Miami’s Global Food Scene

High-profile international chefs and restaurateurs are heading to Miami to open their first stateside concepts. U.S. celebrity chefs and highly regarded national names are also jumping on the bandwagon and opening kitchens in this sunny hot spot. Here, big-deal restaurants helping brand the city the new nexus of the country’s global food scene.

BY PAUL RUBIO — Spring 2019

International Imports

Nikkei Sashimi

CHOTTO MATTE

Origin: European restaurateur Kurt Zdesar, who became an industry name as the European director of Nobu restaurants, decided to make his own mark on the world of trendy Nikkei cuisine (a Japanese-Peruvian hybrid) with the September 2013 opening of Chotto Matte in London’s bustling Soho neighborhood. Flash-forward to last April, when Zdesar premiered an even larger, 219-seat stateside sibling off Lincoln Road in South Beach, underscored by a fully retractable roof and a 19-ton Sicilian boulder in the center of the restaurant.

Buzz: An unassuming white wall pivots to reveal a jewel box of a restaurant, wrapped in edgy graffiti murals, punctuated by palm trees and tropical flora, and exploding with amalgams of steel and wood — together delivering an ambitious feat in transitional indoor-outdoor space. Prix-fixe tasting menus introduce diners to the diversity of Nikkei cuisine over nine courses.

Standouts: Order the highly photogenic Dressed Sushi sampler, where each piece of nigiri is a singular creation, ranging from eggplant miso (torched tableside) to tuna glazed in yuzu soy. Follow up with chili-rubbed octopus from the Anticuchería Barbecue grill and wash it all down with a pisco sour (or two).

Details: 1664 Lenox Ave.; 305-690-0743; chotto-matte.com. Tasting menus $70-$99.


Chef Antonio Mermolia. PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN HORAN.

LE SIRENUSE MIAMI RESTAURANT AND CHAMPAGNE BAR

Origin: Since 1951, the family-run Le Sirenuse hotel and its Michelin-starred La Sponda restaurant together have shined as the quintessence of coastal Italy’s la dolce vita. In October 2017, the Sersale family exported this prized piece of the Amalfi Coast to their preferred international vacation spot, Miami Beach, choosing a second home within restored 1930s-era Mediterranean revival architecture at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club.

Buzz: This is the closest Positano reaches this side of the Atlantic. Chefs use ingredients flown directly from Italy to perfect each of the menu’s classic, authentic dishes. Naturally, Chef Antonio Mermolia hails from Italy, too, as do the servers and their white-linen, tailor-made suits and the bespoke dishware and glassware. Moreover, the Joseph Dirand-designed bar and restaurant evoke unabashed Italian seaside glamour, draped in hues of faded magnolia, beachcomber green, and mahogany, and accented by lofty palm fronds and gold-trimmed chandeliers.

Standouts: Start light with the Battuto di Scampi (lightly dressed langoustine crudo), then go bold with Le Sirenuse’s renowned Fagottello Genovese (pasta purses filled with house-made Genovese beef ragu, seasonal black truffle, and mozzarella reduction). Save just enough room for the Giardino Del Bronte, a thin layer of pistachio gelato dusted with fresh pistachios and blooming with edible flowers.

Details: 9011 Collins Ave.; 786-482-2280; sirenusemiami.com/en. Entrees $46-$88.


Novikov Miami

NOVIKOV MIAMI

Origin: With 50-plus restaurants under his belt, famed Kremlin caterer and Russian restaurateur Arkadiy Novikov premiered his first U.S. endeavor last June, importing his glitzy, Asian-fusion concept from London, where regulars such as Prince Harry and Rihanna nosh. For the Miami iteration of his namesake restaurant, Novikov commissioned hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany (of Four Seasons Dubai and Beverly Hills Hotel fame) to create a high-design space that complements the artistically presented — and pricey — dishes.

Buzz: An eye-catching, market-style showcase of international seafood delicacies and local produce anchors the restaurant, enticing diners to handpick items prepared either sashimi- or carpaccio-style, wok-fried, or robata-grilled. A printed menu offering more than 100 chef-driven hot and cold Japanese and Chinese dishes supplements the Instagram-worthy display.

Standouts: The robata-grilled King Crab Honey Truffle delivers a lesson in sweet-meets-savory decadence, as do the steamed-then-fried phyllo-coated Black Cod Roll and the seared, soy-glazed O-Toro sushi, which arrives daily from Japan.

