Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Best Restaurants Miami 2015

                     TOP FIFTEEN

Here are the Fifteen Best restaurants in Miami moving into 2016.  Some heavyweights opened this week (Pao & Los Fuegos) and I expect them to be in contention for the top fifteen when the next rankings come out.

My rankings took some big hits over the last year or so thanks to the departures of approximately nine talented chefs from restaurants that were consistently in my top fifteen over the past couple of years. (Hanlon, Griese, Alcudia, Kilgore, Wessel, Compton, Grant, Baker and Crandall) Unfortunately, several of those chefs are no longer cooking in town. But a couple have remained local and are back in the kitchen.  As a result, The Dutch, Scarpetta, J&G Grill, Azul, Toscana Divino, MM74 etc. have been removed from the list pending return visits with the new chefs.

As I've indicated in the past, this list is chef and food driven. But beverage/wine programs, service, management, ambiance, value and overall experience all play significant roles.

Obviously, this is very subjective and done as a guide to assist you with dining choices and to pay tribute to the chefs and restaurants that are doing outstanding jobs.

I am happy to announce a NEW NUMBER ONE. Chef Gabe Fenton remains one of the best chefs in town and the restaurant scores off the charts in every facet. Hospitality, service, bar program, wine, pastry etc. Go pay them a visit as they are truly the best of the best across the board.

These are the Best of the Best in town.


1. Bourbon Steak
2. Naoe
3. Makoto
4. Cena by Michy ** Closed
5. Cypress Tavern
6. The Bazaar
7. Macchialina
8. Vagabond Restaurant & Bar
9. Proof Pizza & Pasta
10. Quality Meats
11. db Bistro Moderne
12. Lucali (#1 for pizza/calzone)
13. Pubbelly
14. Niu Kitchen
15. Michael's Genuine
15. Joe's Stone Crabs (seasonal #1 caliber)
15. Edge Steak & Bar
15. Hakkasan

Missed the Top Fifteen but are highly recommended.

27,  Mignonette,  CorsairLa MarMC KitchenYakko-SanMilosMandolinSugarcane Raw Bar GrillTimoMomiSushi Deli, Panya Thai, King Palace Chinese BBQBlue CollarSalumeria 104SardiniaWolfgang'sThe River Oyster BarMeat MarketPetit RougeBasil ParkMacaluso'sThe Forge, Cantina La 20Izzy's Fish & Oyster (new ↑), Le Zoo (new ↑), Seagrape (Michelle Bernstein no longer affiliated), El Cielo.

Category of its own... gastroPod

To Do -   Los Fuegos, Pao, Coya, Matador Room, Beachcraft, Byblos, Cleo, Stripsteak, Klima, Fooq's, Fresh American Bistro, Magic Garden, Bistro Casis, Bagatelle, Taquiza, The Golden Fig (closed) The Continental, Red Ginger, Midtown Oyster Bar, Soho Bay, Driftwood Room, Bazi (closed) Jaya, Talde, NaiYaRa, Beaker & Gray  OY!!!!!

Prominent and potentially rank worthy but not visited or need to get back -  Zuma, The Setai, Lure, Verde, Eating House, Alter and Palme d'Or.

Need to return and re-rank because of chef changes - The Dutch, Scarpetta, Michael Mina 74, Bocce, J&G Grill, Azul & Toscana Divino, The Federal.

Coming Soon - Ariete (open), Phuc Yea, PB Station (open), Sarsaparilla Club (open), Komodo (open), KYU (open), Wessel's Tropical BBQ, Plant Seed & Wine (open), 1111 Peruvian (open), A & B Food & Co. (open). Ichima (open), Quinto La Huella (open).

Cross the border(s) recommendations- Buccan, Cafe Boulud, Cafe La Buca, Hot & Soul, Myung Ga Tofu & BBQ, Blue Willy's, Valentino's, Coolinary Cafe, Oceans 2000.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cobaya Niu Kitchen with Chef Deme Lomas 11/23/15

Niu Kitchen, the little restaurant that could.  Intimate, cozy, lively, friendly, charming and most importantly delicious.  The dining area is tight and the kitchen is as small as they get but the front and back of the house deliver a large restaurant caliber experience.

It's easily the best all around small restaurant in town.

Niu is a Catalan inspired restaurant that opened without the normal Miami fanfare about a year and a half ago.  It's located near the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami.  "Like Catalans themselves, we are eclectic and just a little bit eccentric. We mix the local with the exotic. The seasonal with the sophisticated. We play with the finest regional ingredients and make them simply extraordinary. "

Manning the broom closet kitchen is chef/owner Deme Lomas who hails from Barcelona.  He successfully puts a unique spin on traditional Catalan ingredients and dishes.  Last April, he was one of ten chefs in the gulf coast nominated by Food & Wine magazine for People's Best New Chef.  Co-owner Karina Iglesias runs a warm and hospitable front of the house.

I initially wrote about Niu back in July of 2014 shortly after they opened (unfortunately, 3 of the 4 spots mentioned are now closed). "The next stop is a real hidden gem. Niu Kitchen is a brand new Catalan inspired restaurant located in downtown Miami. It's tiny and great. A combination that prompted this tweet exactly one month ago "I'd go enjoy Niu Kitchen while you can still get a table. And it may be too late already as word has spread and the feedback I've received has been great."  Fast forward and this hidden gem continues to shine.

For Cobaya, Niu really showcased what Niu is all about. The crowd was lively and loud and Deme created a tasty seven course menu that featured all hits, no misses and a few standout dishes.

If I lived or worked downtown, I'd be there all the time.  If you haven't been yet, I highly recommend going.

You will have fun, eat well and leave with a smile.  That's guaranteed.

The Niu Crew

Cream of Leeks
crispy leeks, herring roe

Flash-Seared Scallop
cauliflower purée, pomegranate gelatin

I'm a big scallop fan when they are cooked right.  These were and enhanced by the flavorful cauliflower puree.  This was one of the highlights of the night for me.

Baby Artichokes
bresaola, black truffle mayo

Cod Confit a la Catalana
roasted onions, dry figs, grain mustard, honey

Another standout dish. The cod was cooked perfectly and melted in your mouth. Deme enhanced it with a nice combination of flavors.

Steak Tartare
mustard gelato, paja potatoes 

Mustard gelato!! 

Duck Margret, Apple Garlic and Cinnamon puree, confit scallions and chestnuts

Another perfectly executed and flavorful dish.

Cold Melon Soup
lemon, mint oil

A very refreshing palate cleanser.

Pear Escalivada, rosemary crema catalana, maria cookies, grapefruit sorbet

Big thanks to Deme, Karina and their team for a wonderful night. And thanks to all the guinea pigs for your continued support.  See you at #59.

NIU Kitchen
134 NE 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33132

OR DIAL 786 542 5070

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Best Sandwiches Miami/South Florida (New)

I'm a huge sandwich fan. Growing up in New York I had my fair share of great sandwiches from Italian and Jewish Delis. Pastrami on rye, corned beef, brisket, Italian combo, meatball, eggplant and chicken parm to name a few.  College in New Orleans exposed me to 4 great years of killer po-boys. 

Miami has been a different story.  Italian or Jewish delis are scarce and  hero/sub shops are almost non existent. But there are some exceptions and there are some great sandwiches out there.  I've covered a lot of my favorites in THIS PRIOR POST.

This is an updated list with some new finds in the tri-county area over the past few months.  All are highly recommended.  

In no particular order are some must get sandwiches plus two classics.

Tsukune Sandwich (Japanese Meatballs) tare, nori, scallion, pickled cucumber via Vagabond Restaurant & Bar (UES Miami)

Pork tonkatsu sandwich, yuzu kosho sauerkraut, spicy mustard at Vagabond Restaurant & Bar (UES Miami)

 Love this Cured ocean trout Smørrebrød, rye bread, cucumber, dill, poppy seed @alx_chang @vagabondrestaurant

Cured ocean trout Smørrebrød, rye bread, cucumber, dill, poppy seed at Vagabond Restaurant & Bar. (UES Miami)

Corned Beef on a Portuguese Muffin via Proper Sausages (Miami Shores)

Another Must Get Sandwich Miami. The BBQ Tongue Sandwich -grass fed beef tongue, Proper BBQ Sauce, Iceberg Slaw via @propersausages #Proper #tongue #propersausages #mymiamispice

The BBQ Tongue Sandwich - grass fed beef tongue, Proper bbq sauce, iceberg slaw on a Portuguese muffin via Proper Sausages

