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Restaurant Reviews

Basel Bites

There are two things you can count on this Basel: You gon' walk (and werk), and you gon' have to eat.

So here's a list of restaurants where you can break fab bread with your friends.


Best Place for Pre-Vernissage Cocktails and Appetizers: Macchialina
This casually elegant 8th and Alton South Beach hot spot from the unstoppable Pubbelly brain trust has a really awesome daily happy hour, from 6 to 8 p.m. (so if you like your prosecco then, y' know...get!), plus such deliciousness as a creamy polenta with sausage ragu and cippolini and baby meatballs with porchetta and pecorino on the menu. Get in before you go out party hopping. For more information and reservations, call 305.534.2124.

Best Place for Basel Sunday Brunch: Eating House
Giorgio Rapicavol's burning up the eighth block of Ponce de Leon in the Gables with his oh-so-original pop-up brunch spot-turned-Sunday It spot. From his throwback-y Tang mimosas to his – Gushing Alert! (I'm in love) – yumnomenal candied applewood smoked bacon, not to mention his inventive Cap'n Crunch pancakes and his carbonara eggs Benedict. Btw, the House is now open for both lunch and dinner. For reservations, email Plus, Rapicavoli's popping up on the SoBe scene with Drinking Room at The Astor during Basel (and staying through New Year's Eve).

Best Place for a Quick Bite Before Heading Into Midtown and Wynwood: The Daily Melt
Yo, like Allen Susser's The Daily Melt is the latest where it’s at in Midtown Miami. No joke. Trust. A beyond-affordable and scrumptious kinda joint – I mean, the Bacon Melt (cheddar, perfectly crisp bacon, baby spinach, and Roma tomato) is $4.95! – this is the sort of place you want to hit before you go see and be seen at Art Miami and all the galleries (or shopping in the area; just fuel back up with the Granny Smith, a gooey green apple, ham, and cheddar sitch that is #winning.

Best Place for a Late Poolside Lunch on the Beach: Florida Cookery
Last night's openings and parties make you roll out of bed on this side of noon? Well then, make sure you get your spirits right back up at the restaurant at the James Royal Palm Hotel with lots of water (remember, H20's your friend!) and a big plate of Kris Wessel's oxtail, oyster, and alligator empanadas or his outstanding curry seafood platter. For more information and reservations, call 786-276-0333.

Best Place for Dining and Wining a Gallery Rep: PB Steak
I never thought anything could make me forget about Joe Allen – but the Pubbelly guys have gone and done it with this super-cool steakhouse. So if ya trying to broker a deal at the fairs, take your rep to PB Steak and have the sharing tasting menu. They'll be slashing Benjamins off any asking price after the first bite of a steak tartare slider and practically giving things away after enjoying the bone-in filet. For more information and reservations, call 305-695-9550.

Best Place for a Sexy Date with a New Friend: STK Miami Beach
The restaurant known as "...not your daddy's steakhouse" is finally back now that The Perry South Beach has completed its renovations, so if you're looking for a sexy spot where you can lounge with a glass of bubbly – or a couple bottles – or have a hearty meal with a new pal you met at some A-List party (welcome back, Lil’ BRGRs!), then you know where to go. For more information and reservations, call 305-604-6988.

Best Place for a Late-night Taco: Huahuas Taqueria
Todd Erickson's (Haven South Beach) newest concept on the "quiet" block of Lincoln Road between Alton and West is billed as a local's "refuge for great, fast lunch, dinner, and late-night Mexican fare." Quiet…yeah, right. Not with all of us rushing to try either restaurant's food... . So stop by Huahua's, get your refresh on with a margarita, and try any of Chef Todd's delicious $3.29 tacos (my fave is the BBQ Short Rib taco). For more information, call 305.534.TACO. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and former associate editor of FIU Magazine (follow him @moviemartin). A version of this article appears in the December 2013 issue of ML.


A Tale of Two Villas, Pt. 2

A little while ago, I began to tell you about Miami's newfound fascination with villas and whatnot, singing the praises of the oh-so-posh Villa Mayfair down in Coconut Grove.

Well, it's hella time to tell you all about that other villa – the starrier, showier one on South Beach – that's been giving foodies something to talk about: Villa Azur, which is co-owned by the French actor from Unfaithful o.k.a. Halle Berry's fiancé, Olivier Martinez.

For the actor, coming to the Magic City as a restaurateur was a no-brainer.

"Why not," Martinez said when I asked him why he wanted to take such a gamble last spring. "I mean, my friends are here since a while, they're good at what they do...I love Miami".

"One day they tell me to come on board; I think a second, and say, 'Yeah, OK – let's do it!' It’s fun. I've been here many times and I love the weather, the people, the ambience.... It’s a mix of cultures. I just love it."

With its Hollywood-approved pedigree, this beautiful restaurant wants to evoke the French Riviera som'in' fierce, but is in much too urbane a setting to succeed (it is located on 23rd Street, which is a hop and a skip from the sand...meaning close but no beachy cigar).

Thank goodness for its glam factor (the bar is gorge and there's a smart lounge full of books and comfy seating that's perf for pre-dinner drinks) as well as its outdoor patio. This is a great place for a first date or a très sérieux tête-a-tête with a friend (or, serious as you can manage while drinking, say, the restaurant's signature $17 Villa Azur drinks, a beyond- fabulous mix of limoncello, strawberry puree, and Champagne – j'adore!).

The way Martinez puts it, though, Villa Azur is "a place you go to eat well."

And that, my foodies, you will.

The seared tuna appetizer with avocado and baby spinach, for instance, is a thing of fresh beauty, and at $21 a pop you'll want to open a line of credit with your local bank just so you can spoil yourself and have it every other day week.

There are three entrées that are eye-catchers and happy-tummy-pleasers: the roasted cornish hen with green olives and rosemary ($25); the $34 veal scallopini with soft polenta and asparagus; and the XXL ribeye steak ($38), which, I confess, is a mouthwatering mouthful, but darn is it good with that béarnaise they have going on.

Don't even get me started on the lobster risotto pictured here. Seriously, don't: C'est vraiment magnifique.

Now you have an idea about WTV (i.e., what the villa – duh) is going on in Miami, so be sure to pay each a visit soon.

To recap, Villa Mayfair is located at 2901 Florida Ave. in Coconut Grove. For more information and reservations, call 305.774.1500.

Villa Azur is located at 309 23rd Street in Miami Beach. For more information or to make a reservation, call 305.763.8688. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 12 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can and should follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Shochu Wanna Have a Cocktail?

Zuma Miami has been a favorite of mine pretty much since it opened. I just heart getting invited going to there for dinner, and just love their brunch (it's sooo good – I mean, good like, I-ate-everything-good...and I do mean everything, plus they have these drinks with and orchid in them that are just yummy).

Anyway, the downtown hot spot recently introduced a new beverage into its mix: shochu.

Shochu – it's pronounced "show-chew" (get it right) – is Japan's other indigenous alcoholic beverage, a spirit whose name translates to "concentrated by fire." It's distilled and produced from a number of raw ingredients including grain, rice, sugarcane, and sweet potato, unlike sake, which is made from fermented rice.

It's the hot drink of the season. Really, you guys, sake is so five minutes ago. Plus, it's lo-cal, and the hangover from it is said to be real smooth. Oh, and research has shown that it triggers thrombolysis (the breakdown of blood clots), so, y' know...if have those going on, get!

At Zuma, they have upped shochu's sexy factor by infusing their offerings with flavors tried and true to the tastes of us Miamians. Shochu, of course, remains prevalent and dominant in the profile of the restaurant's shochu-based drinks (btw, the spirit is an acquired taste – but it's not bad at's just fiery, alright).

Best taken neat or on the rocks, you can also have it in four flavors at Zuma: raspberry (kinda like a cosmo with an extra punch), lychee (not my cup o' tea), green apple (yeah!), or citrus (double-yeah!).

Give it a whirl, whydon'tcha. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for almost 12 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can and should follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


A Tale of Two Villas, Pt. 1

It's been a bit since I got all Sobelicious on your collective a--es – nine months, to be precise (and, no, I didn't go have a kid somewhere).

I just got fat burned out, eating and writing for your foodtertainment.

Not that I stopped eating. I have a nice cache of well-researched pieces to share, so whaddya say I start telling y'all about how, for a big ol' cosmo-city, our Miami has been all about the villas lately.

The word "villa," by definition, implies retreat, which has the word "treat" in it. You can sorta see what the fascination is all about: villas are imposing and luxurious. And in the case of the two that have been attracting diners to their tables, they also can be tasty.

The first to open its doors last fall, Villa Mayfair in Coconut Grove, has a decidedly classic air to it...a certain je ne sais quoi that gives major rich bitch, but, y' know, in the friendliest way.

The other, Villa Azur (co-owned by Kylie Minogue's ex the actor Olivier Martinez), feels just as swank, but more modern. This one opened not that long ago, and I will tell you about it real soon.

So let's start with Villa Mayfair.

The restaurant's in the Grove, and The first thing I thought when I walked in was just how much it reminded me of that place that lady from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills owns – it just had that vibe. The inside décor is pure elegance and perfect for a throwdown. I mean, a nice wholesome meal. It really is rather laidback, but in a gilded fashion (the powers that be hired the same designer behind Mansion and The Forge, so think dim lights by chandeliers and lots and lots of romantic whimsy).

Perhaps the best way to put it is it's opulent, with a matching menu, which is a celebration of Mediterranean flavors with fresh, local, and seasonal products coming together to offer guests selections worth of a feast.

There's a raw bar that of course includes Florida stone crab (when in season, I shall presume; $32 for five claws), Alaskan king crab ($22 for three legs), and a weekly selection of yummy oysters.

Appetizers include a grilled octopus with a spicy limoncello vinaigrette ($16), and a simply beyond-good Wagyu beef carpaccio served with a spicy tomato tartare and hearts of palm ($14). I looove me some carpaccio, alright, so I hearted this. Hearted it like a two-dollar whore.

Sidebar: You must start your meal at Villa Mayfair with Champagne or prosecco. They're chuffed about their selection at this villa.

Moving on... Entrées at here are heavy on the protein, so be ready to eat. There's ribeye, a Kobe filet, and a juicy (juicy!) 12 oz. New York Strip all north of 30 bucks, as well as fish dishes ranging from a nice $29 pan-fried branzino to a bank-breaking $61 Dover sole à la meunière.

And, naturally, there are also a number of homemade pasta dishes to enjoy, including a delicious-sounding plateful of gnocchi ($16) and a rather tremendous risotto of Portobello mushrooms, green asparagus, and a lovely espuma ($22). (IMHO, the only thing that coulda make it better? A little bacon on top.)

Villa Mayfair is located at 2901 Florida Ave. in Coconut. For more information and reservations, call 305.774.1500. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for almost 12 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can and should follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Sports (Food) Time

Well, it's time for a shameless, if albeit shocking confession: I enjoy football.

Actually, I like some college football – and I root for FIU.

So I'm here to plug the Panthers' (that's the 2010 Sun Belt Conference champs, Little Caesars Bowl-winning Panthers to ya) upcoming 2011 season – uh huh, how you like me now! – which kicks off Thursday, Sept. 1, at FIU Stadium at the university's Modesto A. Maidique Campus (MMC).

Now, what's this got to do with a food column?

Everything, natch, as anyone who knows me also understands I'd eat in my sleep if I could. And watch the telly, too.

Plus, I did say this would be shameless.

Since seven FIU games will be shown on national TV (check your ESPN listings), I'd like to dedicate this write-up on Duffy's Sports Grill to all of my peeps at Biscayne Bay Campus (my old campus) and to all North Miami Beach Panthers.

That's because, should you not be able to make it down to MMC to roar with us – and I know every Panther worth his/her blue and gold already has season tickets – you'll be able to enjoy all the action, including the home opener, at Duffy's. That's where I'd be if I wasn't rattling the Cage: there's good grub and the recently opened sports grill has flat-screens galore.

But about that food...

It's some deliciousness, alright. Normally, I'd shy away from such a joint – not 'cause I’m that big of a food snob, but because it’s not quite my scene, y’ know. Me at a's kinda incongruous. Duffy's, though – it's got it going on.

It's an oh-so-loud and rather welcoming spot, right on the water like RACKS (scroll down for that little trip down where-have-I-eaten memory lane), up on 163rd Street at the Intracoastal Mall.

And they have a cool menu.

I could spend an entire football game eating your way through the Starters alone, which range from a toasted margherita flatbread ($7.50) to yummylicious potato skins ($5.99, and awesome – two words: chopped bacon) to beautiful and tasty mini-crab cakes ($9.99).

You noticin' the prizes? Not bad, huh.

One of my favorite appetizers I had there was the chilled sesame-crusted tuna with Asian noodles ($8.99).

It was meal-y enough to fulfill me, yet small enough to leave me wanting more. That's sayin' som'in' right there.

The menu at the restaurant is as varied as it can be: there's burgers, chilis, soups, pastas, sandwiches, salads, seafood, and more. I, of course, had to try a little something from the grill: half a rack of baby back ribs ($13.99). With fries.

Ooh, childrens, what I do for you: They. Were. Stupendous.

Granted, by then I was already on the full side, but whaddya know...they made a great lunch the next day. Still juicy and be-friggin'-yond. And I likey.

So there you have it: If you must be a wet blanket and watch an FIU game on TV then watch it at this joint – and wear your fat-day sweatpants 'cause, really, you should at least go to town on the eatin'.

Duffy's Sports Grill is located in North Miami Beach, at the Intracoastal Mall on 163rd Street and N.E. 36th Avenue. It's open every day, from 11am-2am, and they have all kinds of happy-hour specials, so cheers to that!

For more information and catering, call 305.760.2124. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Get Your Vice on at Soirée

It's all about Vice Lounge Miami and its Soirée restaurant, Irene or no Irene.

That's because the up-and-coming spot on Lincoln between Collins and Wash (right next to Set) is playing host for a Sparkle preview Thursday, August 25th – and y'all gotta be there.

What's Sparkle, you ask? It's the a.k.a. of the annual Miami Recognition Dinner that The Task Force is presenting at the Fontainebleau on Saturday, Oct. 15. So I trust you can make it – I know...late notice much? – because it's going to be a fun event to get the word out on a terrific fundraiser, and, well...because you really gotta stop by Soirée and try their food.

It's been a bit and a half since I first stopped by, so keep that in mind.

Let's see, I recall starting with yummy oyster Rockefeller ($17), which rocked 'em – and by that I do mean my bones. These Blue Points were It, and I didn't mind the creamed spinach that came with (I'm no Popeye), and I def didn't mind the jumbo lump crab that also came with, either, prolly because the béarnaise sauce in which it all was bathed was a-frakkin'-mazing.

Pretty sure I remember having the carpaccio as well, a $16 plate of prime beef, baby arugula, shaved Reggiano, fried capers (loves it!), and a lovely olio verde. It sounds like something I would gravitate toward, but my memory's not what it used to be.

I definitely tried the steamed mussels ($17), too. They were small-ish on the evening I went to there, but tasty. That white wine sauce was good.

Oh, I almost forgot – you know how Vice likes to welcome you in (well, they did my pals and I): with a nice toast...your choice. They wheel out a cart of bubbles and you pick.

Just thinking about it makes it jiggle.

But I digress.

Anyway, entrée choices include chicken, fish, and meat, of course, as well as pastas and a raw bar.

We tried the branzino ($34), which was good-lookingly oven-roasted and had this brown nut-brown butter situation going on. I...really didn't get to have a bite because my tablemate wa'n't sharing and he actually was fixin' to like, fork me if I got near his plate, but I had the tomahawk beef short rib ($29), and I'm here to tell ya it was spectacular.

Whaddya want: I like a big piece of meet (that's what I said), especially when it comes with chive-mashed potatoes and a savory au jus encouragement.

We did share a plate of the daily risotto, which was giving major taste of Spain – it was spicy and, jo'er, sooo rico!

The cuisine at Soirée is def influenced by this duality: it's a fairly American menu, but the European sensibility is there, as is a penchant for the decadent (you see the look of the place in the picture here, right).

I also liked that Vice is a place where you can get down, y' know. You can have a nice meal, and then you can boogie woogie (that reference is intentional, btw). They play good music; the décor and vibe are oh-so-flirty (I loved how the restrooms were so teasetastically they were appointed in relation to each other, for ince).

In short, Vice is fun. And Soirée has a Miami Spice menu, so come Sparkle, or make your reservation for another time – just don't stay home.

Vice Lounge Miami is located at 330 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. For more information or reservations, call 305.438.7835. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Haven Sent, Y'all

It’s time for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, people, and I'm here to tell ya where to go after spending your time trying to crash making your way into the sexy shows at The Raleigh Hotel in this G.P. forsaken heat to relax and enjoy: Haven South Beach.

Yeah, the recently opened gastro lounge is all the way on the opposite end of the island – oh, just walk – at the end of Lincoln between Alton and West, but you should get to know it very well.

The hot spot combines molecular gastronomy and mixology with cool sounds and some cutting-edge design that give it a certain Itness that’s still accessible.

From Day 1 Haven has established itself as trendy and flashy, which it is (there is a pretty awesome wall installation that changes throughout your time there), without sacrificing intimacy as evidenced by the nice-touch ceiling grid of 1,000 replicas of the customized ice cubes used at the bar. Y'all, they're sooo cool: they light up! they were installed by the powers that be, including executive chef Todd Erickson!

Speaking of my new Facebook buddy – shall I talk about his food?

Erickson's selection is super-eclectic, and you can see the CIA-trained chef (that's CIA as in Culinary Institute of America, not the other one) work his magic from the counter next to his small-ish open kitchen (the restaurant sits 120, while its sidewalk café sits 20).

He has come up with a menu of well-thought-out, tapas-style plates that reflect his joyful spirit and his passion for travel and regional cuisine. Smartly divided into seven sections – Crudo, Green, Roll, Crisp, Skewer, Slider, Sweet – it is a progression of winners, IMHO, and the perfect menu to enjoy among friends on a night out, or with one other person when you are too lazy to cook.

Best thing is there is a little bit of everything for everyone.

The sea monster crudo (m/p) is a rather gorgeous jumbo prawn with ají amarillo, fresh horseradish, and heart of celery – a great way to awaken your palate, while the seaweed green ($10; red, white, and green kelp with apple and kiwi fruit and cucumber) is a refreshing and tasty cleanser.

Oh, duh – drinks.

You need try one of Haven's $15 classics, the reVive (veev açai, rhubarb, pomegranate, and lemon). It is just a fantastic drink, very cool and sweet. Haven's sangria is really gosh darned good as well, and a bit cheaper at $9.

Alright, back to the food.

You gotta order and fall for the maki Peru ($12; pictured here), a plate of tempura shrimp with red bell and haas avocado and tai ceviche plate that's just goodness of the most flavorful kind. Great hamachi ($11), too...quite clean, with a nice kick thanks to the poblano, garlic, pickled red onion, and citrus vinaigrette that accompanies it.

One of the crisps was my favorites (carbs – of course!): the $7 sweet frites. OMG, I almost died, came back to life, and ordered two more plates of 'em. They were salty and lemony and cayenne-y. I just hearted them. With a passion.

The Swedish skewer ($8) – meatballs with white truffle and a beyond-beautiful lingonberry gastrique – was pretty phenomenal. More substantive, y' know, in that protein-rich sorta way. It's a heavier dish...but you gotta have a whole meal. Two sliders that may be just a tad lighter? The prime beef (with bacon, guac, tomato, and Vermont cheddar; $8) and the delicious crab cake (with a horseradish remoulade, Napa cabbage slaw, and a wonderful pickled okra; $10).

Remember what I said about Erickson's joie de vivre? It – and his adoration of liquid nitrogen – comes out to play in his desserts. The nitro ice cream ($9) is a show-capping sub-zero concoction with candy, fruity and nutty mix-ins, but nothing can hold a candle to his decadent cake infused with Coca-Cola. It was so ridikolous I am, honestly, surprised I could remember my satisfying time spent at Haven.

Haven South Beach is located at 1237 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.987.8885. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


The Bestest, Most Delicious Rumor

Is Joe Allen on its way back?

That's the word on the street – and while I'm loath to trade in lemmetellyawhatIheards, this little tidbit is just too good not to share.

Yep, rumor has it – not just an Adele song, y'all – that Miami Beach resident Philip Levine has purchased the rights to the much beloved (and much missed) Sunset Harbour joint.

I first heard the hot goss late in May, about a month after my favorite restaurant closed its doors from one day to the other. I heard rumblings galore as to why, but those are neither here nor there. Let's just say they ran the gamut from the surprising to the surprisingly disappointing if true, and leave it at that, 'K.

Naturally, I did what anyone with a phone and a bit of excitement would do: I immediately tweeted about it, keeping Levine's identity thinly veiled. Tee hee.

But what – or who – should I see just two days into June but the man himself, meeting up with some pals in front of 1787 Purdy Ave., all casual smiles as he proudly showed off his new, say, toy. (Just to cover my tush I will say I am quite certain it was 95 percent.)

Now, although my source would know what they're talking about, I will believe it when it's confirmed, as should you.

If it's true, though, Levine (about whom I know nothing other than he's like, beyond-loaded and was once engaged to Lisa Ling) better get ready to have a BFF in me because I will be forever super-grateful that he liked good ol' Joe Allen as much as countless others and decided to use his powers for delicious good to bring it back from the dead. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for almost 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Loco Por Rosa

It's Cinco the Mayo time, y'all, which means...something happened in Mexico ages ago and now we celebrate with tequila and food.

Only a – ahem – holiday such as this one could pierce through my radio silence of late, alright, but whaddya want, it's been a busy month.

There was a royal wedding to attend watch on TV, a big blockbuster season to get ready for (get your review of Thor here!), and a terrible, terrible loss to mourn (so long, Joe Allen – thanks for the memories), so you'll excuse me if I was quiet. I've been eating a lot lately in the name of research, so here I are, so let's.

As I mentioned, it's Cinco de Mayo, and I just know a bunch of you are going to head to Lincoln Road to people-watch and forget your readying-for-summer diets at Rosa Mexicano, which recently open its doors at the building everyone but me loves with a passion even though it's fug 1111.

The powers that be at the beautifully lit restaurant are celebrating the triumph of the battle of Puebla – thanks, press release! – with a day-long fiesta, so ready your appetite and your thirst…especially your thirst because they'll be launching their new French margarita (one part tequila, two parts Grand Marnier), which was inspired by the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France.

The more you know...

Now, as for the food: aggressive little Mexican that Rosa Mexicano is.

Alright – it is only so if you eat as aggressively as I did. I went overboard with the ordering, I'll admit.

I mean I sampled the $9.25 Queso Fundido, a melted Chihuahua cheese fondue with crumbled chorizo, cilantro, and rajas (i.e., slow-cooked Mexican peppers). And the $8.50 tacos Panza del Puerco, which are excessive and delicious. And of course, a side – or two – of chips and guac ($12) because, you know, you can't go Mexican and not have guacamole. Hola!

Oh, and that's just to start. Drinks, ooh...I almost forgot about drinks.

You gotta go with the classic frozen pomegranate marg, obviously, but you should try the Mandarina (a delicious combination of freshly muddled tangerine, fresh basil, El Jimador silver tequila, fresh lemon, and organic agave) as well.

For your main course, you definitely want to have the Chamorro ($21.50). Actually, you could just have that as your entire meal, if you don't want to feel like I did after my RM feast. This is a massive crispy marinated pork shank served with a red bean-chorizo chili and chipotle creamed spinach, and I feel like such a doof for pussying out and not eating the whole thing I want to drop ev'rything and go rise to the challenge for once and for all right this second.

Another great option that's just a bit lighter is the Budín de Pollo ($17.75). Basically, it's baked soft corn tortillas filled with pulled chicken, Chi-cheese, and roasted Mexican peppers with a poblano pepper cream sauce. It's good stuff.

Now, you know how I like me some short ribs, so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Tablones ($25.75), which, you know it, I also tried. For you. And, I mean, why, heck, how could I not? It's an 18 oz. grilled boneless short rib situation served with a mestiza (tomatillo-tomato-chipotle) sauce and rajas. Double-hola!

And pass the Seltzer.

I know, I know, I know: I have a problem. But what can I say...I like to eat. And then I get to tell y’all about it, so it's a win-win.

Rosa Mexicano is located at 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. For more information, call 305.695.1005. (There's a location at Mary Brickell Village, too.) contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for almost 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


A Bad Shot of Cafeina

Alright, long have I been doing this? It's been a quite while since I pitched Edison "SoBeSocialClub Master" Farrow a weekly restaurant feature. Two years, perhaps?

In this time I've never really shared how it all works because like, I know that you care about me pulling the bunny outta my hat, not how I got it in there. Here's the gist of it: a PR company reaches out and sets up a tasting; I go into a restaurant and eat and drink (it's research!); I write about it; you read about it; we're all :)s.

This "arrangement," the way I see it, is an opportunity for me to...uh... research, and for restaurants to get a few kind words up in here. I strive to say nice things, not because I feel an obligation, but because, usually, I get to choose my menu – so I go for dishes that I enjoy or that I'm curious about and that I'll have again. Duh, right?

So, having said as much, that's why I always seem to have a good time, y' know. I don't delve into "flavor profiles" or the décor as much because I don't want to come off as out of my depth. This, to me, is all about the experience – and, unfortunately, Cafeina Wynwood Lounge hasn't been able to make it a good one.

And I gave the place two tries.

Granted, I've never thought of the joint as a restaurant, but the one time I went there for a party, at night, the food, at the lounge, seemed to be on point.

In any case, that's mostly because they recently got it into their heads that they would be a restaurant, at least for brunch on Sundays, and so they launched Brunch N' Bazaar, a weekly series featuring a cute (I guess) open-air market and $20 unlimited mimosas – yay! – or tableside made-your-way Bloody Marys, and a special, healthy menu.

It's a neat idea that was executed terribly when I first stopped by late in February. Our food never came and our unlimited drinking was limited by slow service. They weren't ready, at all, and so I didn't write about it. I didn't think it was fair.

So then I was invited back recently, and it was...better (in that we actually ate), but another disaster in that the overall experience, well...kinda blew (and not in the good, fun way).

I mean, from the so-called welcome to the good-bye, the whole thing just left

plenty to be desired, improved upon, etc.

The service, for instance. If our (nice, I bet) waitress had spent half as much time paying attention to our needs – I mean, no, really, I don't want more water...or another mimosa (a buzzed guest is way better than an upset one – hello!) – as she spent on the hipsterfication of her look that morning I'd probably be singing a slightly different tune.

The food, which, again...and here' to small victories... came this time – although I shuddered when we were warned "the kitchen was a little backed up" (are they using an Easy-Bake Oven back there?) – was disappointing.

I ordered two plates of food. Like the good sucker that I can be at times.

My first entrée sounded amazing in theory but was poorly executed; it delivered a warm-ish muffin, cold (!) poached eggs, and an nice-enough piece of salmon. Loser!

For my second entrée I asked for a crab cake, which was good, although the egg that came with it was much too hot. Uneven much?

My tablemate didn't fare any better. His waffles were unimpressive – they tasted Leggo My Eggo-ish. His ribeye was overcooked and a little too fatty. And, yeah, he also didn't want anything else to drink, thanks.

So there you have it. This is what I did for y'all. If you want to try it for yourself, then head on over to Cafeina Wynwood Lounge at 297 N.W. 23rd Street in the Wynwood Arts District. For more information, call 305.438.0792. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for almost 11 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Feeling the (sake) blue

In the fickle Miami restaurant world – like in fashion...or Two and a Half Men – one day you are in, and the next you are out.

Enter sake blue asian kitchen & bar, the new tenant at the old Chispa space located a hop and a skip away from the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables. sake blue comes to the Magic City from the same team that gave South Miami Smoke't Southern Kitchen & Tap, the boppin' barbecue joint I told you about like, 10 reviews ago.

It opened earlier this season, and since then, it has been bring in 'em, so good for them I say.

It's an airy, big, fun space. There's a looong bar (better to serve you, my dear) that welcomes you in – it's like, 38 feet long and very well appointed – as well as a lounge (you gotta have one of those these days), a private dining room, and a chef's table from which you can check out all the action in the kitchen. And there's a decorated-with-graffiti private sake room (why not!) that houses hundreds of sakes – fun...see?

The main dining room is where I held court when I went to there. It is in the middle of the restaurant, naturally, and it has quite a few vantage points, especially a pan view of the kitchen and, thus, of the waiter that brought out the food, which is why I'm here, so l better get.

I loved, loved, loved the trio of tuna, salmon, and snapper ($14). I tell ya, I hearted it like a two-dollar whore, I really did. It's a fairly straightforward dish – super-fresh, super-left me wanting more (must've been the chive...or the sesame...or the yuzu kosho).

A crudo I also flipped for was the $13 tuna poke, which comes with mango (yay!), kimchee peanuts (I don't care for nuts, but they worked), togarashi potato chips, and a delicious poke sauce.

I could've stuck with these two plates Lionel Richie-style (all night long), but, alas, I had company – handsome company – so we had to make our way down the menu to the fo'-share section.

'Cause sharing is caring.

A good choice – a recommendation I was rather happy to have taken – was the pork belly steamed bun ($11). It evidently cures in sugar for 24 hours, which sold me immediately on it, and it's got an apple-cucumber-cilantro situation going on that I found intriguing.

It was a good thing.

Ditto the $23 braised shortrib, which we had for a main course.

Now, here's the tricky thing about sushi and crudos and the yummy like (it took years for me to learn and accept this, btw, although it took like, three goings to Toni's on Washington Avenue, where I had two Sashimi Deluxes each time to finally let it in sink in): you don't feel like you're eating a lot, but you really are.

It always applies, regardless of how much you're putting away. So by the time the shortribs arrived I was ready to call it and 911. But I didn't, and I was glad I didn't because I adore shortribs, and these I would've regretted missing.

They did everything they were supposed to do and more: they were moist and they fell of my fork and they tasted divine. That they were served with a fantastic – and unexpected – chic pea pea puree, garlic spinach (which I enjoyed – and I never!), apple slaw, and a winning jus...well, that was just the bomb diggity.

And that's one of the things I liked about sake blue the most, how versatile the menu dared to be, y' know. It could've taken one something (like fish) and Asian'd the s--- out of it, but it took a risk and spread the love across the board. So stop on by and show it some love, whaddya say.

sake blue is located at 225 Altara Avenue in Coral Gables. For more information and reservations, call 305.774.5959. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Fadó – Winning

Alright, so I don't know much about St. Patrick's Day...I kinda don't get it.

It's like, a day for people to get beyond-blitzed, isn't that right? I call that anyday. Really, the only thing I know about this – ahem – holiday is that a lot of people end up in the hospital with green-beer poisoning (while others go in the middle of the night for different reasons). And it's s'pposed to be a religions celebration.

But I digress. Already...I know.

The new Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant at Mary Brickell Village, though, seems like the perfect place where to...learn a little more about St. Paddy's.

Feast and drink? So there!

The after-work crowd has turned Mary Brickell Village into quite the boppin' place (I 'member the first time I went to there about two years ago it was rather sleepy), so what better place to be at in the days leading up to March 17 than the MBV. Especially because of Fadó, which promises to be the Ittest of the spots around – a good thing, too, because they have good food and plenty o' drinks.

Want some boxties (a.k.a. traditional Irish potato pancakes)? Then stop on by. Or keep it "simple" with finger-licking good lightly battered chicken tenders ($7.95) dipped in Coleman's honey mustard. Yums!

You can try the $20.95 Dublin's sampler platter, which combines the cheese dip (a creamy blend of Irish cheddar, pepper jack cheese, and green onion), the chicken tenders, and the gotta-be-tried-to-be-believed chicken boxty quesadillas (grilled chicken, tomato pico, and melted pepper jack cheese layered between two potato boxties drizzled with red-chili aioli, with the sour cream on the side), and call it a beginning night.

I don't have to tell you to try the Guinness BBQ wings ($9.25), right?

You know what I really liked? The $8.95 Smithwick's mini-burgers, which are delicious ale-flavored beef burgers topped with Guinness mayo, pickles, onions (both of which I always can live without, btw), and melted cheese. Super-yums!

One of the standouts I tried when I stopped by for a taste was the pulled lamb (!) French dip on a baguette with this fantastic rich lamb dipping jus ($12.95).

It. Was. Awesome.

Ditto the classically Irish fish and chips plate ($13.95; pictured here).

Anyway, as you can see: lotsa food, so little time. And like I said, they're having a lot of funsies leading up to St. Patrick's Day, so be sure to check it or, at least, stop by their outdoor festival from 8 a.m. to close.

Yep, the party's going to start bright and early, folks, with "Pints and Pancakes" to help y'all start the day with a hearty breakfast and plenty of vitamin G(uinness). Then at 2 p.m., it all moves outside, lads and lasses, when a DJ, bagpipers, Irish dancers from the Drake School for Irish Dance and USA U2 (the L.A.-based national U2 tribute band) take over the plaza at Mary Brickell Village.


Oh, and don't miss your chance to win a VIP trip for two to Dublin to take a tour of the Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate. Report back, and don't drive drunk! contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Go, gigi!

I think I did a bad, bad thing: I jinxed gigi.


I'd been hearing about the Midtown Miami hot spot for a bit and a half now, so I made plans to finally go check it out, which I did recently, right. I even tweeted from my front-of-the-kitchen seat that Jeff McInnis' kitchen was rocking my bones – and then, a couple of days later, I read that McInnis had left the restaurant.

Was it som'in' I said?

I know better than that, alright, but still – say it isn't so! I really fell hard for gigi, and I trust that not much will change with McInnis gone. His kitchen looked like a well-oiled machine, so I'm not all that concerned, but I don't like change, especially when it could threaten my favorite newfound dessert.

Ah, but before I tell you about the best key lime meringue pie I've had in ever I gotta tell you about the menu, which is divided in six sections: basics, buns, raw, snack, noodle bowl, and rice bowl.

gigi features pretty straightforward selections. I'm quite sure their whole shtick is this Asian-inspired, comfort dinner for the after-hours-set-meets-great-ingredients and I gotta say it rather works. It doesn't hurt that they have a good vibe going, super-laidback, with terrific music...

The portions are that just-right size that you can share a little bit of everything, which is swell, or just have it all for yourself. That the price point matches that is even sweller.

From the basics, I, of course, had to try the braised short rib meat loaf ($10), which comes with smokey plantain and soy molasses, a hearty, cute lil' thing. Great flavor, moist – a total bitchin' winner to borrow from the Sheenisms du jour. The raw section features fish – duh! – so I loved to try the tuna (pictured here) with avocado, cucumber, and citrus ($8), and the fantastic Florida snapper with celery, sweet potato, and big corn. Winners!

The $5 grilled bok choy from the snack section my friend thought was tender, but a little too heavy on the smoke – he found it borderline unremarkable but good. I didn't try it, because I could care less about bok choy (I'm not a, I don't know...a panda bear), but I did try a bite of the pineapple and teriyaki it was served with. Spicy much?

I was all over the shitake mushroom plate with sticky soy ($5) we ordered, and had to refrain from licking the plate clean. I was in polite company, after all.

Next time I stop by I will have to try something from the noodle section for sure. I hadn't heard the greatest things about it...only that it seemed unvaried, but I saw a few plates go out, and so I think now I should...if only so I can have more stuff from the other sections, too, and have more of that insane key lime meringue pie I loved so much. I live for desserts – you know that if you read these. And that pie was beyond-lovely.

From the leave-you-wanting-more crust to the beautiful and tart-y filling to the perfectly tanned whirl of meringue, that is the reason why I’ll go back to there – but not the only reason I'll stay.

gigi is located at 3470 North Miami Ave. in Midtown Miami. For more information, click here (they don't take reservations). contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Toast to the 2011 Oscars, Bitches!

Alright – let's try something new, since it's the weekend of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and the Oscars: drinks!

Evidently, Bombay Sapphire and Dewar's 12 and the like have been sponsoring a lot of the shindigs in Hollywood thrown in honor of the nominated films, and so they decided – as they would, natch – to create inspired-by concoctions to celebrate the best of the best, like The King's Speech and The Social Network, as well as Black Swan and The Fighter.

Click here to catch up with what's been going on this awards season...y' know, so you can make informed bets and whatnot.

Now check out the following recipes and be sure to let us know how you liked on the Twitter.

The King's Speech
Raise your glass, Pink-style, to Colin Firth's winning turn – I called his performance, and that of co-stars Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, "the thing awards buzz is made of" – as the reluctant king who found his voice with this quite-British cocktail made with Earl Grey tea and Bombay Sapphire, the quintessential London dry gin.

Bombay Sapphire Royal Tea
2 oz. of Bombay Sapphire gin
1 oz. of Earl Grey tea infused simple syrup
1 oz. of fresh lemon
1 oz. of egg white
¾ oz. of fresh lemon juice
½ rock candy
2 dashes of orange bitters
Topped with a bitter orange espuma

Combine the gin, tea infused simple syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker over ice, and shake vigorously. Double strain into a teacup. Beat the espuma mix until thick and foamy, and spoon into teacup, on top of Sapphire mixture.
Put a pinch of tea leaves in the center, and garnish with a stick of orange bitters and rock candy on the side of the tea saucer.

The Social Network
Created by Boston mixologist Scott Marshall of Drink, this coffee-infused Benedictine cocktail is the drink to by your side when fueling those long nights spent looking for sex-y trouble online hacking into your ex's the Harvard computer network.

The All-Nighter
2 ½ oz. of rye whiskey
½ oz. of Bénédictine liqueur
Muddled fresh coffee beans
Build in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and stir. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Black Swan
Follow a lil' ballerina's intense and moody swirl of sheer brilliance and insanity, from White Swan to Black Swan, while drinking cocktails to match. Begin with the White Lady in its classic and purest form, and end on your tippy toes with the dark and deliciously menacing Cointreau Noir in Black Ice.