Details: 300 S. Biscayne Blvd.; 305-489-1000; novikovmiami.com. Small plates $9-$110.


Chef Carlos Garcia. PHOTO BY NELSON TIRADO.

OBRA KITCHEN TABLE

Origin: Chef Carlos Garcia is arguably Venezuela’s most esteemed chef;  Alto, his Venezuelan-influenced restaurant in Caracas, landed on “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants” list for four consecutive years. Last May, Garcia brought his talents
to the U.S., introducing this pan-Latin American restaurant to downtown Miami, with flavors and recipes representing almost the entirety of South America, from Argentina to Colombia.

Buzz: Garcia’s pan-Latin gastronomic journey proves unpretentious and interactive thanks to prolific seating wrapped around an open kitchen, with chef-guest dialogue encouraged. The affordability also pleases, with four- and six-course dinner tasting menus priced $39 and $59, respectively. Plus, you’ll like that the chef donates a portion of sales from his famous Barriga Llena (Full Belly) Chicken Soup to mitigate food shortages back in Venezuela.

Standouts: Discover Venezuelan home cooking with Garcia’s Arepas Reina Pepiada, ground maize dough stuffed with chicken and avocado salad and then fried. Follow up with Seafood Arroz Pegado, a rectangle of pan-fried sticky rice topped with a mélange of fresh shellfish and a creole sauce.

Details: 1331 Brickell Bay Drive; 305-846-9363; obramiami.com/en. Entrees $18-$49.


Planta South Beach dining room

PLANTA SOUTH BEACH

Origin: Toronto’s vegan dining scene has exploded over the past five years, spawning some of the biggest-name restaurants in plant-based gastronomy. Case in point: Planta, which gained fast fame for its kelp Caesar salad, jackfruit tacos, and faux “crab” cakes (spoiler alert: hearts of palm substitute for the crab). Last March, the meatless magic landed in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood in a sexy, verdant space capped by a rooftop garden, where the culinary team harvests mixed chilies, greens, herbs, and tomatoes used in dishes.

Buzz: Even hard-core carnivores forgo their favorite steakhouses for this creative, alternative cuisine; dining alongside Miami’s easy-on-the-eyes, health-conscious crowd doesn’t hurt. Choose between raw, Japanese-inspired plates and cooked eclectic dishes, many of which fool the palate as meat-based.

Standouts: Do a double take with the razor-thin Papaya Sashimi and the Spicy Tuna Maki Roll, with cured watermelon (the tuna substitute), scallion, sesame “masago,” and spicy vegan mayo. The artisan Meat Lovers Pizza, piled with farro “sausage,” cashew mozzarella “cheese,” mushroom “bacon,” and roasted garlic requires a triple take.

Details: 850 Commerce St.; 305-397-8513; plantarestaurants.com. Small plates $6-$24


Homegrown Big Names

Thomas Keller. PHOTO BY WILLIAM HEREFORD.

THE SURF CLUB RESTAURANT

The Big Deal: Chef Thomas Keller, the first and only American-born chef with multiple three-Michelin-starred restaurants, revives a chapter in Florida gastronomic history while penning a new one. Paying homage to his childhood days in South Florida, Keller authors a fantasy of mid-20th century dining glamour, serving high-end continental cuisine of yesteryear, including splendid tableside preparations of classic Caesar salad, Dover Sole Meunière, and the old-fashioned ice cream sundae (plus a traveling Champagne cart). Add perfectly choreographed, white glove-style service in an art deco-imbued setting at the landmark 1930s Surf Club, and discover a glorious piece of the past very much alive in the present.

Standouts: Snack on creamy deviled eggs and the spinach-laced Oysters Rockefeller before enjoying the spectacle of the Caesar salad presentation. Meat lovers should next opt for Prime Beef Short Rib Wellington (carved tableside, of course) while seafood aficionados will rave over
the decadent Maine
Lobster Thermidor.

Details: 9011 Collins Ave.; 305-768-9440; surfclubrestaurant.com. Entrees $26-$160.


David Grutman and Pharrell Williams. PHOTO BY MORELLI BROTHERS.

SWAN AND BAR BEVY

The Big Deal: Nightlife impresario David Grutman, owner of the globally top-ranked LIV nightclub in Miami Beach, and Grammy Award-winning singer Pharrell Williams have joined forces to create the city’s supreme duo of see-and-be-seen locales, which both debuted in November. Swan restaurant occupies the first level of the team’s high-design, bilevel, indoor-outdoor venue, where Chef Jean Imbert, a former winner of Top Chef Europe, presents a menu rife with modern cuisine. Upstairs at Bar Bevy, a sultry, Moroccan-inspired cocktail lounge, indulge in the bottle service and celeb sightings aplenty.