Easily one of the best sandwiches in town The Romagna w peppers. & onions @propersausages Berkshire Pork, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, lemon zest & black pepper

The Romagna with peppers & onions. Berkshire Pork, fresh rosemary, fresh garlic, lemon zest & black pepper. via Proper Sausages

 Boom! Banh mi - pork pate, chicken liver, pickled vegetables, spicy aioli via chef clay conley @buccansandwichshop #buccansandwichshop

Banh Mi - pork pate, chicken liver, pickled vegetables, spicy aioli via Buccan Sandwich Shop. (Palm Beach)

 Pork Loin, broccoli rabe, provolone @buccansandwichshop #buccansandwichshop

Pork Loin, broccoli rabe, provolone via Buccan Sandwich Shop.

Maine Lobster Roll - brioche, mayo, celery via Buccan Sandwich Shop.

Izzy's Whole Maine Lobster Roll -  warm with lobster butter via Izzy's Fish & Oyster.  (South Beach)

Lobster Roll - Mignonette (Miami)

Oyster Loaf - Mignonette (Miami)

Clemenza - breaded chicken cutlet broccoli rabe, sharp provolone via Genco Sandwiches. (Lauderdale by the Sea)

Michael - ham, capicola, genoa salami, sharp provolone  via Genco Sandwiches.

 Fredo - beef, pork & veal meatballs w Pecorino Romano @gencosandwiches #FredoisLegit #meatballs

Fredo - beef, pork and veal meatballs with pecorino romano
via Genco Sandwiches

 Sollozzo - breaded chicken cutlet, sautéed spinach w garlic, sharp provolone plus roasted red peppers @gencosandwiches BOMB!!! You want this

Sollozzo - breaded chicken cutlet, sautéed spinach with garlic, sharp provolone and roasted red peppers via Genco Sandwiches.

Super legit #Pastrami on Rye @zingersdeli (Boca) #zingers #zingersdeli #pastrami

Pastrami on Rye via Zinger's Deli. (Boca)

Crispy chicken sammich - thigh, buttermilk, pickles @chefjeremiah @gastropodmiami #gastropodmiami

Crispy chicken sammich - thigh, buttermilk, pickles via gastroPod (Wynwood)

Falafel Freakin Benny BOOM!! #FalafelBenny #superstar

Fresh Falafel via Falafel Benny  (Hallandale Beach)

 Dac Biet Banh Mi- Pate, bbq pork, pork roll, headcheese 545 Banh Mi Cafe $4.00

Dac Biet Banh Mi- Pate, bbq pork, pork roll, headcheese via 545 Degrees Banh Mi Cafe (Davie)

Burrata Panini - Housemade burrata with prosciutto, roasted peppers and pesto via Mimmo's Mozzarella (North Miami)

 Very Legit. Soft Shell Crab po-boy on a house made bun, dressed. @thegrillatbalharbor

Soft Shell Crab po-boy on a house made bun, dressed via The Grill at Bal Harbour

Delicious pulled pork sandwich w slaw on onion roll via @bluewillys

Pulled Pork via Blue Willy's (Pompano Beach)

This is a legit sandwich via @conantnyc @corsairmiami Porchetta, broccoli rabe pesto, sunny side up egg #corsairmiami

Porchetta, broccoli rabe pesto, sunny side up egg via Corsair  (Aventura)

Shawarma Chicken with garlic sauce and pickels via Noor Bakery
(Dania Beach) also pictured Za'atar and Akawi.

Chicharon - Pork belly, pickled onions, sweet potato, roseta roll   via J28 Sandwich Bar (Hollywood)

OK not a sandwich but close.  Arepa Parrillera with chorizo, carne y queso blanco via Avila Bistro (Aventura)

NO PICTURE -  Chicken Parm you taste so good (Peyton Manning voice) Kings County Pizza (Aventura)

Technically not a sandwich but close enough and a must get. Curried Conch Roti via LC Roti Shop (Miami Gardens)

Not New but post worthy again. Cheeseteak via Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies  (Hollywood)

Another classic but post worthy again La Spada Hoagies  (Broward) 

 This hit the spot - French Dip au Jus via Houston's w great thin sliced prime rib #houstons