The White Lady
1 oz. of Cointreau 2 oz. of Gin
3/4 oz. of lemon juice
Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Black Ice
3 oz. of Cointreau Noir
Ice cubes
Pour over ice...and enjoy.

The Fighter
Toast Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo's thoroughly knock-out performances with a Dewar's 12 cocktail that packs a punch and evokes a heckuva lot of passion.

Blood & Sand
2 oz. of Dewar's 12 blended scotch whiskey
1 oz. of cherry liqueur
1 oz. of red (sweet) vermouth
1 oz. of fresh squeezed orange juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Celebr-eat Until the Cows Come Home

Any time I get any press releases a boasting a landmark anniversary for, say, a local business of any sort – be it a hotel, a restaurant, or a whathaveya – I smile (and get beyond-happy thinking of a celebratory open bar).

So when I got the good word that the Argentinean steakhouse Las Vacas Gordas up in North Miami Beach was celebrating its quinceañera I just knew I had to get.

What can I say, I like a good party...

LVG is located not far away from another family-owned eatery on 71st Street that I heart so (Café Prima Pasta, haven of frozen Bellinis and beef carpaccio), so the area is officially one that you should be Foursquaring non-stop.

The restaurant recently had a little work done – this is Miami, after may be only 15 it had to start early, y' know – undergoing an 18-month renovation that was completed early last year, all without ever shutting its doors.

Its walls and corresponding banquet seating are suitably dressed up in cowhide, and custom-crafted black walnut tables with stainless steel accents surround the restaurant's central bar – which is for eating only, so don't get too excited. The room is lofty (there's exposed piping and all that jazz) and it's well lit but moody, so it's got a vibe going. It's scenic, very let's have a reality show tête-à-tête here. And you can see all the chefs in action at the parrillas since the kitchen is open (there's street-side dining, too, but you get all that traffic noise, which is not It).

The price point is one of the best things about Las Vacas Gordas because you get quite the bang for your buck. A parrillada for two serves a whole lotta food (think blood and regular sausages, entrails – or, at least, I...uh...think I remember entrails – and lots of steak, natch) for a very comfortable $39.

Oof, and the papas fritas (or French fries for ya) were a shutitdown moment. I cannot stress how great is it has been that the last few restaurants I've gone to have had fries made from real, honest-to-the-gods-and-taste potatoes instead of some mass-produced bag o' tricks. Best $4.99 you could spend, trust.

This is a jubilant spot, so get a group of meat lovers together (ha!) and stop by and try the signature – and big and juicy! – Enrollada (a.k.a. the rolled one), a more than 1.5 lbs. skirt steak situation.

Oh, an do try the sangria (a pitcher goes for $23). It's cool and smooth and kind – you won't feel it working its magic until it's too late, so enjoy it mindfully. Finish your meal with the panqueque dulce de leche, which they cover in some alcohol and set on fire for show. It's a fun, good thing.

Las Vacas Gordas is located at 933 Normandy Drive in North Miami Beach. For more information, call 305.867.1717. And be sure to bring your appetite. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Cock a Doodle Do!

Feeling at home, like you belong, is just invaluable, y' know – it's the reason why folks flock to faraway places to find likeminded people with whom they can bond. At the recently opened Lords South Beach, an "appropriately oriented" hotel, you can find these individuals in every room, by the property's three plunge pools, and at the dramatically lit, thoroughly color-fun Cha Cha Rooster.

It is a good thing.

Life works in cycles, and the gays are ready to take back SoBe. Leading the charge of this comeback is this swish of yellow (the new pink!) that has added a little color to Collins Avenue since last fall.

The Lords has enlivened the old Nash Hotel with its 53 cheekily decorated rooms (yeah, that's La Liz Taylor watching you sleep, and, yep, that's a polar bear welcoming you). It has this very minimalist SoBe, yet oh-so-rich, beach-y vibe. And it has a comfortable – as my friend Charlie described it – restaurant that offers its own spin on "modern Miami eats," while paying homage to the location's history with an $11.20 (in honor of the hotel's address) Nash salad that tosses together goat cheese balls on a beautiful bed of watercress and mache and pea shoots dressed with a sherry and fig vinaigrette.

Not for nothing, but the Lords' restaurant already has given me – oh, get this, Brian Gorman (shout-out to the owner!) – not one but two new fav'rite appetizers: its pumpkin soup with almonds ($8) made me feel warm and fuzzy, while its tiradito of tuna (12), which is marinated in a beyond yuzu and white soy sauce and topped with garlic chips, is a reinvigorator.

Among the highlights of Cha Cha Rooster's menu are a Cornish hen with potatoes, carrots, and peas ($18), and a much-improved-since-I-first-tried-it $23 plate of braised boneless short ribs, served with a truffed celery root puree, caramelized pearl onions, and a confit of artichokes.

For the vegetarians out there, the powers that be have included a really nutritious – and tasty! – plate of quinoa, which at $15 packs quite the wallop (a pseudocereal, quinoa really is one of best things you can eat). It mixes zucchini, cashews, mint, cilantro, golden raisins, and olive oil, and gives it a kick with some lemon zest. I even liked it, so it's good.

When it comes to dessert, though, I will say this Rooster is still finding its footing. The molten chocolate cake ($9) is a bit too dry and it needs a little more lava, and, sorry, but I'm still not getting the Nash mousse ($10), at all. The flavors are interesting – goat cheese! fig! a sherry port reduction! – but when you say "mousse" I immediately fancy a cloud of chocolate-y goodness.

As a btw, most of y'all probably know this already, but on Sundays, the Lords hosts its Punch Brunch, which quite literally serves ’em drinks in big bowls. At $20 for a breakfast or lunch entrée plus two drinks, it's a deal. Cheers!

Cha Cha Rooster is located is located at 1120 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach, inside the Lords South Beach. (Do try to have yourself a meal there soon, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, which is when Kimona performs a couple of shows of standards and sultriness.)

For reservations and more information, call 305.455.2231. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin

Cha Cha

Keeping Up, Serving Up

It's a new year, so what better way to kick things off than with a new restaurant, so say hello to Sustain restaurant + bar, the new kid on the Midtown Miami block.

Side: When did Midtown become the Lady GaGa to South Beach's Madonna? Everyone's all about it, at least when it comes to restaus...

Alright, digress over.

In the flash-in-the-pan restaurant world, there's saying you're som'in' special – because your crust is gluten free, or you source your fish from only one area, or your recipe for pecan pie is the best in the world – and then there's being special.

Sustain, with its team-playin' get-ingredients-from-within-50-miles mandate, falls in the latter category.

The powers that be knew there was no better place to settle Sustain than this up-and-coming-no-mo'-it-has-arrived area that's just bustling with excitement and more happening than a Kardashian at a basketball game. They really felt it was the right spot where to open a modern-American farm-to-table eatery with this very cool recycled-reclaimed materials-meets-Where the Wild Things Are vibe (there's a couple of mangrove-y – and groovy – trees that look like tan bone and several hanging sculpture pods woven from recycled aluminum).

Among the sharing is caring-friendly apps are bite-sized classic corn dogs with a manageable spicy mustard ($5) and meatballs bathed in mushroom gravy ($6), while starters include a clever cassoulet with cannellini beans, sausage, and duck confit ($12) that's just beyond.

Oh, also worth a try are the $12 beer steamed mussels with smoked bacon and the best true-blue fries 'round.

Sustain's main courses prove they are meant to, well...sustain the most hardcore foodie/partier throughout a looong Miami night.

The $18 "fork & knife" burger (with smoked bacon, cheddar, caramelized onions, and those terrific fries of theirs) is a thrill; the wood oven roasted half chicken with cumin honey glazed squash, with its crazy maple-vinegar sauce ($18), a triumph.

The undisputed star of the menu is the signature cowboy steak – a $70 30 oz. ribeye big and juicy enough to share (say hello to the caveman within, right), although I'll say dessert was pretty stunning, too. It comes last, but as y'all know it's my favorite part of any meal...and no, I didn't go for cake – how unusual – but for these three scoops of sensational sorbet (lemon, strawberry, and orange). Winner!

The best part about Sustain is that, because every ingredient comes from the neighboring farmers markets, the food feels like home (give it up for SoFla!) –except you don’t have to worry about doing the dishes after you finish.

Sustain restaurant + bar is located at 3252 N.E. 1st Avenue in Midtown Miami. For more information and reservations, call 305.424.9079. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


The Taste of Paradise

The holidays are here!

I know, I know – the lot of ya are done with Hanukkah still looking forward to Christmas/Kwanzaa, but there's one day left in the year we can all agree is cause for celebration for everyone: New Year's Eve.

And there's no better way to start saying so long to 2010 than with a nice meal, and for that I shall point you to Miami Beach's newest It spot, eden South Beach. The restaurant's not exactly this like, secret, but it's not obvious, either, y' know. I just think that for many foodies out there, the spot where it sits – the old Talula space on 23rd – remains what it was, and they don't have a clue what it is.

So...heads up.

eden, in fact, has been quietly earning its share of fans since opening last fall. Culinary-scene MVPs like Lee Brian Schrager, director of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, have gushed about the restaurant on Twitter. It was because of him that I knew to order the short ribs, and it's endorsements like Schrager's – who tweeted that eden had served him "one of the best meals I've had in a while" – that can help make or break a joint.

I have to say I could not agree with the man more if I tried: Easily one of the best din-din's I, too, have had in a bit and a half.

Manning the kitchen at eden is Top Chef Masters alumnus Christopher Lee, who has created this flavor-forward "garden-to-table" seasonal American menu that showcases "simplicity at its finest."

eden South Beach not only has the potential but also the goods it needs to become the destination it aspires to be. The restaurant's three-section menu is expertly and playfully designed to appeal to all senses – everything that comes to the table has a most sensuous scent to it that ushers in fantastic, tasty profiles in that It way for which the powers that be anywhere strive.

And the setting in which you get to enjoy it all, this sexy, kinda dangerous place – the dining room décor's main motif is the snake, of course – only heightens the experience at eden, y' see. The garden environment is quite the thing inside, and, natch, the thing outside in the private, outdoor, beautifully landscaped patio, which features four cabanas, a fully appointed bar, and an herb garden from which Lee & Co. often get many of their fresh ingredients. (Just a little, See...that "garden-to-table" menu thing – that was not just a line.)

Which brings me to the food...that tempting food I can still smell and now crave.

One of the dishes I tried at the opening party was the Waygū beef sliders ($14), from the Temptations section of the menu. The beyond-tasty sliders are served with smoked bacon – hello, winner! – cheddar, and caramelized onion with a secret sauce. Whatever the secret is, it did the trick for party guest Kelly Rowland – who gladly vacated her cabana to sneak into the kitchen and help make some for her friends and fellow revelers that evening. (Just a little trivia for ya.)

Also out of frakkin' control? The jerk spiced fries with tomato dipping sauce ($7).

For a first course I think it's always nice to start with something fresh, but filling, so the $17 sashimi is a cool way to go, especially because it celebrates flavors in a super-inventive way. I mean, it brings together avocado, papaya, and wasabi – and it all works.

The $19 beef carpaccio is a safe bet, but also a rather excellent one, trust. It comes accompanied by some Parm, arugula, pickled onion, and an irresistible black truffle dressing.

The serving, and this is true of the lot of the dishes, is big enough for two, but best enjoyed by one. (Just a little FYI for ya.)

Two outstanding first courses that could work nicely as hearty main courses are the apple chestnut ravioli ($14) and the crispy pork belly ($16). I am getting a Pavlovian reaction just thinking about the former's aroma, an enticing mixture of percorino cheese and sage brown butter sauce...

Oof, and do not even get me started on the pork belly (pictured here). It's like, such a treat that to have seen it on the menu made me smile from coast to coast.

For me, though, the pièce de résistance, was the plate of gorgeous braised beef shorts ribs with potato puree ($35). The texture, the flavor, the red wine sauce – it all was exquisite.

There is, perhaps, IMHO, only one way to cap off a grand meal such as this one: with two homemade desserts, so definitely try the key lime pie sundae ($8), or the sinfully hot chocolate cake with mango sorbet ($9). And definitely make a reservation to come back for more. You know I am. And definitely think about it for NYE – they're putting together five-course dinners for three seatings (5-6 p.m., 7:30-8:30 p.m., and the last one, from 10-11 p.m.). The first two will cost ya $75 per person ($100 with a wine pairing), while the last one will run ya $125 with a bottle of Champagne per couple.

eden South Beach is located at 210 23rd St. in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.397.8760. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


(SUGAR)CANE We Brunch?

If there is something I've come to love this year, I'd have to say that's brunch.

Give me a Sunday late morning/early afternoon and I will own it.

Saturday works, too, but it's all about the last day of the week, y' know. Or is that the first day of the week. Does anyone know how that works?

Anyway, I digress.

What I like most about brunch is the camaraderie...the chitchatting, the shooting of the breeze with friends. And the mimosas...boy do I heart the mimosas – and the pancakes and the bacon, actually. I love it all like a two-dollar whore.

So when I heard that SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill, the It spot in Midtown Miami, had launched a brunch menu I just had to go to there and check it out.

And you should, too, because it doesn't disappoint – in fact, it will give you a fantastic opportunity to get out of the beach more often than you know you do and introduce you to the most amazing rosegria (that's rosé and sangria).

It's a good thing, trust.

Start with the sweet bread basket ($5), a swell little thing with blended butters (think pumpkin butter, which whaddya know, works well with the holidays and all) and fruit jams. A word of advice: The breads are small bites, so you very well could order second and thirds, which you may not want to because... gotta save room for the whole wheat pumpkin pancakes ($8).

Now, I will say I'm not one for whole wheat anything – too, I don’t know...healthy. And I could taste the healthy in these suckers, but I also couldn't stop myself from inhaling them. First of all, they smelled beyond-amazing, and SUGARCANE knows how to balance healthy and guilty pleasure: the pancakes are topped off with, get this, whipped housemade vanilla bean ricotta. Hello!

Sure, there's some seasonal fruit on the plate as well, but that's just for color.

From there you gotta move on to another rosegria, natch, and to the truffled toad in the hole ($11), a delicious som'in' I'd never had before but must have again. It's a brioche with melting robiola and a hint of truffle, a.k.a. the key ingredient that betters everything.

Worry not, no toads were harmed in the making of your next favorite addiction.

If you can swing it – and you know I did – get the $12 steak 'n' eggs Benedict. And another rosegria. The protein is actually oxtail stew, and the hollandaise is splashed with sherry. So you should swing it.

My favorite thing on the brunch menu, I think, was the duck and waffles ($14). I live for duck – I think it's totally underrated and completely underused, so to see it pop in here, in crispy leg confit kinda made me smile a bit.

The dish also made me reconsider waffles, which, mind you, I don’t dislike (they're just not my thing). I enjoy that about the 'CANE – it can pair something l really favor with something I don’t necessarily gravitate toward and surprise me in the most pleasant of ways.

And that's what I love about brunch the mostest: something new always pops.

SUGARCANE raw bar grill is located at 3250 N.E. 1st Ave. in Midtown Miami. For more information and reservations, call 786.369.0353. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Hollywood Meets Italy Down in SoFi

The biggest plate – it's a platter, actually – of beef carpaccio I have ever had is at DeVito South Beach, which is ironic given the fact that one of the men behind the restaurant, Danny DeVito, is famously sh...

Nah, y’ know what – I'm not finishing that sentence. It's kinda weak. Plus, the Penguin could kick my ass.

It's true, though: the biggest plate of beef carpaccio can be found down on SoFi on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd streets. And at $29, it is worth every cent and oh-so-tasty with that shaved Parmesan and a few drops of fresh lime...just perfect for the cooler evenings that lie ahead this season.

The best part: You can dine in a super-colorful and warm inside dining room, or al fresco with a glass of prosecco – or seven – while people-watching outside.

I remember going to the opening of DeVito South Beach a handful of years ago. Like many a celebrity-associated joint, I never thought it would endure, y' know, especially on fickle SoBe. Yet, there it still is having carved itself a loyal following. And whaddya know if it didn't take me all this time to go and hold court to there.

I stopped by on a breezy night at the top of the summer, to help celebrate a friend's birthday – I didn't eat a whole lot, but I remember being quite taken with Nonna's meatball antipasto ($18), a saucy, yummy thing that comes with the richest homemade whipped riccota. It was a good thing.

Oof, and that DeVito tomato sauce – there's plenty on the plate to lather up on a piece of bread – – and eat up clean off the plate.

The second time I went to there to try some more of the restaurant's old-world Italian chop house fare, I mostly (smartly) stuck to the specials, including the beyond $26 foie gras and this entrée of scallops wrapped in pancetta ($38) that was just ridikolous.

Now, you know how I heart bacon or pancetta or anything like that, so imagine the pleasure I felt when I saw one of my most favoritest ingredients embracing perfectly seared scallops.

Yum much?

A definite spot to revisit (I want to try the $28 salumi platter, pictured here), DeVito South Beach is located at 150 Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.531.0911. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


To Mercadito, To Mercadito

Alright, break's over.

Good one. That makes it sound like I was on holiday, but I wasn't on vacay somewhere. I was just feeling lazy, uninspired, and bogged down. Nothing takes care of the blues like good food, though, so whaddya say for the return of Sobelicious, which has been off since – gasp! – the tail end of Miami Spice, we hightail it to Midtown Miami to that other fun and tasty hot spot, Mercadito.

The cuisine-of-Southern Mexico restaurant, which, btw, is hosting a fundraiser benefiting The Trevor Project on Nov. 2, from 7-9 pm, that you simply have got to attend and support, has been on my radar for a bit and a half now.

As I've alluded to, though, I've been distracted with...other matters, but I'm back, and setting aside my cheating-on-my-first-Midtown-love pangs – so sorry, SUGARCANE! – I'm here to tell ya Mercadito is mmm...que rico.

I think what I liked the most about this place is how easygoing it is. It's the kinds of place you can go to with an old friend to reconnect, much like I did, have yourself a few laughs over tapas-sized plates and some nice margaritas (a refreshing one, like the Pepino, which may not buzz you but will make think you're at a spa – a little too mild for my me; or one with a nice kick, like the Little Market, which has a hint of sexy spice – more moi).

You gotta start with a round of guac, of course. Having never been a fan – thanks for the convert, Lime – Mercadito offered a handful of yum options ($8.50-$12.50) for me to train my palate. The Mole Poblano and the Toreado guacs were our choices; the first is an explosive combination of plantain and pico de gallo, while the second brings together sauteéd chile serrano, garlic, oregano, and tomatillo pico. And both got the party started oh-so-nicely.

I also just had to – right... – have some of the $14.50 tacos before moving on to the more South American-inspired fare because as I soon as I saw they had carnitas it was a no-brainer. The tacos de carne (skirt steak marinated in rosemary) were delicious, but the showstoppers were the carnitas (michoacán-style braised pork, accompanied with chile de árbol coleslaw and toasted peanuts). Sounds amazing, huh. And it is.

Now, for the $11.50 Dorado ceviche (of mahi mahi). It did not disappoint, although it was a take on ceviche, with more tropical flavors – meaning it wasn't the real they make in Peru, y' know. And that's swell, but being advocate of authenticity when it comes to this particular matter, I gotta put it out there. Fun dish, though.

