Miami has never lacked in dining options – not since the city became a go-to destination in the mid 1990s. But the culinary landscape has now reached new heights, thanks to a group of A-list restaurant openings by high profile chefs. Move over, NYC
Miami’s culinary cachet got a substantial boost last year with the opening of Alter, an industrial-chic restaurant in Wynwood. Manning the kitchen is chef Brad Kilgore, named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2016, who turns out highly conceptual, sophisticated dishes. A highlight:“Fallen Tree,” a vegetarian plate that includes dashi-poached hearts of palm presented as trunks, and a purée of barley miso and charred onions simulating mud.
Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr has recently opened Le Zoo at Bal Harbour Shops, Miami’s most upscale shopping destination. The French Brasserie is done up in rattan chairs, wrought iron-and-wood tables and boiserie on the walls, and serves perfectly executed classics like speak frites, onion soup au gratin, and foie gras terrine. Sit back with a glass of rosé and watch the fashionistas stroll by.
Pao by Paul Qui
“Minimalist opulence” may be an oxymoron, but that's what comes to mind when entering Pao, the new Asian fusion restaurant by award-winning chef Paul Qui. The dome-shaped dining room in the Faena Hotel Miami Beach is airy and monochromatic (brown leather banquettes, parquet floors) with flamboyant details like a unicorn sculpture created by Damien Hirst. Order a plate of fresh fish or meat seared table-side over Japanese binchotan charcoal.
Downtown Miami isn't known for its restaurants, but a couple of gems do exist. Chief among them is Niu Kitchen run by Spaniards Karina Iglesias and chef Deme Lomas (a recent James Beard Award semifinalist), who bring innovative Catalonian cuisine to Southern Florida. The space is narrow -- a long corridor covered in rustic wood panels -- but the flavors are mouthwatering. Exhibit A: creamy poached eggs with truffled potato foam and Iberico ham.
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Canadian firm Studio Munge used bright blues and greens set against blond wood to create the chic dining room at Byblos. The Eastern Mediterranean menu specializes in updated renditions of classic mezzes from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey. We love the Kibbeh (a Levantine croquette typically made of beef and bulgur) served here with tender duck confit.
Zak the Baker
Zak Stern (aka the "Sourdough King") opened his rustic bakery and cafe in Wynwood last year to instant success (just look to the daily crowds waiting for a table under the hot Miami sun). The delicious breads are kneaded by hand and topped with high-quality savory ingredients like herring with horseradish aioli or roasted beets and feta.
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This Wynwood newcomer was opened by two alums of Miami's popular Zuma restaurant. A roomy industrial-chic dining room (exposed beams, Edison bulbs, logs stacked against the wall) sets the scene for large plates of wood-fired and smoked meats (try the wagyu beef brisket with black shichimi pepper) and starters like crispy-crab steamed buns.
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Quinto La Huella
Uruguay’s Parador La Huella, a beach shack that fast became one of the best restaurants in Latin America, recently opened its first outpost at the stylish East Hotel in Brickell. The new space on the building’s fifth-floor is a spruced up version of the original rural-chic aethetic, but the dishes are the same: meats and fish grilled on a giant parrilla, fresh seafood appetizers, and handmade pizzas.
Glass & Vine
Once a haven for hippies and drifters, Coconut Grove has landed on the culinary map thanks to a series of buzzy restaurant openings. The brainchild of Chopped winner Giorgio Rapicavoli, Glass & Vine in Peacock Park is filled with stylish Miamians sipping cocktails and craft Florida beers and munching on small plates like duck ribs and grilled sweetbreads. We recommend a table on the patio for prime views of the park.
The former Morimoto space at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach was recently transformed into the Sarsaparilla Club, a restaurant with a cozy vibe (deep couches, upholstered chairs, soft lighting) and a novel food concept: American dim sum. What to expect? Carts filled with small dishes like short rib and beet dumplings, shrimp and bacon-stuffed chicken wings, and pork belly bacon steamed buns. While the inspiration is Asian, the flavors are homegrown created by New York transplants Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth.