and a fully glass-enclosed dining room. Our table, on the railing and with a lovely skyline view, was perfect. The service and the food were just as good. We partially shared three appetizers (cold smoked scallop crudo, crab cuasa croquette and sautéed foie gras with grapes, pineapple mango chutney and hazelnuts) and two entrees, a perfectly done grilled veal chop with lemon confit, parsnip purée and dried fruit sauce and Chilean sea bass with maple-glazed eggplant, hearts of palm and soy butter. This was accompanied by cocktails, a nice wine, very good service and a wonderful view. A great time had by all.

So great that we just had to keep going. After walking and photo tour of the parking garage, we took a walk down the Lincoln Avenue Mall and stopped for a couple nightcaps–but that’s another story.

Tuyo. This was our big night out, at Norman Van Aiken’s restaurant atop the Miami Culinary School. We went all out with the six-course tasting menu, with wine pairings. The meal got off to a stellar start, with a conch fritter with aioli as an amuse bouche, a nice stuffed fried shrimp with a slightly peppery sour orange sauce and the highlight of the evening– the optional ($15 supplement) Island French toast with Curaçao-scented foie gras. Delicious. Things went downhill from there. The chef’s signature dish, the pan- cooked yellowtail on mashed potatoes with citrus butter was overlooked. So too was the somewhat salty, vinegary pork Havana with mole and a sherry wine reduction. I fared little better with a substitute for the pork, swordfish with wild black trumpet mushrooms with polenta and florentine tripe with tomatoes. We finished off with another substitution, a nice cheese plate as an alternative to the "chocolate goddesses bar." We were also somewhat disappointed with the wines, many of which were basic everyday drinking wines that, at least to our tastes, did not pair very well with some of the dishes. This being said, the atmosphere, the view and the service were all very nice.

Zuma is very upscale Japanese-themed izakaya restaurant in the lovely Epic Hotel, squeezed between the glamorous condos and yachts along the ritziest branch of the Miami River, while the restaurant offers a wide range of interesting sushi, robato grill and tempura dishes, we limited ourselves to four small plates, white miso soup, prawn and black cod dumplings, rock shrimp tempura and best of all, sea bass sashimi with a slightly spiced olive oil. While the food, service and atmosphere were all very good, izakaya fare is becoming so common that it is hard to find too much unique. That being said, our limited appetites, desire to sample a number of small plates and attempt at consensus among dishes in which we were both interested, kept us from trying some of the more interesting (such as fried fish roe) and larger (such as the rice and mushroom hot pot) dishes. Although we were severely tempted by the parade of attractive and interesting dishes being brought out to other diners, we decided to restrain ourselves in anticipation of dinner.

Oak Tavern. This is the most recent additions to the hot Miami Design District scene. Since we joined another couple for dinner, we were able to sample far more of the restaurant’s large selection of small plates than would have been possible on our own. After enjoying a couple drinks in the pretty outdoor patio, we set upon admission of trying as many dishes as possible. Among our favorites were the braised clams, roasted beet salad, charred lamb ribs, sausage pizza and buttermilk biscuits. Some, such as the scallop crudo and foie gras mousse were fine. A couple, such as the bone marrow, and especially braised chanterelles, were less inspired. But despite our best efforts, we were still unable to try as many of the dishes as we would have liked. Among those that we were forced to miss were the rabbit pate (of which the restaurant was out), the lobster sunamono, bison carpaccio, octopus a la plancha, stone crab crostini and deviled eggs with paddlefish caviar. Overall, a good restaurant experience, but not one of the more memorable of the trip.

Trulucks-Miami. David picked us up at the airport and we were off to our first meal–at the popular, upscale, Florida seafood change. David and I did stone crab claws: a wonderful reintroduction to Miami. Joyce had shrimp and crab grits with bacon and corn. While the bacon and corn added nice taste and texture, the crab was very tough to detect and the grits had a bit too much cheese for our tastes. But, with the activity, live music, conversation and a nice bottle of Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, all was well.

Yardbird Southern Table. A southern restaurant whose reputation and fortunes were justly made on the basis of its fried chicken. It was crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and delicious all the way through. We were equally pleased with our two other dishes: deviled eggs and shrimp and grits with plump prawns, gracefully restrained grits (after the cheese-laden grits we had at Trulucks) and a deliciously innovative, slightly sweetish, pork-based sauce with crisp shards of Virginia ham. Our server was personable and helpful.

Garcia’s Seafood Grill. Don’t expect the Ritz. Simply prepared, fresh off-the-boat seafood in a fish market that opens onto a casual restaurant with picnic tables, bench seats and an open-walled back deck. But the food, the service and the view over the Miami River are great. The three of us shared a dozen oysters, she crab bisque, stone crab claws, grouper sandwich and grouper salad. All were very good, the servers knowledgeable and more than accommodating. What more could anyone look for in a casual seafood restaurant?


Missed Opportunities (for now)

Although we did manage to get to a number of restaurants on our target list, we couldn’t get to all of them. Among those we had to miss were Azul, Michy’s, Jose Andres’ The Bazaar, Katsuys, Essencia and Mandolin. We would have also liked to get back to Michael’s Genuine Food. Oh well, we have to save some for future visits.

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