If you have room for more, and you know we did, try the Tampiqueña ($24.50). From the Platos Fuertes section (i.e., the entrées), this is a grilled 12 oz. skirt steak, and a fantastic one at that, with mole enchilada, roasted onion, and poblano rajas. Now a tip: the plate is enough to...share.

Love that – especially because you gotta save some room for dessert, natch. Mercadito has a sweet Morenita chocolate cake that's the cat's pajamas. Fluffy, rich, and sweet. Its Pastel de Queso is pretty kick-ass, too. that sound I hear you making a reservation? No? Well...get!

Mercadito is located at 3252 N.E. 1st Ave. in Midtown Miami. For reservations and more information, call 786.369.0423. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Miami Spice 2010: Red, The Steakhouse

It hasn't been the greatest summer for eating. For eating and writing about it, I should say.

But, as they say, the show must go – I literally have "The Show Must Go On" from the second Moulin Rouge! soundtrack in my head as I type this – so here I are to tell you about Red, The Steakhouse's Miami Spice menu.

Just in time as the two-month promotion winds down. Better late than never, huh.

Red is cool as ever down in SoFi, with its inviting and strong and warm décor and its always-excellent food – shout-out to the chef, thanks for the Twitter Follow!

This season, Red has been offering changed-weekly Miami Spice menus that, as usual, have made for quite an outstanding din-din experience.

This year, I eschewed the salads, which are just lovely – alright, I did try some of my tablemate's, and liked it because the couple of bites I had had bacon bits, fresh cherry tomatoes, and the most glorious dressing – and went straight for the raw oysters to start. Just to spoil myself (and to appease my tablemate), I asked for them Rockefeller-style, a first for yours truly. What...a winner. For $6 extra those suckers were made to taste even better than I knew they could.

The 5 oz. Petite CAB prime filet was next – I was feeling decadent.

Cooked to medium-rare perfection, it came with an exquisite béarnaise sauce, and I paired it with an extra side of creamed corn ($12) that complemented the steak in the oh-so-nicest of ways.

It was a good, solid choice, although I felt like I was cheating on the terrific Ashley Farms double chicken breast about which I raved last year, and which Red smartly still offers as a Miami Spice option.

That's the chicken that my waiter then described with the funniest of motions, with his arms flailing around to show me that the chicken came off the bone (it's a breast, duh) but with wings. It was a cute bit, and you had to be there to get the full effect, but it set the service apart in a special way. Another plus at Red. That bird was tas-tay. And it came ready to be bathed in béarnaise. Hello!

The best part about going to there for dinner this season was – get this – we went on a Wednesday night, and Red has this fab Wine Wednesdays thing, so wines under $100 are half off. Smile!

Red, the Steakhouse is located at 119 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

For reservations and more information, call 305.534.3688. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Miami Spice 2010: Smith & Wollensky

Last year, as soon as Miami Spice started, I put on my bon-vivant pants and headed down to SoFi's Smith & Wollensky.

It just had to be done – what better place to celebrate the kick-off of two months of fine dining than a classic South Beach steakhouse, right? You have a gorgeous setting (South Pointe Park, never more gorge), a nice waterfront view, and good food. Hello!

This year, the restaurant is participating in Miami Spice only for dinner, though, unlike last, so keep that in mind and know that it will be quite the experience. Trust. Me. It takes quite a bit to overwhelm me at the table, but S&W did it.

They did it, did it, did it, alright.

By now, you know the rules of Miami Spice. Firstly: Talk about it. A heckuva lot. Secondly: Three courses for $35 (plus tax and gratuity). Lastly: Ready, set, eat.

You may start with the famous split pea soup, which was as delicious as I remembered it, a Caesar salad, a watermelon and feta cheese salad, or the signature Wollensky salad...which I sneaked tried off someone else's plate, and lemme tell ya: loved it! Because it had bacon on it. Yum.

If I'm hurrying on to the main courses – attractions, is more like it – I'm doing so because I gotta tell ya about that overwhelm I mentioned earlier, after all.

Now, there are four entrées from which to choose, and I know, know, know the miso glazed salmon is outstanding (from previous experience).

Ditto the terrific filet mignon and the béarnaise sauce with which it is served. I would've been rather pleased with that, but feeling adventurous, I decided on the crackling pork shank, which was not at all what I'd imagined, portion-wise.

Served with a beyond-aromatic spiced apple sauce that immediately made me flash-forward to the holidays (jeez, they are a-comin'), this pork shank crackled with taste and attitude. F to the Y to the I This is a dish that would make Fred Flintstone – it is refined but not at all dainty. You see it coming at you and you can't help but go, "O. M. G."

My goodness, though, was it good.

It was crispy, it was crunchy, it was reminiscent of a chicharron – it was too much but then again, I couldn't get enough. Since I was in polite company I couldn't go at it the way I wanted to or would've, say, at home. So I asked for a to-go box.

Dessert options are limited to three, but they are nonetheless standouts. I knew the cheesecake was stupendous, so I tried the warm chocolate molten cake with vanilla bean ice cream, which I hearted (big duh). It wasn't overly sweet, though – what up with that? Like, it could've been richer. Should I talk to Smith about it? Or Wollensky?

In any case, I wasn't about to have the summer peach cobbler, which I understand was also very good.

Overall, it must be said, if you Miami Spice only a few times this year, do try Smith & Wollensky.

Smith & Wollensky is located at 1 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

For reservations and more information, call 305.673.2800. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


Miami Spice 2010: Philippe

It's Miami Spice time, people, so you better loosen the murse strings and get out and go all out – on a prix fixe, natch – at some of the 305s bestest restaurants.

Yeah, for August and September our kitchens will be on holiday, thanks to this affordable, convenient, and delicious event for foodies.

Let's start at Philippe at the Gansevoort South, shall we, which, as y' may recall from a previous post, can be quite expensivo. The restaurant is participating in the promotion every night (so, for dinner, obvs) except for Thursday and Friday.

For $35, the hot spot is offering a pretty comprehensive three-course menu that features several of its highlights. When I previewed its Miami Spice menu, I tried the beef lettuce wraps instead of the chicken, y' keep things in'erestin', and now I can say I have and that I'm torn between the two.

Those suckers really are top notch, in no small measure because of that exquisite plum sauce I raved about already.

I'd definitely recommend the chicken satay to start with as well. I think I had the last piece of it at the July 31 Miami Spice kick-off event at the Convention Center, which, btw, was a bit of a mess.

Kudos to the powers that be for the idea – this was the first year they've held such an event – but the execution fell flat.

Side note now over, back to Philippe.

From the entrées column you can choose Chilean sea bass, crispy beef, or between two kinds of chicken – Beijing or spicy velvet. I tried the Beijing chicken (pictured here), which reminded me of sweet and sour chicken, except it had a bit of a kick to it, and almonds (were the almonds? I don't much care for nuts) instead of pineapple around it. It was enjoyable.

Oh, the crispy beef dish was a runaway hit with my tablemate, and I know why: it was tas-tay!

The Miami Spice dessert options are a bit limited: vodka-flavored sorbet or assorted sorbet or ice cream. We deviated and tried the $14 Key lime pie.

Now, that's something you shouldn't do this August and September – deviate – especially not a pricy joint like Philippe. It defeats the purpose: y' start doing that and your check starts going up, up, up.

Regardless, though, a nice meal is a nice meal is a nice meal.

So here's to two months of nice meals.

Philippe is located right off the intersection of 23rd Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, at "the Gans."

For reservations and more information, call 305.674.0250. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for 10 years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin


A Taste of Peru

So I thought that it would be complete
fabnosity to publish a post on all things Peruvian cuisine in time for the 28th of July, you know, Peru's independence day – but that didn't happen because I was in a sinus-thing-medication stupor.

I really wanted to celebrate my heritage and tell you about my favoritest place for when nostalgia gets my tummy goin'.

That'd be Chalan on the Beach.

It's not the fanciest of joints or anything – the menu has pictures of the food on it and the tables are placed too-too close to one another – but it hits the spot when I get a mad craving for lomo saltado, a very traditional dish and the one and only that I had for the longest time, in my B.C. (before ceviche) time.

Basically, this is a stir-fry of steak, tomatoes, onions, and peppers, served with a generous portion of white rice, natch, and French fries.

It's not the best example of Peruvian food, and, of course, Chalan's recipe doesn't measure up to my grandma's take on the dish, but it does the trick.

Ditto the restaurant's seco de res, a delicious beef-based main course.

This is a cilantro-flavored beef stew – it can contain, among other ingredients, potatoes, carrots, peas, onion, and garlic – served with white rice (uh duh!) and white beans. Or are they pink? I don't know what the American equivalent is... Just try Chalan's – that they always knock out of the park.

Of course, there's plenty more on the menu, but these are my faves, so there.

Be sure to try the chicha morada, a quite-sweet-and-tasty drink that's made actually from purple corn, but that you'll have to have from a cute lil' bottle. Or Inca Kola, Peru's signature soda.

One of the things I like best about Chalan on the Beach? Its no-pretentions 'tude comes with prices that match it, which I likey a lot. I've taken friends to there and, trust, we've walked out with a full bellies and happy hearts for under $30.

Chalan on the Beach is located at 1580 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

For more information, call 305.532.8880. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


A Summer for Seafood

Trivia Alert! Here's a little som'in' som'in' you don't necessarily know: Area 31 is a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization-designated international fishing area that encompasses the waters of the Southeast Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and South America's northeast coast.

It is also the name of a lovely restaurant on the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel, which is located in Downtown Miami.

Area 31 is, of course, primarily a seafood restaurant, although you also can find some pasta, chicken, pork, steak, and veal in its phenomenal menu, but they are the Kellys and Michelles to the Beyoncés that are the seafood choices.

I recently paid the restaurant a second visit – the first, last year, is a bit of a blur (don't judge – I was on a hot date) – and I gotta say I really, really likey.

Since summer is here, seafood should be at the top of your list. And, no lip service here, Area 31 is a gosh darn good place to start. I will be going back to try some of the dishes I didn't get to try ASAP, such as the yellowfin tuna (pictured here), which looks delectably sexy.

Given the oily mess out on the Gulf, I've been wanting to throw my support behind restaurants and chefs that celebrate seafood, you know. It's something I can do at this particular point, and the least I can do.

Yeah – the least I can do is eat.

But I digress.

For my second go at Area 31, I let the powers that be pick for me and I had the beyond-enticing $55 Sustainable Seafood Menu.

It's a chef-chosen five-course meal featuring star ingredients sourced directly from the aforementioned area and local farms. It changes every day, so telling you what I had would be kinda moot, except I'll say pray you get to try the swordfish, which was just oh-so-succulent.

That a portion of the proceeds from this Sustainable Seafood Menu goes to the Marine Mammal Conservancy of the Florida Keys really ought to like, make it more appealing to ya and add to the fun of seeing dish after dish come out with your name on it.

My BFF tablemate did not have the SSM like me but rather the lobster, since we were sorta celebrating his overall fabulousness. There's something about lobster that makes it a take-it-or-leave-it dish a lot of the time for yours truly, but I'll say Area 31's ($39) was nice. It was gorgeously cooked and buttery, which I hearted, and when complemented with the $8 mushroom risotto it was rather irresistible.

For dessert, finish off with a most refreshing panna cotta ($8), which, trust me, will rock your bones.

Area 31 is located at 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way in Downtown Miami, on the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel.

For reservations and more information, call 305.424.5234. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Hit a Strike, Watch the Goals

Up until now, my interest and minimum coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup had consisted of checking out's World Cup's Finest gallery and blogging about Cristiano Ronaldo's new Emporio Armani Underwear campaign.

What – I've been busy.

So I haven't gotten my vuvuzela on...don't judge.


I have, however, found the perfect place where to start watching the games now that the party has gotten narrowed down to the Sweet 16: Lucky Strike Lanes.

Seriously, I mean, you can pretty much have any kind of party at this fun spot, from children's parties to bachelor/bachelorette bashes to mommy & me seshs, which just kicked off for summer, btw.

The joint's def a no-brainer.

Let's see...want a cool vibe, good music, and yummy food?

Check, check, check!

Every time I've been to LSL I've had nothing but "bad" stuff to eat, y' know. It never occurred to me to look at anything else other than the menu's big, juicy, $9.25 Lucky Strike cheeseburger, which comes with fries, thankyouverymuch, and or the pepperoni pizza ($9.50), which rocks my bones.

Did you know you can have some tuna lollipops bathed in sesame oil for $9.50? They're super-cute – I know, not the most obvious description – and super-good. How about Key West chicken skewers ($9) have dusted with a citrus herb spice? Or a (small plate) of grilled flat iron steak ($11.50; pictured here – do you love it?) sliced on a bed of arugula, tossed with shaved Reggiano Parmesan, and served with roasted tomatoes and drizzled balsamic syrup?

Sounds pretty friggin' good, huh, and for those prices they are, trust – because the more you save in eatin' the more you can spend in drinkin'!

That the food is way better and surprisingly healthier than you'd expect from a bowling alley is the cherry on top of the slice of chocolate cake you can have after hittin' the pins while watching your favorite football – or is it soccer? – team in one of the (be still my heart!) 22 big flat-screen TVs that help make LSL the most perfect, air-conditioned place where to watch the World Cup.

The $5 daily drink specials can't be beat, either.

Lucky Strike Lanes is located at 1691 Michigan Ave. in Miami Beach.

For reservations and more information, call 305.532.0307. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Zuma Kind o' Wonderful

I have to go back to Zuma Miami.

Reason No. 1 is it's a really good and really fun restaurant (the dramatic view from its prime location inside the EPIC Hotel downtown doesn't hurt at all), and B) I want to make a new memory of it.

Which is neither here nor there. Moving on...

The first U.S. Zuma – which comes to Miami from London and has outposts in Hong Kong, Istanbul, and Dubai – sits in an ample, earthy, beautifully lit space filled with many a vantage point of the house's robata grill. You can smell what the chef is cookin', alright, and you can literally see and hear the air crackling with excitement. It's a good thing.

There's also a sushi counter – always a favorite, right? – a private dining area for 18 peeps, and an outside seating and lounge area overlooking the Miami River. If you are oh-so-posh inclined, you may arrive at Zuma in ultimate Magic City style by boat and dock at the hotel's marina.

Oh, and the service? A+. Very rarely do you hear the words "May I?" at restaurants anywhere in the 305. Courtesy, I'm happy to report, is alive and well.

Now, for the menu, I gotta say it gave me major SUGARCANE raw bar grill vibes, but it's one that is nevertheless all its own. The cuisine is modern Japanese, and is a favorite of A-Listers like my girl G.P., Lady GaGa, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z, all of whom have stopped by non-MIA locations. But here's to hoping for upcoming star sightings (shameless plug for my regular column in Miami Living).

The sashimi ($22) at Zuma is ridikolous, just phenomenally cut into precise bites that leave you wanting more. I'll say it once and then again a second time for the cheap seats in the back: I likey!

Rock shrimp tempura is one of those dishes that I either love or really hate, and seldom order. It's a fun concept, but it doesn't rock my bones, y' know. I hearted Zuma's $15 offering, though. Perhaps it was my tablemate's enthusiasm that was that contagious...but I'm quite certain it was the preparation, presentation, and that fantastic sauce that came with it.

Going into the joint I'd asked a friend what I should definitely have, and she said the black cod ($30; pictured here) for sure. And, I tell ya, was girlfriend right. The dish was exceptional, and the sauce...the sauce was buttery perfection.

Oy with the sauces at this place, already. Yet another reason for a repeat visit.

Zuma's standout, IMHO, has to be the spice beef ($35), though. I never send compliments to the chef, ever. I think most of the time they're insincere lip service egged on by one too many glasses of [insert your drink of choice here now], but in this case I had to make an exception. The meat was melt-off-the-fork good, and the spicy was just the right kind of spicy. Paired with $8 mushroom skewers, I had myself a winner.

Now, that's definitely the one reason I'll be going back to Zuma ASAP.

P.S.: That comparison I made to SUGARCANE, that had to do with the tapas-like size and sensibility of the plates. Everything was just enough pour deux to share, and the prices aren't that much higher than that of the Midtown Miami hot spot. Ditto the ambience – sooo cool.

Zuma Miami is located at 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way in Downtown Miami, on the ground floor of the EPIC Hotel.

For reservations and more information, call 305.577.0277. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


A Touch of China on SoBe

I've often been told that in order to have truly delicious, authentic Peking duck I should travel to Beijing.

That, I may add, only ever elicited a big ol' "Duh!" from me. And a "Yeah, I wish." And an "F you, thank you for depressing my not-traveling-any-time-soon a--!"

Having said that, I had never had Peking duck until just recently, at Philippe at the Gansevoort South, which, I know, has been open like, for for-friggin'-ever. The dish just never was something that was on the proverbial menu – not even at this hole-in-the-wall place in New York's Chinatown – and neither was Philippe. I knew it was there, but I just never went there.

Well, good things come to those who wait receive a press release announcing a re-imagining of the restaurant's dessert menu, which just beckoned my name – leave it to me to be tempted by such things.

I mean, I seriously thought, "A Chinese joint that doesn't hang its sweet hat on something tempura or green tea ice cream but on chocolate layer cake? Yeah...I gotta check that out."

And so I did.

Now, under normal circumstances, the visit would've set me back a pretty penny. (As well as a nickel and a dime, and quite possibly everything else on me.) But since I was a guest – full disclosure! – that wasn't a worry. So take my advice: Get invited to Philippe. It has a luxury menu with luxury prices.

Be sure to start with the satays, chicken and/or beef ($18, $19). The skewers come bathed in Philippe Chow's famous cream sauce (that sounded dirty), which is da bomb. Really, it’s oh-so-good it should be bottled and sold. Follow with chicken lettuce wraps, which are $18 and as tasty as anything that requires wrapping in lettuce can be (the phenomenal plum sauce helps a heckuva lot).

I'm not fond of DIY food, but they were fun to take on at such a posh place – and they got my hands finger-licking good. Plum sauce...who knew!

Like crispy seaweed ($7.50 for half an order)? Actually, did you know such a thing existed? Not me, and now I likey – so try might like it, too.

A plate I enjoyed even though I thought I wouldn't was the plate of green prawns (pictured here; $32 for half an order). The prawns are green because they marinate in a spinach puree overnight and then are stir-fried to perfection. And now I want to try that at home.

Usual suspects like filet mignon ($37.50 for half an order) and Chilean sea bass, cooked on one side with black bean and the other with garlic ($30 for half), also get a chance to shine at Philippe. Both are crowd-pleasers, but they're sidekicks to the star of the menu: the Peking duck.

If you order the bird, which could feed a party of four at least – and at $75 you may want to just order the bird – know that the powers that be will send out a beautifully glazed, crispy-skinned full duck. Your fantastic feast will be carved tableside for your enjoyment. Did someone order dinner with a show?

While I won't be going to China any time soon, I now know Philippe's got what I want if I that should be duck, Peking-style, which btw – and DIY Alert 2.0! – you can wrap in mini-pancakes and complement 'em with a touch of that plum sauce.