One more classic one for you.  French Dip au Jus with great thin sliced prime rib via  Houston's (Multiple locations)

 Another Winner - Super Heebster - whitefish & baked salmon salad, wasabi infused fish roe, horseradish dill cream cheese, bagel toast #russanddaughterscafe

An out of town winner for you. People of NYC you want this one. 
Super Heebster - whitefish & baked salmon salad, wasabi infused fish roe, horseradish dill cream cheese, bagel toast via Russ & Daughters Cafe (NYC)

Breakfast/Sandwich of the year. Tartinettes a la Truffe @ Market @ #placedeslices #sttropez #truffe #sttropezstreetfood #streetfood

Truffle Sandwich (Saint Tropez)


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Michy-lin Stars for Cena by Michy

                                     Cena by Michy

The last  two meals I've had in a restaurant were the two best non Cobaya meals of the year. And both went down at Cena by Michy.  No surprise coming from Miami's best chef, Michelle Bernstein.  Cena opened a few months ago in the revamped Michy's space on Biscayne Blvd.  I had the bittersweet fortune of closing Michy's down on her last night but embarrassingly failed to dine at Cena until recently.  Major fumble on my part. I'm happy to report that Cena, like her predecessor, is one of the best overall restaurants in town. It's the kind of spot that you will want to frequent often.

Cena's chef de cusine is Mike Mayta who previously worked at Michy's.  His wife, Kelly Vasquez is the pastry chef.  The front of the house is in the great hands of  David Martinez.  Service and the wine/beverage program all excel.

I've enjoyed chef Bernstein's food dating back to her days at The Strand, Azul and Tantra too.  Sra. Martinez was a great spot and Michy's will go down as one of Miami's best. Her food is always executed properly and her flavor combinations always excite the palate. And her dishes are never boring.

Part of the transition and renovation included the addition of a six seat kitchen bar.  And that's where you want to be on Wednesday nights in November.  On those nights, Michy-San is throwing down omakase style.  No menu, no substitutions, no BS.  Six seats at 7 and 6 at 9:30.  $75.00 plus tax and tip gets you a ten course treat at the hands of a James Beard Award winning chef.  OmaMichy (I prefer MichyKase) is a must do.  I hope their restaurant within a restaurant concept continues. Great food is a happy place for me and it doesn't get any better than being fed omakase style by Sra, Martinez.

GO and enjoy.

Highlights from both meals are below:

OMAMICHY  a/ka MICHYKASE - No menu for the night so I hope I get the descriptions almost right.

Text from Resy

A nice and light start to the night.  Celery Root, fennel, fresh pears and truffles. 

Bernstein and a Burgundy was the perfect play.

Chawanmushi topped with stone crabs and mustard sauce.

Super shishito peppers stuffed with shrimp mousse, ginger and soy.

The maestro in action at the kitchen bar.

Probably my favorite dish of the night. BBQ Eel and "grits", Carolina rice, aged cheddar topped with seaweed.

Homemade (really) Gnudi with braised swiss chard.

Perfectly executed and delicious yellowtail and bok choy.

Another dish of the night contender.  Crispy sweetbreads, refried beans, queso fresco, and homemade tortillas.

Quail and foie gras pot pie.  Yes you read that right. Quail and foie gras pot pie. Game over.

A refreshing and tasty dessert from the pastry crew.Passion fruit mousse, lulu snow, cranberry coulis.

Not pictured is a chocolate cremoso that ended the night.

Some highlights from the regular menu:

Seared Foie Gras, peanut butter hoe cake, concord jam. A must get for foie fans.

Taco of the year - Sweetbreads, salsa verde, huitlacoche cream, pickled cabbage.

A must get dish - Stracciatella custard, heirloom tomato salad, basil, fried green tomatoes. 

Vegetable dish of the year -  Cauliflower steak, pickled garlic aioli, macrons, raisins, capers.

Roast carrots, whipped Sardinian ricotta, dukkah.

Brandy doused trumpet mushrooms, gremolata.

Porcini gnocchi, shimeji mushrooms, mushroom demi, taleggio.

Lots of great bottles on their list but hard to beat this one from Saint-Joseph.

CENA by Michy is located at 6927 Biscayne Boulevard in the MiMo District.
Dinner is served TuesdaySunday at 6PM.