As for the desserts that got my attention: The chocolate layer cake was good but not memorable, and I was puzzled by the berry sauce and strawberries that accompanied the red velvet cake (too much red stuff, I thought). I would like to stop by again and try the coconut panna cotta, though.

Philippe is located right off the intersection of 23rd Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, at "the Gans."

For reservations and more information, call 305.674.0250. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


The Return of the King

Restaurants in Miami tend to be...a dime a dozen.

Harsh, but true.

Institutions, on the other hand, well...those are special.

The Forge is an institution – and at 40 years old, it never has been better. The powers that be shut it down last year for a little nip/tuck – this is South Florida, after all – but now the king is back. And that's a good thing.

The iconic spot on 41st Street has pulled a Madonna, re-inventing itself with a new attitude that’s modern, yet a bit old-fashioned, still elegant but never stodgy, and decidedly decadent (as always). It's an older and wiser Forge – and I likey. It's the kind of place where you'll see suits, gays and straights, old and young, models, ladies in mini-minis and gold shoes, and, on occasion, drag queens like Tiffany Fantasia make a head-turning appearance. That's our South Beach!

Gone are the dark woods, stained-glass murals, and gilded-framed art of yore – as is the bar in the back by which I once met Rosie Perez – all of it replaced by walls of hand-carved blond wood, antique smoked mirrors, Starck-y octopus-like lilac and white crystal chandeliers, and an eclectic mix furniture, some of which is more pretty than comfortable.

There's also more room to move in the joint now that they have done without some 100 seats, so peeps have better views of everyone else their surroundings. There's also a nice new communal table that would make the Mad Hatter happy, and the new bar area has a cool new something that people will love: an enomatic wine system that lets you use Forge debit cards to sample from a comprehensive selection by the house sommelier. Cheers!

Of course, all of these updates are meaningless without a menu on which the restaurant can stand – and it's a most attractive, delicious, not-as-expensive-as-you'd-think-it-is one. Order smart and dinner for two will run ya less than $200.

The Forge's impressive 65-item menu is nicely organized in eight sections of varying degrees of interest: Savory Snacks, Starts, Pastas, Grains & Risotto, Principal Meats, Principal Fish & Crustaceans, Salads, and Sides.

I simply loved my dinner there, which included two snacks, one start, two entrées (I didn't eat by myself, natch), a lovely risotto, and a dessert. That's the kinda guy I am.

The snacks that my tablemate and I ordered quite literally exploded with flavors. I mean, pomegranate barbecue lamb spare ribs with red cabbage slaw ($14)? Who'dathunkit! And don't even get me thinking about the $15 porcini seared diver sea scallops, which were served on with orange, mint, beluga lentil, and an herb salad – it so makes me want to drop what I'm doing and get in my car to go to there and get some. Both are rather inspired, IMHO.

These plates are small enough that they won't spoil your meal, and big enough to share if you care. If you can eat, though – and you definitely want to have an appetizer before your entrée to, say, pair som'in' with one of the wines from the enomatic wine system, perhaps – then go for the crab cake ($16). You can never go wrong with a crab cake, especially one bathed in a most terrific mustard aioli.

At this point I'd suggest you take a tour of the legendary Forge wine cellar, you know, to loosen your belt and take a break between courses and behold a collection that'll turn you green with envy.

Back yet? Then spoil yourself with the $28 plate of Barolo braised short ribs, served with prosciutto bacon (bacon!), polenta, and onion rings. O.M.G! One look at it will make you go – Arrested Development Reference Alert – "Marry Me!" Seriously, can we make that legal?

Up for a challenge? Then have the signature oak grilled "Super Steak" ($52), a whopping 16 oz. aged prime. Talk about your power meal, huh. It goes perfectly with the phenom three mushroom risotto (roasted shitake, Portobello, and porcini on alba white truffle oil; $28) – as do the shorts ribs, btw.

And now for dessert: It pains me to say it, but it's a Skip It! when it comes to the Forge soufflé (flavors include Grand Marnier, marble, and bourbon-hazelnut). I know my chocolate, and for $16, that didn't impress me much. The inside was hot, delish molten choco-goodness, but the outside was much too dry – really, you shouldn't have to mix it all up as much as I did to enjoy it.

The Forge is located at 432 41st St. in Miami Beach. (Valet still is $5.) For reservations and more information, call 305.538.8533. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


So Into STK

There is nothing I like more than eating a good steak (medium rare, please) listening to some kick-ass music, so thank you, STK Miami Beach.

The super-hot 305 outpost of the celeb-friendly L.A. and NYC steakhouses at the Gansevoort South has been the It spot since it opened its doors last winter. It already has drawn in Fergie and Josh Duhamel and Michael Bay, as well as seasonal fixture Kim Kardashian (and subsequently her mother and sisters), Lance Bass, and Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, and David Spade.

You knew they all made the scene over Super Bowl week, right? Ditto Ice-T and his eye-catching wife Coco, who have after-partied at the nearby Coco de Ville.

Alright – I get that this Hollywood talk may mean little to you, but it does help to illustrate how H-O-T this place is. Granted, so would telling you about the décor, which is sexy and rich (as in warm, not economically, although it is a lavish joint). Not for nothing the powers that be call STK, "...not your daddy's steakhouse."

But back to the experience of eating there, which on any given night may be soundtracked to an enjoyable and expert mix of, say, White Snake, Kim Carnes, Modest Mouse, Michael Jackson, and Fleetwood Mac. (Love. It!)

STK is a versatile restaurant...perfect for a first or 108th date, and beyond-perf to see and be seen, which is a must for a lot of people on South Beach. That is not to say it's a pretentious place, you know. It has a touch of star quality, so make of that what you want – make it your own.

Start by going in there thinking you're going to adore everything on the menu, which – whaddya know – you will.

You can do this one of two ways: Stick to appetizers, or forego 'em and just have a big, hearty entrée.

I've had the tuna tartare app ($18), and believe me when I tell you it was fantastic and beautifully served – and big enough to share.

My tablemate went for the foie gras French toast ($22), so I'll defer to him and share his description after a few bites: "Orgasmic!" That pretty much says it all. Me, I'm not a big foie gras or French toast enthusiast, so the mix was lost on me. I'd describe the dish as interesting and say I'm open to trying it again. Moving on.

For my other app – yeah, I had two (shocker!)...don’t judge me – I went with the signature Lil' Big Macs ($20), a couple of simple, yet decadent slices of heaven. (Although I forgot to ask for no onion, so if you're intolerant of them, don't forget to get them on the side for someone else to enjoy.)

Then, of course, come the main attractions on the menu, I once again share my tablemate's impression of his $24 6 oz. filet: "Delicious! One of the best I've had, it was full of flavor." Since my first visit to STK, I've also had the filet, and I agree – it was a beautiful, nicely cooked cut of meat...and it goes tremendously with truffled fries or mac & cheese with bacon on top (for which you have to ask, btw).

La pièce de résistance for me, though, was the $28 plate of beef short ribs. Now, this is what short ribs are supposed to look, feel, taste like. They gotta be fall-off-your-fork amazing, you know. These are, and oof, they come with grits. Hello!

If you have room for dessert, congrats. Go right ahead and ask for my favorite dessert on the beach: the apple cotton candy ($10).

What...a delightful confection. It's whimsical and fun – and it comes with a few chocolate goodies, so...bonus!

STK Miami Beach is located at 2377 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach, at "the Gans." For reservations and more information, call 305-604-6988. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Tip It!

I recently broke up with sodas – from one day to the next, without explanation. Just like that.

It was a most excruciating thing, for you see, sodas and I go way back. After I first moved to Miami, they were constant companions...always in my kitchen waiting for me to come home from class and get me drunk in a sugary mix of decadent fizz and refreshing, not-so-great-for-you fun.

The Coca-Cola Company owes me, at the very least, a debt of gratitude.

It's odd, but I always use to feel fresh drinking my sodas. But here's the thing: I used to drink, on average and without counting the many cans or mini-bottles I put away on campus or at the movies or at the whatevs, about eight liters of 'em. Excessive much?

Now I'm firmly on Team La Croix (lime flavored, if you don't mind), and I feel funkier than ever. But I'm also super into wine and sparkling wine, especially. You have to admit that spring and summer in Miami are the perfect seasons to indulge in a little wine by the pool.

But I digress.

I'm talking white wine, btw – not red. Some peeps think white wine is for pussies – an expert I met recently met pretty much told me so (burn much?), although in a much more elegant way. So you know what: if that makes me a pussy, so be it – open the bottle and pour it, Jules-from-Cougar Town-style.

A few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner thrown by Sonoma-based St. Francis Winery & Vineyards at Anacapri on Ponce in Coral Gables (but that's a story for another time – trust).

The St. Francis folks were introducing their new Wild Oak line – and, you know it, I was pleased to make its elegant acquaintance.

What...beautiful wines. I usually go for the Yellow Tail when I shop for home, because it's inexpensive, and, contrary to popular belief, really quite good, but I'm so gonna have to start splurging. The Wild Oak Chardonnay, which retails for about $30, was gorgeous. If you're looking for a crisp, full-bodied bottle, go with this one.

And, I'm going to start drinking more red – I'm older so it's time to get wiser – and there's no better in my mind right now than the $35 W.O. Cabernet Sauvignon. It was so good, so smooth it made me wish I could like, book a long trip to Sonoma as soon as I had the last half of the bottle my first glass. Winecation Alert!

Yeah – I turned to alcohol to get over sodas. I guess I'll be making South Beach's Portofino Wine Bank very happy now. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Of Cravings and Men

Having been sick as a dawg with a cold after the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and during most of Winter Party Festival got me thinking about the things I crave.

Since chicken soup – like the glorious, healing, powerful, tasty, and expensive chicken soup from Epicure...but chicken soup, no less – sounded as interesting as a conversation with, say, Snooki (who's fist-pumping her way to Miami soon), I tried a few recipes of my own to feel better.

Well, not of my own my own, but you know what I mean.

Like that Epicure chicken noodle soup. It's good stuff. A bit expensive, but it does the trick time after time, probably because it's an old recipe dating back to 1945. So what the doctor and your Jewish grandma would prescribe. It must be said that Campbell's Chicken Noodle also rocks, btw.

Publix's chicken tenders also help when you're feeling ill, and, yeah, also when you're just feeling hungry. They. Are. The bomb. I swear by them for parties, and every time I feel like I've had a good workout thought meeting idea day anything I go for the fried chicken. Don't judge me.

On Wednesdays and Sundays, I crave McDonald's – because those are the days they have specials on hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

It's my thing – let it go.

A place that doesn't have many special is Jamba I try to time that healthier treat for Wednesdays and Sundays.

See – he said pointing at his head – not just for hats, my friends. Go try the Orange Berry Blitz and tell me you don't want it again after a few days.

Pizza is always on my mind, to the point that Papa John's is on my speed dial. They really have the best crust. Piola and Spris are fine, but nothing beats Papa.

Lately, though, I've been craving barbecue.

There's this new place in South Miami called Smoke't Southern Kitchen & Tap that's floatin' my boat these days – a good thing since it's a hop and skip away from Sunset Place, which I visit often to catch movies for my blog.

I was there recently, trying out the menu, which lemme tell ya, is a steal. I mean, dinner for two (three appetizers, two entrées, a dessert, and two glasses of wine) for $75 is quite the good deal, so get!

Let's see, I tried the sliders ($9.25). Three come per plate, from a choice of barbecue pork, barbecue chicken, or brisket – don't ask for one of each, though. They're topped with cheddar and onion tangles and served with hand cut fries. I went for the brisket, which was yummers, and I definitely felt full and satisfied. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it had a hint of spice, which was cool. What I liked most about these sliders was their no-frills vibe.

I thought it was a simple, yet sophisticated approach, which is, I think, what Smoke't is going for, y' know. Yeah, they have big screen TVs everywhere, which gives the joint a bit of a testosterone-heavy sports bar allure, but that's A-OK.

The steak tidbits on a buttermilk biscuit ($9.75) were pretty frakkin' killer as well. You's about the food.

One of the things I've missed about Lincoln Road's dearly departed Cafeteria is its country friend steak, which I could have 24/7. I loooved that sucker. Well, now I've found a substitute in Smoke't $14 offering, which is huge. Huge like, I took three quarters of it home as leftovers and had it for lunch at work the next day – and I struggled. It comes on a big ol' plate with garlic mash and homemade gravy and Brussels sprouts, which I, of course, cast aside.

Because some things I never crave.

Smoke't Southern Kitchen & Tap is located at 1450 South Dixie Highway in South Miami. For more information, call 305.669.8338. Let's head out there and try the Over the Top Pit Plate (pictured here – thank you, Brett Hufziger! – and features half a rack of barbecue baby back ribs and half a rack of St. Louis ribs, two barbecue beef ribs, as wel as barbecue brisket, barbecue pulled pork, and smoked sausage...for $39.25). contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.

& Tap

On SoBe Time

It's that time of the year again, people: Time to drink, time to eat...

Wait – it's always that time of the year for me, but come Feb. 25-28, it'll all be more special since it's time for the annual tradition that is the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, a.k.a. the must-attend event of the season (this week).

For almost 10 years now, "SoBe" has been a true celebration that brings to town thousands of thirsty and hungry guests ready to spend their money on the weekend's hard-to-get tickets (no to mention in and around town), as well as a Who's Who from the culinary world. It's a more laidback type of affair, where celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, and our own Michelle Bernstein are actually hosting events in more than just name.

You can rub elbows with them, see them in action, and, even better, witness some firsthand teaching going on at many of the beachside parties on schedule.

SoBe, which began as a one-day event known as the Florida Extravaganza held at Florida International University's Biscayne Bay Campus, has come so far from its early days. It's a learning experience for more than 900 of my fellow Panthers working as student associates – check out the blogs some of them have kept in the days leading up to the big weekend.

And that's just swell, don't you think.

Indeed, the festival has more than exceeded expectations in its short history, and grown into the place to be in winter. That it has achieved the success we all see while benefiting FIU – last year, the festival brought in $2 million for programs in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management – really is but another reason to raise a glass and toast.

SoBe is a win-win for both the city and FIU students, who gain invaluable hands-on experience working side-by-side with some of their idols. Michael Schwartz, the driving force behind Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, sees the educational benefits of the production, which requires attention to details such as permitting, deliveries, food preparations, and even the construction of a mini-city right on the beach for the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village.

"It's a great experience for them," said Schwartz, who on Feb. 27 will co-host the Wine + Dine + Design event with a few other Design District powerhouses, "and I usually end up learning a thing or two also."

Pour yourself a glass, already – and don't say I never ever gave you good reason to celebrate.

SoBe's highlights

The festival's success, of course, comes from the summation of its parts, which includes fan favorites such as the Amstel Light Burger Bash, the Perrier-Jouët BubbleQ, the Best of the Best, and the two-day Grand Tasting on Feb. 27-28.

Speaking of the BubbleQ, which I heart: This year the event will feature Sweet Street Desserts, a company based in Pennsylvania whose products I will be neighborly enough to try repeatedly.

This year's Tribute Dinner Honoring Daniel Boulud, at the Loews on Feb. 27, promises to be simply irresistible, and worth splurging on the $525 ticket – although I hope you got one in time since the event is sold out.

Among the A-List chefs who will be preparing the meal of meals at SoBe in 2010 are Michael Laiskonis and Eric Ripert from Le Bernardin, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Claude Troisgros from Blue Door at the Delano.

Oh, and in an effort to educate kids of all ages – but the little ones in particular – SoBe introduced the South Beach Diet-presented Fun & Fit as a Family program a few years ago. Featuring the Kellogg's Kidz Kitchen, this event brings the whole family out for a day of education and fun at Jungle Island. Also scheduled for the weekend, this is one the most family- and budget-friendly events (at $20 in advance) on schedule.

So there you go: We're on SoBe time now. Hope to see you around, y'all! contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.

South Beach
Food & Wine


I'm going to start this one like I would a movie review on my blog, OK.

Yeah, that was a shameless plug. Deal with it, honey.

From the creators of SushiSamba dromo comes...SUGARCANE raw bar grill, the new It spot in Midtown Miami.

This new restaurant, which just opened like, a moment ago, has a motto that couldn't be more perfect: "Kick Back, Eat Well and Stay Awhile."

That's exactly what you'll do and what you'll want to do there – for the place was stunningly designed keeping in mind the spirit of "favela chic." Fun and relaxed, indeed, SUGARCANE's is a beautiful and raw space...colorful, comfy, and lively. Having been there for dinner, I can only imagine what the restaurant looks like during the day – I bet its huge east-facing windows allow the most gorgeous Miami sunlight to do wonders for it.

The tapas-rich menu is what you want to know about, though.

Since the goal is to help you have a grand ol' time with friends – yeah, you definitely should stop by with a party of at least six because, y know, the more the merrier – the plates there are small yet eclectically flavorful, and the drinks freshly muddled and refreshing (Mellow Mellon, how I loved ya!).

In other words, our kind of thing, right?

So let's see, I've tried the crispy sweetbreads ($9), which reminded me of like, chicken fried steak, but with an unexpected capers-and-orange-and-arugula kick. And I don't have to tell you how much I loved the bacon-wrapped dates ($8) – that bacon was cooked exquisitely, and I want the chef to come to my house and make it for me every Sunday morning, darn it! teach me how to do make it just like that.

If you're a potato fan you'll heart the $8 Yukon gold potatoes, which come with an inviting organic fried egg on top. Follow with the $9 veal meatballs, which are bathed in jerez demi, and you have yourself a full meal right there. It's a beyond-satisfying combination.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg because you have to try at least three items from the robata section of the menu (basically, items that have been prepared on a grill).

A crowd-pleaser among adventurous foodies will be the octopus ($9) served with ají panca. Trust me, it's not spicy at all too can handle it. But keep a tall glass of water nearby (and I don't mean a date).

The Korean-style beef short ribs ($9) are also a good option, natch, although I found 'em, like RA Sushi's (which I told you about a couple of posts ago), a bit tougher than expected. Still, they were quite tasty and rather enjoyable once I accepted their texture.

Oh, and ever since I went to Blue Sea I've been on a mushroom fix, so do try the $9 seasonal mushroom plate, which you should douse in the phenomenal homemade soy sauce. Who knew mushrooms could be so...enough, y' know.

From the crudos section I tried the fluke (kombu with white grapes, amazu, and red shiso; $13). This is a dish that comes alive in your mouth – the flavor profile is all over the place, I think, because of the grape, which gives it a smooth finish. It's a must-try.

The kampachi (with pickled hon-shimeji, serrano, and the house soy; $16) was pretty gorgeous, too. Take my advice and don't share this one. It's that good.

On my next visit I will make it a point to try more of the sushi rolls, in particular the SUGARCANE roll, which has lobster in it, and revisit the tapas – I simply must have the Kobe beef sliders.

OMG, I almost forgot. You what I had that just blew me away? Chicken.

Yeah, chicken – a whole roasted organic chicken with fingerling potatoes, mushrooms (there they are again!), and truffle oil. Seriously, the best chicken I have had in a looong time. Trust.

SUGARCANE raw bar grill is located at 3250 N.E. 1st Ave. in Midtown Miami. The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday, from 11:30 a.m.-midnight; 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. on Thursday and Sunday; and from 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information and reservations, call 786.369.0353. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.

Sugar Cane

Great Blue Sea

The Delano and I have something in common.

We love both Madonna.

The still-quite-It hotel's Blue Sea – you know...that swank 18-seat restaurant that's right in the lobby – and yours truly are both celebrating a decade in Miami this year.

I recently was invited to stop by and sample the delicious new menu Blue Sea's phenomenal chefs have cooked up to celebrate the landmark anniversary, which automatically shot the hot spot to the top of my list for 2010, btw.

For realsies – I totally intend to go to there for dinner at least every...few months (cheap it ain't...but it's not like it'll break the bank, either).

And not just for the food, but also for its effortlessly elegant, fun ambience. I mean, this really is the perfect place to come with a large party, sit at a beautiful 25-foot long table, and have a dinner party with your dearest and nearest.

That you can then head outside and have a drink (or two or three) by the pool, or play large-scale chess in the garden, or go to The Florida Room, is a bonus.

But back to the food.

Start with their white miso soup, natch, which comes in a larger-than-usual bowl and has shimeji mushrooms – my new faves. Miso is one of my go-to soups for when I'm sick or feeling particular cold in Miami. I tried it during the cold snap we just had, so believe me when I tell you it did the trick but double-good.

I was rather fond and partial to the $14 hamachi usuzukuri, one of Blue Sea's new zen-sai (appetizers), which features a fantastic aged balsamic drizzle. I so want to try to imitate that at home. It's topped with melon and ginger ice, and it's super-refreshing, and super-loveable. Without a doubt, it's the kind of dish you can have for an app and an entrée.

Another stellar app is the spiced cream tuna tataki ($12). It's slightly seared tuna, chopped, dressed, and served "up" over wakame seaweed with house-made sesame crisps – sweet dreams are made of this, if you'll allow me a lyrical ref. It's a playful presentation for a dish that just explodes with flavor in your mouth.

From the new maki rolls, which are as appetizing as they're pretty to look at, I adored the kinoko roll (pictured here; $12 for five pieces). It just struck me as a manly, refined dish – of Japanese mushrooms wrapped in white soy topped with crispy enokis and truffle oil – and it crunches when you bite into it, so fun. It's a vegan vegetarian option, but it packs a wallop.

The Mexican roll ($8 for half a portion, $14 for a full plate) was another standout. It's made with scallop, shrimp ceviche with avocado, red onions, jalapeño, and pico the gallo. This one's gonna be a hit when the weather warms up, y' know.

Oh, and there's something for the meat lovers: a tasty, and slightly spicy roll of (American) Wagyu tartare with cornichons and wasabi rolled in crunchy rice. That'll run ya $12 for half a portion, and $21 for a full plate, so be sure you enjoy the tartare.

As I mentioned before, I'm definitely diving back into Blue Sea's menu because I need want to try the Cuban roll – it has pork belly crisps!

Blue Sea is open Monday through Thursday, from 7 p.m.-midnight, and Friday and Saturday, from noon-7p.m. The restaurant's at the Delano Hotel – you know where that is! – and you can call 305.672.2000 for a reservation. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


My Sushi's at RA!

One of the first few columns I wrote earlier this year was about sushi, which I heart with a passion (he said without a hint of irony).

My favorite after-work place for sushi definitely is South Miami's RA Sushi, located a hop and skip away from Sunset Place – a terribly convenient spot since I often go the movie theater there for this, don't you know, don't you know.

RA's the s---, and as I've said before, the menu's not only delicious but a bargain. For instance, the Viva Las Vegas Roll (still my favorite item) is like, less than $15, and the Yellow Monkey Roll's barely more than $10.

The restaurant recently launched a new lunch, dinner, sushi, and beverage menu – adding variety and keeping things interesting is the spice of life, after all. And at RA, that's the name of the game.

While, I'm still a fan, I was wee bit disappointed in the new grilled short ribs, which you know I live for, if you keep up with my eating and my talking about it, so imagine my disappointment. I really was expecting them to melt off my fork, but the meat, which tasted quite yummy having been marinated and basted in a lovely sweet and tangy yakiniku sauce, was a bit...well, tough. The problem is with texture, not with taste, and I'm confident it can be solved.

I did, however, love that the dish is paired with wasabi mashed potatoes, which were fan-frakkin'-tastic – and of course, the $7.50 price. It's a small dish...but if they perfected it, it could hit the spot time and again.

They've also introduced a Kaisen ceviche, a Japanese-style ceviche with scallops and cooked shrimp and squid, served chilled and mixed, and smartly, in a spring roll shell with tomato, avocado, and salsa. It's truly like a flavor celebration in your mouth, one that at $9.50 shan't break the bank.

A great new entrée is the (breaded) pork katsu with wasabi mashed potatoes, coleslaw, and Asian barbecue dipping sauce ($13.75). Heaven tastes like that, I'm sure.

Of course, you go to RA for the sushi, and the new "RA"llipop sushi roll hits all the right notes. I mean, it's a tuna, salmon, yellowtail, and spicy tuna mix, with lettuce, asparagus, and cucumber, wrapped in lobok (i.e., Asian radish), served skewered with a garlic ponzu sauce ($15). And it's a fun dish full of whimsy! (Really, just look at it pictured here.) What more could you want, right.

There's also a bunch of new RA tapas plates of thinly sliced sashimi – my fave! – served with organic micro green, featuring all the usual sashimi suspects (yellowtail! tuna! salmon!) that should make 'em one of your favorites.

And at $7.50 a pop, I'm sure they will be.

So go on over and try RA Sushi, already. All they want is you, and I can promise all you'll want afterward is a repeat.

RA Sushi is located at 5829 S.W. 73rd St. in South Miami. For more information, call 305.341.0092. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


A Very Miami Thanksgiving

This week, I give thanks.

This – [signaling with all five fingers toward this column] doesn't just happen. I have a small army of publicists, most of whom I call my friends, who have been kind enough to include me in their sought-after lists and helped me carve myself a little space in Miami from which I'm able to write about this, that, and the other.

So this column is dedicated to them, and their hot spots, natch, some of which may come in handy this Thanksgiving. From north to south, I got you covered.

Let's start in Sunny Isles at the Newport Beach Hotel & Resort's Kitchen 305, which will offer a Jamaican jerk turkey with a pineapple and golden raisin chutney at the buffet table, for $24.95, and a $99 all-the-trimmings turkey takeout special that...tad ah! back to the community.

For each pre-order, Kitchen 305 will donate a turkey to a local homeless shelter – so keep that in mind. Actually, just stop reading now, you lazy bum.

Je. L'a. Dore!

Closer to South Beach, 41st Street's Rare Steakhouse will allow you to customize your Thanksgiving dinner with selections of parve appetizers and desserts, but you can always go for the (kosher) one-night-only special of turkey with gravy, candied sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce for $32.

SushiSamba dromo's turkey day's specials include a $14 appetizer of – OMFG! – braised short rib gyozas (that sounds good enough for me to change my plans) with pumpkin puree, red shiso leaf, and smoked ginger soy, a $24 entrée of Plainview Farms Turkey T-Bone with sweet potato-brown sugar fries (yum!), bacon – bacon! – escarole, and a cranberry teriyaki glaze, and for dessert, a $10 Pumpkin Cinnamon Bread Pudding with maple syrup ice cream, roast pecans and a candied shiso leaf.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Well, let's head back north again, to Café Prima Pasta, which will offer a prix fixe Argentinean-Italian fusion dinner that includes an app, a stuffed turkey entrée, and, natch, dessert, as well as a Bellini and coffee.

If you're more of a traditionalist, location-wise, then China Grill should be more up your alley.

Both FTL and MIA's China Grills will serve family-style T-day specials in addition to their regular sharing menu.

Both will feature roasted turkey two ways – traditional roasted and dark meat crispy spring rolls – with turkey pan gravy, crispy onions, sweet potato mash, and (my least favorite in any Thanksgiving menu) stuffing, for $38.

The SoBe location will also put forth a $79 char gilled porterhouse for two with wasabi mashed and sweet soy glaze.

Meanwhile, Blue Door at Delano will be offering a $59 four-course T-day menu that will include an amuse of sweet potato & lobster croquettes, followed by choice of app between blue crab & pumpkin soup, or duck confit citrus salad.

And for the main event, what else but a traditional roasted turkey...or a rosemary-crusted prime rib with truffled mashed potatoes – OK then, my mouth is watering now – followed by a tasting trio of holiday treats.

Finally, Asia de Cuba will be offering its regular menu, as well as family-style Thanksgiving specials such as mojo-marinated "Pavochon" (turkey with pork?) with boniato & scallion mash, mofongo stuffing, and wok-sauteed longbeans; or achiote-rubbed roast pork loin with togarashi dusted maduros, Cuba black beans, jasmine rice, and pineapple lychee salsa. Both are priced at $38.

Oh, and if you're going to a party, you should bring something sweet, so try Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee's new, yummy fall flavors, including rum raisin, spicy pumpkin, and vanilla-maple-walnut ($2.75 per fantastic cupcake, or $33 for a baker's dozen).

Of course, this being the holiday season, reservations are encouraged, so holla (you can find all the numbers in the links). contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch. You can totally follow him on Twitter @moviemartin.


Splendor in the Grass

Hello, I'm back.

I decided after telling you about Café Prima Pasta a few weeks ago that A) I would emulate the fall TV season and take a brief hiatus between new columns, and that B) I would conduct a little experiment to find out how many people actually would miss my food write-ups up in here.

I'm glad to report that a few people noticed my absence, and thus I give them and all of yous...Grass Restaurant & Lounge.

The popular indoor/outdoor Miami Design District spot has a new executive chef in one Micah Edelstein, whom Bravo fans (that means you) will recognize from Top Chef: Miami...which means: new menu items!

I stopped by Grass on a very cold cool evening recently, not the best thing to do if you want to enjoy yourself and food ('cause of the whole indoor/outdoor thing, which can be quite tricky if you're not properly bundled up), but I'm nothing if not a trouper.

Besides, a little shivering is a small price to pay for a lovely mean that's adventurous and satisfying and totally leaves-wanting-more-esque.

Oh yeah – had I not been shivering and had my meter not run out, I'd prolly still be at Grass ordering croque monsieur and croque madame like they were going out of style. Not to mention just about everything else I tried, which was a lot.

There are more than 20 featured plates on the menu, which is cheekily divided in three sections: Sexy Nibbles, Cool Couples, and Main Attractions. I had 10 plates in one sitting. Don't judge me.

My absolute favorite Sexy Nibble has got to be the $9 Long, Slow, All Night Braised Beef, four little potato cups stuffed with braised beef, served on a bed of herbed Greek yogurt and oven-crisped leeks. There may only have been four of those delicious thingies on the plate, but I loved each and every one of them.

Well, the two that I had: All the plates at Grass are meant to be shared.

I enjoyed the sweet potato chippies with house made spicy papaya ketchup ($7), which totally worked for me given the weather, but I found the $13 Tuscan sushi – prosciutto wrapped around mascarpone and gorgonzola with a dried fig on top – a bit too rich and gorgonzola-y for my taste, not to mention it reminded me I don't give a fig about figs.

The South African sosatie lamb skewers on spiced tamarind marinade ($11) were a standout, though. The flavor of the lamb, which marinates in tamarind for two days, and that of the fruit, chutney, and Greek yogurt that is served with it worked famously together.

The highlight of my meal at Grass was to be found in the Cool Couples section: The croque monsieur and croque madame duo ($16), which was served with adorable quail eggs done sunny side up, is the reason I'll be going back to Grass sooner than soon.

Also worth a repeat trip? The $15 leek and – urgh – fig braised duck potstickers, an unexpected touch of Asian cuisine.

I get why they call Edelstein the Wandering Chef – she's not afraid of taking us on a trip around the world. She's also keen on having people try something new, like the ostrich carpaccio ($17) she promised would not be tough like, at all. Which it wasn't.

Unsurprisingly, there was still room for more, so I ordered three Cool Couples, which are bigger, pricier plates in the $20+ range. Again, don't you judge me.

Ratatouille isn't something you see on a Magic City menu all that often, you see, so I had to have it (with a tender slow braised chicken, natch) – for Pixar! – and I totally hearted it.

I also tried a scallop dish that was a bit salty, an offense for which not even a beautiful frothed tomato saffron sauce could begin to make up.

Oh, and you know I asked the outside the box mac & cheese the moment I saw it on the menu.

As you can read, Grass a little bit of everything for everyone, and they do a mighty fine job at it. They have a good recipe of good food and good vibrations (I'm still loving the greenery that adorns the joint after all these years). So try it!

Grass Restaurant & Lounge is located at 28 N.E. 40th St. in Miami. For more information, call 305.573.3355 contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


I Eat Like Matt Damon!

I used to hear a good friend of mine – actually, the same one who first took me to Joe Allen many years ago – rave about North Miami Beach's Café Prima Pasta, and yet I never stopped by before this year.

And I've been living here for how long now? Right?!

Almost a decade after first hearing about it, though, I can say that Prima Pasta is a new favorite of mine. It was my first choice of restaurant before going to the Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT premiere the other day.

Everything about the restaurant has come together like kismet since opening way back in 1993, from the rock star location on 71st Street (a hop and skip away from the Byron Carlyle Theater) to the oh-sooo-warm and inviting pictures-filled walls to the Italian pop that comes out of the speakers to the A-List service to the food.

No wonder Matt Damon's a fan – I saw him there the first time I stopped by (and totally gossiped about it).

Kourtney Kardashian also was spotted there not too long ago, and, in fact, I understand that other starry types, like Shakira, Lenny Kravitz, and Sly Stallone, are also fans of the restaurant.

I know celebrity endorsements are a dime a dozen, so take it from me: You cannot go wrong at Prima Pasta.

One of their bestest appetizers is a carpaccio di manzo ($12.95) they're obvs proud of – and for good reason. I've had it twice on the house's recommendation. It's a simple dish of thin slices of filet mignon, virgin olive oil, lemon, and Parm, but it's by no means pedestrian. Less is more, remember...

Now, you should know – and prolly already do – that I'm not a big veggie guy, but whenever I've had Prima Pasta's eggplant Parm it's made a (temporary) convert out of me every time.

Ditto the veggie ravioli.

I think it's their freshly made tomato sauce, which is like, totally outta control. Make that any of their sauces – they're good.

If you want to take a break from the pasta, order the branzino livornese ($23.95), which combines the Mediterranean fish with pomodoro, calamata olives, capers, and touch of white wine.

Or better yet, combine pasta and seafood an order the beyond-excellent plate o' black linguini seafood, which is my new favorite thing on the planet (I said channeling Oprah...).

Another winner's the $29.95 veal chop Arturo, grilled with fresh herb and served with a lovely porcini mushroom sauce. This dish may be a bit on the saltier side, like many an offering on the menu, but it's niente a good glass of wine can't help.

The good thing about Prima Pasta is that they have this amazing promotion from 5-6 p.m., during which time you can get a 50 percent discount – which nowadays sets the flashes in the pan from the stalwarts apart. Am I right or am I right?

Café Prima Pasta is located at 414 71st St. in North Miami Beach.

For more information, call 305.867.0106. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.



Nope, I'm not feeling sartorially nostalgic: The "OP" I'm referring to with the title of this week’s column is Aventura Mall's Ocean Prime.

If you're in the mood for a classic American supper club type of din-din, then get!

Get in your car and head up to Aventura, that is. And don't mind to the shoppers around you.

Really – never mind that this 60-40 joint is located in the new wing of a mall – it is pretty outstanding.

Case in point: The $16 "Surf and Turf" appetizer, of diver scallops and slow-braised short ribs, is sooo good I just had to have it the first time I stopped by and the second time, too.

Some items, such as the generous ginger salmon with stir-fried snap peas and soy butter sauce ($29), combine (quite nicely, I do declare – because I can) French techniques and Asian aesthetics to deliver standout flavors.

And you can never go wrong with a 10 oz. filet ($37) broiled at 1,200 degrees – pair it with black truffle macaroni & cheese and you'll redefine decadence.

Ocean Prime's described by the powers that be as "sexy, sophisticated, and fun." It so is – the bar alone, with its theatrical (and delicious) $16 Berries & Bubbles, fits that description to a T.

I know, I know: 16 bucks for a drink is a bit too much, but the B&B's worth it. And if you're a smart shopper – and you took advantage of Miami Spice – then perhaps you can splurge a bit after checking out the sales at the mall.

Ocean Prime is located at Aventura Mall near Nordstrom. For more information, call 305.931.5400. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


The Sweetest Things

Everyone who's been reading the columns I've been writing for knows by now that I live for dessert – so this, me shining a light on the subject, shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

This week, I tackle the age-old question: Cupcakes – friends, or foes?

I say the former, of course, and to back it up I give you...

Exhibit A) Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee, which opened in Coral Gables just last winter.

Owned by a husband-and-wife whom I'm quite certain decided to stop making each other's lives sweet and share the wealth with the rest of the Magic City, this cupcake shop offers curbside coffee morning service until 11, as well as catering for weddings, birthdays, corporate events – anything you want.

My PR maven friend Alexis Knapp had an assortment of cupcakes sent to me – I have to say I have the bestest friends! – and lemme tell ya, I rather want to lick the interior of the mini-box in which the deliciously buttery mofos arrived.

Perhaps you could take National Coffee Day to acquaint yourself with Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee. They'll be observing the day with free cups of fresh-brewed 100 percent Colombian coffee on Tuesday, Sept. 29, which as you should know, is a perfect day for a Celebration.

So pop in and try many one of the 18 different homemade cupcakes ($2.75 each; minis are available at $1.50 a pop – and they have $0.75 frosting shots!).

BC&C is located at 1411 Sunset Drive in Coral Gables. For more information, call 305.669.8181.

Exhibit B) would have to be Misha's Cupcakes.

I first heard about Misha Kuryla Gomez's heaven-sent of a business enterprise through FIU – we're both Golden Panthers, y' see. Funny true story: I jumped at the chance of...uh...researching that story for FIU Magazine about a full year before we actually ran it, and I did a heckuva lot of research.

One of the things I learned was that her recipe for success, which you've tasted, I'm sure (Books & Books sells Misha's Cupcakes) comes from secret variations of her mother's chocolate cake recipe and from her own vanilla cake recipe.

And, bless her hearty heart, she uses whole milk, real butter, full cream because, "If you're going to have something 'bad,' then it better be something that's really, really good."

For Misha's Cupcakes points of sale in Miami, click here (Misha's Cupcakes Café is located at 1548 South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables). For more information, call 786.200.6153. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Food and the City

I think that the relationship between a city and its restaurants is an exciting one.

Uh duh.

Think about it this way: restaurants are like lovers.

There's always an old faithful that we keep going back to, one that stands tall above the crowd, well over the few safe bets that we count on for a rainy day. That's Joe Allen for me.

And then, every so often, there's a new kid on the block that intrigues you, and you give it a taste.

The Urbanite Bistro, the Media and Entertainment District's latest addition, is that warm and inviting new kid – and it's ready to seduce you.

No longer will you have to wonder where you'll have dinner before or after going to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, or for a night of partying at The Vagabond (do people still go there?).

The UB's here now, ready to satisfy your craving for...alligator tail?

Oh yeah, this isn't your mother's cuisine they're serving, which suited me well when I tried the restaurant since I took my mom – I wanted to show her that, Look, mom...I eat all sorts of food now! So it’s cool. Alligator tail? Bring it, bitch!

The menu showcases all natural meats, game, and indigenous fish. Libations – libations...I like that word, and not just for its meaning, mind you – include a selection of 25 domestic and European craft beers, more than 30 wines (available by the glass), and innovative cocktails.

I tried a sip of the Huckleberry Kiss (ingredients: prosecco, huckleberries, splash of Cointreau, and orange twist), and lemme tell ya, I'm definitely going back for a full drink.

But, again, I digress.

I always thought that alligator meat would be chewy or tough. And it's not. The tail is actually quite tasty. It's white meat, and to be honest and clichéd, it tasted kinda like chicken.

The UB has this alligator egg roll with mango-roasted jalapeño crème ($10) that's three bites of trying-something-new heaven.

My mom, after careful consideration (because she was not about to eat alligator), tried the Moroccan lamb sliders with yellow tomato, harissa mayo and tabbouleh. She said the heat of the harissa and the freshness of the tabbouleh of the dish combined nicely, and I had a couple of bites to believe her. And at $10, this app is both delish and a bargain.

Have I ever told you about my very-OCD rule of repetition? How like, if you do something twice you must do it a third time? Well, since we'd ordered two apps, I just had to order a third – it's a rule. (Try it at your convenience.)

I wisely decided on the seared tuna ($12), which the chef seared beau-ti-fully. It's served on a divine key lime-papaya reduction, with a coconut and radish salad that I didn't touch – some things never change, after all.

Side note: The Urbanite Bistro has a burger section in its menu that was painful for me to look at and ignore. All my favorites – angus! bison! tuna! – were there, but I wasn't about to, y' know...have a burger.

For an entrée I tried the $22 organic roaster poussin, served with challah stuffing, seasonal vegetable succotash, and papaya and rum marmalade.

I liked my choice, but I didn't fully enjoy it because A) I couldn’t help but feel bad I'd ordered young chicken, and B) I like to really dig into a piece of chicken, which is hard when there's still-in-the-bone situation and your mom's watching you (manners!). I should've had the Long Island duck breast (pictured here). Oh well, there's always next time!

She ordered the short ribs ($28) – and by that I mean me by way of her. They weren't as melt-off-your-fork-y as they could've been, but she absolutely loved the pan-fried pea and curry much so she put those away without letting me try one.

Dessert at The Urbanite Bistro, meanwhile, deserves a column all its very own, going on the two we tried. I, of course, had the Chocolate Chocolate ($8) because with a name like that it was just beckoning me.

My mom had the Key Lime Napoleon ($6), which she adored and I'm pretty sure she wanted to take home. Something about the phyllo crust being amazing, and "an unexpected touch of ginger which made for an all-and-all well-executed dish." Yeah – she's a regular Gail Simmons my mom.

Oh, btw, on top of the UB's great food you'll also be able to enjoy great art when you visit the restaurant.

The powers that be thought it'd be neat to showcase a couple of local artists every month, so yay for that. Click here for more information on the artists currently on display.

The Urbanite Bistro is located at 62 N.E. 14th St. in Miami. For reservations and more information, call 305.374.0662. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Miami Spice 2009: Asia de Cuba

I'm beginning to think of Miami Spice as the mob: I keep trying to write about something else, but it keeps pulling me back.

I recently shared with you a little bit about my three favorite places to brunch, one of which was Asia de Cuba.

So there I was with my chiropractor-turned-friend, Dr. Good Touch Jay Hudson, before a Martini Tuesday at the Mondrian South Beach's lovely Sunset Lounge, ready to try ADC's Miami Spice dinner menu.

Sidebar: Can we take a moment to collectively admire the restaurant's décor?

I don't usually do this because I'd rather tell you about the delicious food – as you know now – but really, its Sleeping Beauty's Castle-inspired interior is just gorge in its whiteness and sparkly simplicity. It's made all that much killer by that whole looking-out-to-the-bay thing ADC has going on.

But back to the food, which, much like at China Grill, it's meant to be shared.

Since there were two of us, we had the option of two appetizers, one entrée, and one side dish, plus dessert.

We started with the tunapica, the restaurant's signature app. It's tuna tartare, picadillo-style, with Spanish olives, black currants, almonds, and coconut with soy-lime vinaigrette on a wonton crisp. I don't know how, but at ADC they make all these flavors work sooo well, I completely forget I'm not all that crazy about olives or currants and like, devour the tunapica.

They serve two crisps per plate, and since I'm sure you'll be in polite company when you try ADC, you'll also fight the primal urge, much like me, to just go "Grr!" at your tablemate and unapologetically eat both.

We also tried the braised beef spring roll with Cuban black bean papaya salsa, which was a bit heavy and plain. I prefer the lemongrass skewered chicken because its flavor just vibrates off the plate and dances in your mouth (perhaps it's the coconut Thai chili marinade...or the grilled pineapple and lychee).

For our entrée, we had to have the palomillo of marinated lamb that's just beyond with the plantain fried rice with avocado salad.

It doesn't get any better than the palomillo. It's so good my mouth's watering just writing about it. The lamb is pan-seared to perfection, with a fantastic sofrito of stir-fried peppers, onions, Japanese eggplant, and a watercress salad with orange oil. It's a tender, phenomenally flavored, just-juicy-enough piece of meat that leaves you wanting more.

Paired with the ridikolously good plantain fried rice, the combination makes for a winning dinner that's good anytime (especially so during Miami Spice because you'll walk away feeling like you just robbed the restaurant and got away with it – I think it's the plantains...everything tastes better with plantains...or bacon bits).

If you have room for dessert – good for you. Bravo. You don't get to choose, for the restaurant sends out a chef’s selection. (If you deviate, though, give the pineapple cheesecake a go.)

If you like eating well, then dine at Asia de Cuba double-pronto. You've only got a few weeks left of Miami Spice, so take advantage soon.

Asia de Cuba (at the Mondrian South Beach) is located at 1100 West Ave. in Miami Beach. For reservations or more information, call 305.514.1940. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Battle of the Brunches

Before there was Brangelina, before there was Bennifer, there was brunch, the original merger of two words to refer to two delicious somethings coming together to create something wonderful.

So this week, it's all about my three favorite places to brunch.

An oldie but goodie is, of course, the Front Porch Café on Ocean Drive.

A favorite among SoBe locals and visitors, the Front Porch has the perfect recipe for success: good food and a killer view. I've been going there, really, ever since I moved to South Beach. It was the same good friend of mine who introduced me to Joe Allen who first took me to the always-happening Front Porch, so the spot has that added sentimental value, y' know.

Now, here's the boring, silly part: For as long as I've gone there, I've always had the grilled chicken sandwich, on French, with fries and the small bowl of fruit (grapes, mangoes, and pineapples, pretty please).

I know – and I'm recommending the joint?

Well, the cool thing about the Front Porch is you go there with friends...people who do eat more than their usual fare. I know that their turkey burger is as tasty as it is healthy, for instance, and that their hummus is quite the crowd-pleaser – because I have tasted both. But nothing beats my grilled chicken sandwich, so deal with it.

The Front Porch Café (at the Penguin Hotel) is located at 1418 Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. For more information, call 305.531.8300.

Lincoln Road's Balans is a more recent discovery.

In fact, I think it was just last summer that I became obsessed with doing brunch there every Sunday. I really, really tried to make it happen among my friends, but like "fetch," it just didn't take.

This summer, though, I took a different, more successful approach: brunch dates. Which is a little counterintuitive when I think that attacking the jumbo breakfast (two eggs, bacon – you gotta have bacon! – sausage, Balans potatoes, fruit, and three mini-pancakes) they way I do may not be the most attractive thing...

But, hey, there's all that second-to-none people-watching to do. Combine that with a couple of mimosas, and it’s relax-and-go-to-town time. Oh, and at $9.50, that's quite the bang for your buck.

Balans is located at 1022 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. For more information, call 305.534.9191, and check out their Web site for their cocktail happy hour, breakfast, and early-bird specials.

Finally, there's Asia de Cuba.

Looking out to the bay, this is the most see-and-be-seen of places to brunch, a fabulous place to take an out-of-town guest for post card-friendly Sunday meal.

The $42-per-person ADC brunch is noteworthy because guests may complement an à-la-carte entrée with a buffet spread of starters, sides, and yummy desserts, which is beautifully presented and served from the restaurant’s centerpiece communal table.

There's Caribbean-style seafood ceviche, tropical sun-ripened fruit and berries (yay, blueberries...they're good for your memory!), and Asian style cured salmon (get as much as you humanly can, people!), among others.

La pièce de résistance is, of course, that entrée I mentioned before. Do yourself a solid and order the Maine lobster and blue crab omelette. It is huge – in both the literal sense and the Paris Hilton sense.

It's got wine-ripened tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and asparagus (and you can add manchego, if you want, for an extra five bucks) – and it's insane.

This being Asia de Cuba, though, you might want to give the Ropa Vieja a try. It's served with sweet corn and jalapeño pancakes and avocado relish, and I think I fell in love a little bit with the bite I took from not my plate.

Asia de Cuba (at the Mondrian South Beach) is located at 1100 West Ave. in Miami Beach. For reservations or more information, call 305.514.1940. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Miami Spice 2009: China Grill

Another week, another reason to heart that it's Miami Spice time.

And I gotta say, thinking up this column definitely was a stroke of genius, if I should say so myself – and I am. My latest culinary excursion recently took me for a Sunday lunch to one of South Beach's perennial best: China Grill. It's been the yummiest summer ever.

Located in one of the most colorful and distinctive buildings in town, right on Washington and Fifth, China Grill and its world cuisine are quite the experience.

I mean, for one, you have to love the restaurant's legendary atmosphere, which is so full of drama and texture and warmth (it's those hues!).

And for two, you have the food, which is pretty phenomenal.

For years, China Grill's Asian flavors and techniques have been on display on a menu that has never disappointed.

The joint's never been one of my usual haunts (it's a bit too pricey, you see), but when I've been (usually for a birthday party or something), it's delivered the goods and then some (seriously – I've never left without a you-better-believe-it-beyond-generous to-go box).

Now, usually on Sundays I've been playing volleyball. Thinking up this column earlier this summer, I also had to think up how to work on my fitness double-time – I'm no dummy. But when the team flaked recently, and a couple of the guys said we should Miami Spice instead...well, it didn't take much convincing.

Before I tell you about the food, a side note: Remember that thing I said about how you always can leave China Grill with beyond-generous to-go boxes? That's 'cause they serve family-style portions. So bring your appetites, people!

There were four of us, so we had three appetizers, two entrées, two sides, and two very yummy desserts.

We started with the crackling calamari salad with a lime miso dressing that is just the thing to have on a warm summer Sunday, I tell ya.

We followed that with the spicy beef and scallion dumplings on soy ginger sauce (you might want to use a fork to chase after those suckers – they smell so good, chopsticks will only frustrate you).

And we finished the first round with the spiced crispy pork belly. Or, I should say, I pretty much finished the first round with the spiced crispy pork belly, served with a pretty avocado salad, watermelon salad, and sweet chili sauce. I recently tried the pork belly at Michy's, so I really wanted to compare – and I have to give China Grill the win...because their portion was bigger.

But I digress.

For the entrées, we chose the sweet soy marinated skirt steak, which was cooked quite perfectly and went super-well with the wasabi mashed potatoes; and the wild mushroom profusion pasta.

Can you say too much? And too good? There was so much pasta on that plate it was a bit ridikolous, but we still went for it...and then took home a – yeah, you know it! – beyond-generous to-go box.

By dessert time, we felt as if we had actually played volleyball, but, whaddya know, we totally ate it all up, especially the chocolate cake. Like Paula Abdul. Like there was no tomorrow.

China Grill is located at 404 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.534.2211. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living, contributor editor at G Culture and associate editor ofFIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Miami Spice 2009: Red, The Steakhouse

There's something sooo special about cutting into a molten chocolate cake, I cannot even begin to tell you – but I'll get to that, I promise.

My love affair with SoFi continues this week as I tell you all about the fantastic Miami Spice dinner menu at Red, The Steakhouse, but before: a little trivia.

Which 1990s TV heartthrobs stopped by the Washington Avenue hot spot around New Year's Eve?

Oh, F it: I was going to make you guess, but I just realized that's going to take too long. It was none other than Jake Hanson and Steven Sanders themselves, Melrose Place's Grant Show and Beverly Hills, 90210's Ian Ziering.

Now, I know that, to some of you, that may not mean much, but to me! to some of us that just means Red is one cool place, so, of course, I quite literally jumped at the chance to give pay it another visit.

I'm glad I did because I could see first-hand that Red's one for the locals, especially those who live in the SoFi neighborhood, but also welcoming of all Magic City locals and visitors, each of whom pops in contrast to the restaurant's minimalist, yet rich red, black, and white décor.

But you don't want to know about that, you want to know about the food.

Red's Miami Spice dinner menu starts you off with a choice of standard salads: a wedge of iceberg with pancetta, crumbled bleu, red onions, croutons, and ranch, and the Red house salad (baby greens, candied walnuts, and goat cheese with raspberry vinaigrette).

I opted for the soup du jour, which on my jour was a lovely gazpacho.

Can you say yum-yum?

Oh, and this wasn't a lil' bowl of gazpacho. This was like, a generous, don't-ask-for-more bowl of gazpacho. Not that they wouldn't give you more. Everyone's quite kind at Red – and funny (read on for more).

For an entrée, I tried a bit of my dining partner's beyond-delicious prime filet with béarnaise-topped asparagus and whipped potatoes but had the Ashley Farms double chicken breast, also with the asparagus and the potatoes.

I'd asked my server if the chicken came on the bone, and he just said it didn't, and then did the funniest motion with his arms to show me that the chicken came with its wings. It was a cute bit, and, yes, you had to be there to get the full effect, but it set the service apart in a special way that doesn't happen everyday.

And the chicken was terrific. Col. Sanders ought to be jealous because the skin held so many flavors it was just not fair to the rest of the menu. I don't often ask for chicken because...well, because it's chicken. But I was pleasantly surprised by the seasoning and how it combined with the béarnaise.

Please say yum-yum again!

Oh, btw, you can upgrade your entrée with lobster Thermadore, but it'll cost you, which, as I've said before, kinda defeats the purpose of Miami Spice.

And now, for the grand finale.

I tried a little bit of the Tahitian vanilla bean panna cotta and tropical fruit coulis – which was yummy, but I like my vanilla bean frap-style from Starbucks. But, really, you could've put Daniel Craig looking sharp in a tux in front of me, and I still would've been all about the molten chocolate cake. (Sorry, D.C. Punish me?)

What a frakkin' rush I get from cutting into a molten chocolate cake: It's orgasmic!

Well, I can't follow that statement with anything, so know that Red's also hosting Tuesday-Friday happy hour and half-priced under-$100 bottles of wine on Wednesdays.

Red, The Steakhouse is located at 119 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.534.3688. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Miami Spice 2009: Au Pied de Cochon

Mesdames et Messieurs, je vais vous dire un secret: J'aime bien manger et j'adore Miami Spice.

Alright, so I just lied.

In French.

It isn't a secret that I like to eat, or that I adore Miami Spice, so I recently took some time to try a lunch menu for a change, at Au Pied de Cochon in SoFi, a recently opened French restaurant about which a couple of friends have raved.

Now, I'm quite sure I understood this right when my server said so, but I still could be wrong – I got distracted once he brought mini-baguettes to the table – but evidently, Au Pied is one of the few, if not the only restaurant offering a different Miami Spice menu every single day.

This makes it ever so difficult to tell you about Miami Spice at Au Pied since I've only been there once.

But, you know what: Good for them. After all, as Ulla sang in The Producers, "Ven you got it, flaunt it," right?

On the day that I stopped by, though – after watching an early screening of Inglourious Basterds, the review of which you can read on my blog on Aug. 21 – I tried the mimosa eggs with mesclun salad for an appetizer, which was quite devil-eggy and nicely dressed.

For my entrée, it was either the seafood blanquette style on basmati rice, or the suckling pig pastille with sweet potato purée. The latter won me over since I wasn't about to pass out having sweet potatoes in any way, shape, or form. I heart me some sweet potatoes, and that purée was complètement extraordinaire.

For dessert, I chose the warm apple and raisin clafoutis with apple sorbet. Now, as a rule, I avoid raisins, so this particular dessert didn't thrill me. But it was that or the matured French cheese platter, and I'm rather not into that at all...

My friend, btw, had the croque monsieur ($11.50) sandwich – I don't know why he wanted to go against the Miami Spice grain – with the $5 pommes frites, which were amazing.

Actually, I had to fight myself to keep me from taking a humongous bite out of his croque monsieur...but there's always next time, huh.

Au Pied de Cochon is located at 81 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.

For reservations and more information, call 305.674.1844. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Packing Meat

There's something about Miami, and there's something about its steakhouses, don't you think?

Christy's, The Palm, Prime 112, Tuscan Steak, and even Kobe Club, as classic as they may be, must make room for four new delicious restaurants that have put some fresh meat in our plates – and in our bones.

The Grill on the Alley (19501 Biscayne Boulevard, Aventura 305.466.7195) brings to the Magic City a longstanding Beverly Hills tradition expertly modeled after the big-city grills of the 1930s and '40s.

The restaurant's menu is rich in protein (think prime steaks, chops, and seafood) and winning side dishes (mac and cheese – hello!) served in a setting so elegant it's hard to resist it... so never mind that the joint's – oh dear – in a mall.

I've yet to find (and not for lack of trying, mind you) a restaurant that can't deliver a delicious plate of braised short ribs – and I'm thrilled to report that The Grill didn't change that fact. Its oh-so-tasteful short ribs were cooked beautifully, and really were worth the drive north.

Closer to home, Rare Steakhouse (468 41st St., Miami Beach 305.532.7273), keeps kosher, and already is a favorite among celebrities, including former Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and Matisyahu.

Located in the heart of Miami Beach on historic Arthur Godfrey Road, Rare serves dishes created using only the freshest, finest ingredients. Everything, and I do mean everything – from each choice meat and to each seafood offering, and every veggie, bread, and pastry – is cooked or baked fresh daily.

For an appetizer, you gotta try the three mini-sliders, followed by the aged ribeye. If you want to be contrary, go right ahead and try the Floribian chicken topped with a mango salsa and served with plantain chips. It’s finger-lickin' know.

Now, don't get too excited, for I don't mean anything sexual funny: Meat Market (915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach; 305.532.0088) is SoBe's latest hot spot. The contemporary steakhouse has a neighborhood feel (hey, it's on Lincoln Road, so locals can claim it), even though its prices may not be the friendliest to wallets.

They've cooked up a menu that's decadent, rich, and outstanding. From the apps – from the always-a-treat oysters to the rice paper tuna tacos – to the desserts, everything at the MM is precise and perfect.

I'd never tried buffalo tenderloin, but I did the first time I stopped in, with the homemade tater tots, and I was sooo glad I did. What a tender, flavorful meat. And my friend who went with me thought the filet mignon was – gasp! – better than any he'd had at some of the Magic City's favorites.

Finally, there's Fogo de Chão (836 1st St., Miami Beach 305.672.0011), which is It for all who know and love to eat.

This Brazilian churrascaria offers "espeto corrido," which in Portuguese means eat until you drop "continuous service," which in turn means that throughout your (long) meal, Fogo's gaucho chefs carve succulent cuts of meat at your table, from skewers on which they have just finished slow-roasting over an open fire, preserving the individual taste of each tender cut.

The service includes a whopping 15 cuts of meat, including lamb, pork, chicken, and beef ranging from filet mignon and "picanha" (the prime part of the sirloin).

All you have to do is get there, sit down, and alternate your own two-sided disk, from green for "More food, please!" to red for "I'm on a break," and voilà, dinner will be served.

Yes, there's something about Miami. It's packing meat. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Miami Spice 2009: Smith & Wollensky

Attention bon vivants: It's time for Miami Spice, and everyone's invited to join, so come join the party – yeah! – and let's get this started.

Every year, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau organizes a celebration of food and drink for Miami locals and visitors to enjoy.

August and September are H-O-T, and this must-take-advantage-of-it event makes our dining experience that much more delicious and oh-so-memorable – especially when we go to restaurants we normally couldn't afford wouldn't – and therefore all that much funner.

Once thought of as the dog days of summer, these two months were re-invented the year after 9/11 to stimulate MIA's struggling restaurant and nightlife scene.

The idea – having the city's top restaurants offer three-course meals featuring signature dishes created by world-renowned chefs at affordable prices (lunch for $22, dinner for $ drinks, tax and tip) – worked like gangbusters.

As the ninth Miami Spice gets underway on Aug. 1, I promise to try my very best to go to as many restaurants as possible, and tell you just what I'm loving so. It's a tough gig – but someone’s gotta do it...and I'm glad that someone is me.

First up on my agenda was SoFi's Smith & Wollensky.

Located waterfront at South Pointe Park, this classic steakhouse is participating in Miami Spice 2009 for lunch (Monday-Thursday, noon- 4 p.m.) and, of course, dinner (Monday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-close), which is what I recently tried.

I'd never been to S&W before so, I really went for broke with my tasting, trying the famous split pea soup (a surprise in that it made think of my mom and home), and the chilled sweet corn soup with lobster, which, this being summer, was perf.

For my main course, I just had to try to the filet mignon, which for an additional $24 you can have turned into a lovely surf-and-turf with a 1 1/4 Maine lobster. But that sort of defeats the budget-friendliness of Miami Spice, so it's up to you. If you do want to have something from the sea, though, try the miso marinated seared salmon, which I loved and can't wait to have again. L-O-V-E-D it, I tell ya.

Finally, for dessert – my favorite part of any dinner – S&W is offering a stupendous slice of cheesecake, chocolate tres leches cake, and berry cobbler. Surprisingly, I only had the cheesecake when I visited the restaurant. So I guess I have to go back and pig out try the others soon, huh.

Perhaps next time I'll go for a power lunch.

The S&W Miami Spice lunch menu is actually quite similar to the dinner one, except for the entrées column. During the daytime, you can have the Wollensky's Butcher Burger with Vermont cheddar and smoked bacon (no onions for me, thank you), beef medallions, and a chopped chicken salad.

But, I think, the best (and coolest) time to visit this joint is at dusk, you know, when all the joggers are running by in all their shirtlessness (sooo enjoyable), when Fisher Island looks its most picture perfect, or when you're most likely to sit out on the patio next to a couple that's had too much to drink and is in the midst of the most awkward break-up in the history of break-ups.

True story: She admired the "beautiful sunrise" – at 8:22 p.m.!

Only on South Beach...

Smith & Wollensky is located at 1 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach. For reservations and more information, call 305.673.2800. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Oysters – and More! – by the River

I heart oysters, and not because they're an aphrodisiac as everyone likes to say. (I don’t think they are, btw.) I love oysters because they're just... decadent.

There's something extravagant about them, much more so than, say, caviar, which I find overrated.

And I heart rivers, too, especially the sound they make around rocky banks, so imagine my delight when I discovered The River Oyster Bar in Downtown Miami.

Yeah, yeah, the Miami River is not a rocky river, but just go along with the image.

Since opening in 2003 a stone's throw away from the Miami River, The River, as the restaurant's known, has been redefining the downtown dining experience with its fantastic food and its sophisticated setting. I tell ya, The River's mahogany bar is the downtown hot spot on any given night...

The menu's American progressive – and it is worth repeat visits.
Oysters, of course, are the star of The River. Its selection of nearly 10 varieties features North America's bestest and the freshest, natch, as well as clams and Maine lobster. But you want to know about the oysters, right? There are Canadian Blue Points ($1.75 each), Northern California Kumamotos ($2.25), and Penn Coves from Washington ($1.75).

There's small ones and big ones – just like we all like'em. Don't you just love having options?

And they're all so oystery and delicious and perfect. Now, If oysters don't really do it for you...

Know that the powers that be at The River like to keep their fans guessing, so they change the menu according to what's in season... or what they like. I once had a wild boar ragú in creamy truffle polenta and fiore sardo pecorino that was just beyond. Too bad they don't have it right now.

One of the standout dishes definitely is the corvina or mixed seafood ceviche ($11 for the small plate, $18 for the large). Prepared with all the right ingredients – cilantro, choclo (steamed corn), lime, red onion, and sweet potato – this dish even smelled authentic.

Right now, The River's featuring a plate of braised short ribs with mac & cheese that's just calling my name, so you’ll excuse me if I cut this short. Meat eaters can further rejoice with a nicely cooked skirt steak or a lamb chops with polenta. I know I would on top of everything else I mentioned before.

The River Oyster Bar is located at 650 South Miami Ave. in Miami. It is open Monday through Friday, from 11:30am to 5pm for lunch; and Monday through Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 10:30pm, Friday, from 6pm to midnight, and Saturday, from 5:30pm to midnight for dinner.

For reservations and more information, call 305.530.1915. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


How About Some Sushi?

In one of her GOOP newsletters (one of my new favorite things) last winter, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote about the places in Paris she likes the most, including a restaurant called Kinugawa, where, Paltrow said, City of Lights locals and visitors can find "a lovely bowl of miso soup, [and] some beautiful sashimi."

Well, I haven't been to Paris in more than a decade, but the newsletter, which I recently re-read, got me thinking about sushi and sashimi and where in Miami we can the bestest and the freshest.

Let's start in South Miami, where RA Sushi (5829 S.W. 73rd Street, 305.341.0092) reigns supreme as the after-work hot spot. Dining at RA Sushi is an experience. Shakira thinks so – that is why she celebrated her birthday there in January . . . and her hips don't lie. This place is fun and hip and loud. And the menu is not only delicious but a bargain – for instance, the Viva Las Vegas Roll ($13) is as terrific as it is popular. Ditto the Yellow Monkey Roll ($10.25).

If the siren song of South Beach should ring in your ear, hope onto U.S. 1 and head on over to my favorite sushi place, Toni's Sushi (1208 Washington Avenue, 305.673.9368). I used to live around the corner, so I can and will vouch for its neighborhood feel, out-of-this-world Sashimi Deluxe ($30), and quite heavenly worth-every-red-penny Volcano Chocolate Soufflé ($7). I've been know to have two on more than one occasion.

If you prefer the hustle and bustle of Lincoln Road and are in the mood for a taste of not one, not two but three cuisines (Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian), then SushiSamba dromo (600 Lincoln Road, 305.673.5337) is for you.

The Japanese pub Shiso (1418 20th Street, 305.672.1119) north of Lincoln Road has quickly become a favorite among locals and visitors who cannot resist its black truffle edamame ($5) or the yellowtail tataki ($14).

Hidden away in North Miami Beach is Katana (920 71st Street, 305.864.0037), a darkly lit, must-sit-less-25, unmarked space where the food is expertly prepared right in front of you, and sent down on sushi boats floating by your table with different-color, reasonably priced plates on top. And at $1.50-$3.50 – nothing on the menu, other than certain drinks, exceeds $7, I do mean reasonably, indeed.

And then, there's Hiro's Yakko-San (17044 W. Dixie Highway, 305.947.0064). Earlier this year, Details magazine dubbed it one of the best late-night eats, calling it Miami's "top spot for post-debauchery dining." I ate there for the very first time last fall, in the wee hours after Madonna's concert at Dolphin Stadium, and I have to say Hiro's hit it... and it hit it good.

Gwyneth Paltrow will always have Paris and all of the wonders it has to offer. But we have something better: We have Miami, and it never disappoints.

The Magic City truly has some of the best sushi restaurants in the country – and now you have delicious proof. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.



Did you know the Greek word for "new dawn" is eos?

Well, you know what they say: you learn something new everyday. . .

But Eos is also the name a new restaurant located on the 15th floor of the Viceroy at Icon Brickell in Downtown Miami, an undiscovered treasure trove of Mediterranean-inspired small plates that you simply must try.

The space itself combines a lot of the qualities Magic City restaurants strive for – it’s sexy and fresh, yet quite bold and strong, and color-rich (green and pink rule). I'd describe its sensibility as 1930s Deco-meets-1970s kitsch.

Meanwhile, the menu is a study in sophisticated (and effective!) experimentation. Flavors that you, perhaps, wouldn’t mix come together in unexpected harmony.

This combination of space and menu is a thing of whimsy, like many a dish here. A perfect example is the raw section of the menu, rich in sushi and sashimi, and ranges from $10-$14.

My new crushes? Eos' sharply cut tuna sashimi with watermelon and feta bits, and, especially, its niaragi sashimi (striped marlin) with a speck of bacon that is a stroke of genius. It was just one of the little surprises that went a long way during my meal.

Since I have more than one politically incorrect bone in my body, I just had to try the lamb tartare with caviar. It's served warmer than you'd expect, and it’s like, the size of a brownie bite, so it's not too shareable. (Said the guy, btw, who devours chocolate brownie bites from Publix not in the advised two bites.)

The fondutta ($12) I tried next was a treat if I ever had one. I'm usually not fond of nuts, but this young pecorino, hazelnuts, and thyme honey combination, beautifully presented on a cute little cast iron pot, made a convert out of me.

For the rest of my dinner, which came with a stunning lightning show courtesy of our lovely South Florida weather (the 15th floor may not attract many walk-ins, but its view can’t be beat), I tried the crispy rabbit ($13; a nod of nostalgia since I heard from the bartender that Brosia in the Miami Design District has closed after I mentioned it was the only place in town where I'd had rabbit before). It was crispy and lemon-y, and combined with mushrooms in garlic confit, a most interesting choice, if I do say so myself.

And I also had to have the smoked pork ribs ($14), which melted off my fork – always a good thing.

But la pièce de resistance of a meal at Eos is its lobster and sea urchin risotto. Oftentimes, some restaurants make a big show of their presentation of a dish, but by adding and mixing all of the risotto's delicious components (caviar, egg yolk, and fried herbs) at the table, my waiter was not only preserving the freshness and richness of the ingredients, he was also giving me a bit of a show.

And who doesn't like dinner and a show?

Eos is located at the Viceroy Miami (485 Brickell Ave). The restaurant is open seven days a week, serving breakfast from 7am-noon, lunch from noon-3pm, and dinner from 6-11pm. For reservations, call 305.503.0373. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


I Heart Joe Allen

As we head into the 4th of July – have a good one, y'all! – I'm thinking American, and nobody does it better than Joe Allen.

Located in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood of South Beach, Joe Allen is the standard by which every restaurant in town should be judged because they really know what they're doing there.

I have to say that everyone involved with its operation (and success – you try getting a table sans reservation) shares a commitment to excellence and values the same things, chief among them a constantly surprising menu and service that's second to none.

It's cliché to say, but it is sooo true.

I've been going to Joe Allen ever since a good friend of mine took me there like, seven years ago. I've celebrated many a birthday since then there – actually, I'm quite sure I had my first legal drink at Joe Allen – and I've come to find comfort in its simple, yet elegant décor (I once thought of taking asked if I could have one of the surfer dudes affixed to the wall).

The food, of course, is the reason I constantly recommend the hot spot to friends. Yes, I call it a hot spot because Joe Allen is always It, It, It, no matter the season, no matter what flash in the pan has just opened – if you're a local you love it, and if you're from out of town you fall for it.

Its menu is chockfull of selections that are casual and unassuming, really rather diner-ish in a way... but you know, a bit pricier and definitely more upscale.

It's that comfort thing, you see, but lest you get complacent about your meal, the powers that be like to keep us guessing by changing the menu every single day. There are some regulars that soon become favorites, though, such as the steamed mussels ($16) and the yellow fin tuna tartare with seaweed salad ($17), from the appetizer column.

They say that you can tell a lot about a restaurant from their Caesar salad, so you should know Joe Allen's great. At $14, it is big enough to share à deux, so thumbs up for that, too.

From the entrées, I'm quite fond of the $26 skirt steak (hold the French fries, pass the mash with gravy, please), and of the lamb shank, which I haven't had in a while come to think about it.

One of my new obsessions is the meat loaf ($18.50), which is like a big hug.

But, c'mon, c'mon, already: Don't let me go on and on and on without telling you about the most American dish you can have this 4th: Joe Allen's amazingly juicy bacon cheeseburger with French fries ($12.50).




That's as good as it gets, and it makes me proud to be an American guest. Lately, I've been having the bacon cheeseburger as my entrée, and I gotta say, it never gets old – and it's the only thing I'm craving this holiday.

Joe Allen is located at 1787 Purdy Ave. in Miami Beach. Reservations are strongly suggested by calling 305-531-7007.

The restaurant is open daily, from 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Brunch is served on Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.



This week, I trade the familiarity of South Beach for the untapped quaintness of North Miami Beach because, well. . . because I can, and I because want to.

I can feel you cringing now, but c'mon – it's good to get out of our comfort zones, and certainly, I'm not suggesting you do so for just about anything but for the yummyliciousness that you will find at RACKS Italian Market and Bistro.

It may be a bit of a ride, but it will be worth it. Trust.

Tucked away on 163rd Street between Collins Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, at the Intracoastal Mall, this addition to our restaurant belt serves Italian cuisine and sells the freshest, most authentic ingredients to cook your own at home.

RACKS has all the makings of a neighborhood joint. I'll bet its "salumeria" soon will become a favorite of DIY foodies, while the brick-walled restaurant has an open-air feel to it that's hard to resist. Seriously, if they got rid of the roof, which obviously, they can't, they'd have themselves a super-lovely outdoorsy spot, but with the rain and heat we’ve been having that's, perhaps, not such a great idea.

The restaurant does boast an enviable waterfront dining experience, though, and complimentary boat dock valet service and lots of free parking, so there you go. No excuses.

But I'm not recommending RACKS for the décor, but for the food.

From the second you walk in, you can see and smell what the chefs are cooking – thank you, pretty open kitchen! – which is the best appetite-whetting prelude for what's to come.

I've tried the nice and crunchy Portobello fritti on black truffle aioli ($9), which was as generous as it was amazing; and the meatball with whipped impasata and Sunday San Marzano gravy ($11), which sounded a bit pretentious – I mean: What the what with the description? You had me at "meatball" and "gravy"! – but tasted as good as it looked in all of its oversized, challenging, yet inviting glory.

And that was just for my appetizer. (Yeah, sometimes I ask for two appetizers. Don't judge me.)

For an entrée, I just had to try the gnocchi with San Marzano, fiore di latte, and spring basil pesto ($15). And I may or may not have had a bite of my +1's pizza. (I will deny nothing. I will defend nothing.) All of which I found enjoyable. . . and made me want to loosen my pants a bit. You go to RACKS to eat, after all.

I could've stopped there, but there's never been a dessert menu I could resist, so I ordered the ginormous chocolate cake, which made me feel like such a wimp. That thing was huge (that's what he said). It so reminded me of P.F. Changs' Great Wall of Chocolate – but bigger. After one layer, I gave up, had it wrapped, took it to my office the next day, shared it with like, five people, and still had a big enough piece for myself. It was great.

So treat yourself, and find out what I'm talking about.

RACKS Italian Market and Bistro is located in North Miami Beach, at the Intracoastal Mall on 163rd Street and N.E. 36th Avenue.

Both restaurant and market are open from 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. For more information, call 305.917.7225. contributor Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it (and food) a lot, thankyouverymuch.


Mad for Maya

For my first culinary excursion on behalf of, I thought it would be fitting to venture into the heart of South Beach, you know, to the always-happening corner of Meridian and everyone's there, to visit (once again) my new favorite spot on Lincoln Road, Maya Tapas & Grill.

Now, unfortunately, I don't spend as much time on Lincoln Road as I used to – my schedule's no fun like that these days – but I have been back to Maya quite a few times with different people since my first visit back in April on the recommendation of a friend, and lemme tell ya som'in', it has not disappointed and we've all enjoyed it.

At first I thought it was nostalgia (Maya's located in the old Paninoteca space), but really, as boring as it may sound, I'm pretty sure it's the food and the service that keep me coming back for more. Featuring more than 30 Spanish-style tapas, the restaurant's Argentinean-influenced menu has something for everyone.

And now a confession: Once I try something and I like it, I stick with it. I become a fan, I want to set up a Facebook page in its honor, and I have people try it, too. That's how I feel about Maya's chorizo argentino ($8.95) – it's fantastic - and I don't just like it: I heart it. Oh, and its grilled jumbo diver sea scallops in a rich butter sauce ($9.95) are pretty cravalicious, too. Both are small plates, but they're hearty ones at that, and a can't-beat-it bargain.

On the cold tapas front, the ceviche of the day ($7.95) is an accomplished take on the real thing (having recently tried ceviche in Peru, the way it was intended, I've developed a new appreciation for the dish – like Madonna, it can be imitated but never duplicated).

Those are but three of the tapas you can have on your away into the night, but if you're still hungry then you should try the angel hair pomodoro and basil (simple, but classic; $11.95), or the 16 oz. asado (slowly braised and grilled short ribs with fried onions worth every penny at $21.95), or the lemon honey salmon ($16.95).

Maya, I think, is the season's option for locals (and visitors, too). Lincoln Road may be a bit of a tourist trap sometimes, but the restaurant recently launched a local appreciation program hoping to entice us in these tough economic times since it affords us 10 percent off our entire checks, $6.95 lunch specials, and B.Y.O.B. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays beginning on July 1 (a corkage fee applies). Just bring your Florida ID.

Maya Tapas & Grill is located at 809 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, and open daily for daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 9 a.m. to midnight (1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). For more information, call 305-538-0058 or go to

Martin Haro is a senior writer at Miami Living and associate editor of FIU Magazine. He has lived in Miami for nine years, and loves it, thankyouverymuch.


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