Standouts: The colorful Smoked Beet Carpaccio is as delicious as it is Instagram-perfect, strewn with capers, diced cornichon, lemon, and edible flowers. Cocktails showcase the best in local mixology; for a bit of Miami heat, order the Kalahari, a potent combination of tequila, watermelon, chili, ginger, and lime.

Details: 90 NE 39th St.; 305-704-0994; swanbevy.com. Small plates $15-$35.


Homegrown Outposts

The Den

AZABU MIAMI BEACH

After seven consecutive years of receiving a coveted Michelin star, this New York City sushi juggernaut debuted a second location in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood in January 2018. Tokyo-trained chefs Masatsugu “Masa” Kubo and Kenichi “Ken” Fujimoto present a couple of omakase menus in a masculine, dimly lit dining room, or better yet, at the hidden, 11-seat sushi counter known as “The Den,” accessed through a secret door behind the kitchen.

Details: 161 Ocean Drive; 786-276-0520; azabuglobal.com. Omakase menu $120-$175.


Bucatini With Red King Prawns. PHOTO BY GREG POWERS.

FIOLA

This Washington, D.C., Michelin-starred Italian restaurant, a favorite among Hollywood glitterati and political power players, transported its winning recipe to Miami’s prestigious Coral Gables neighborhood last November, unveiled in an elegant space designed by Jeffrey Beers in collaboration with Lázaro Rosa Violán. Chef Fabio Trabocchi raises the bar on contemporary iterations of Italian classics with dishes such as the ginger-laced lobster ravioli and the sea urchin-spiked bucatini topped with red king prawns.

Details: 1500 San Ignacio Ave.; 305-912-2639; fiolamiami.com. Entrees $26-$65.


Chef Helene Henderson

MALIBU FARM MIAMI BEACH

Last April, this waterfront, farm-to-fork restaurant by Swedish native Chef Helene Henderson crossed the continent from Southern California to Florida, opening its first East Coast outpost overlooking a prime swath of Miami Beach. Keeping with the mantra of “fresh, organic, local,” the predominantly alfresco restaurant specializes in clean, vegetable-forward, and seafood-centric cuisine. Think: cauliflower-crust pizza with local heirloom tomatoes, arugula, and roasted cauliflower.

Details: 4525 Collins Ave.; 305-674-5579; malibufarmmiamibeach.com. Small plates $17-$28.


Sette Osteria

SETTE OSTERIA

After 15 successful years in Washington, D.C., this Italian institution arrived in the Wynwood Arts District in May in a sleek, industrial-inspired space that at once suits the artsy (and sometimes pretentious) neighborhood yet feels like a cozy, insidery find. Expect the full gamut of house-made pastas and sauces, along with artisan pizzas and Italian classics such as chicken Milanese.

Details: 2103 NW Second Ave.; 305-576-8282; setteosteria.com/wynwood. Entrees $14-$42.

ALL ABOARD

Use South Florida’s new intercity train service to explore the rising food scenes in Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches

Florida’s high-speed train service, Brightline (gobrightline.com), which will rebrand to Virgin Trains USA later this year, began operations in January 2018 and currently links downtown Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, with plans to expand into Orlando in the next two to three years. With travel time just 28 minutes between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and another 38 minutes to West Palm Beach, the restaurant scenes of South Florida’s major cities are more accessible than ever. Plus, these full-service trains offer wine service from a carefully curated list and a first-class option.

From Miami, ride up to Fort Lauderdale and try the robatayaki cuisine of Etaru Las Olas (500 E. Las Olas Blvd.; etarurestaurant.us), from German restaurateur Rainer Becker, which premiered in June. Or continue north to the Palm Beaches to dine at Florie’s at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach (2800 S. Ocean Blvd.; floriespb.com), which debuted in January as the first stateside restaurant by Chef Mauro Colagreco, of France’s two-Michelin-star Mirazur restaurant. — P.R.

International Hot Spots Coming Next


L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Despite the passing of Joël Robuchon in August, the legacy of the world’s most Michelin-star-awarded chef continues with the latest outpost of his iconic modern French cuisine restaurant slated to open in Miami’s Design District in late spring. Look forward to Robuchon’s protégés serving up the likes of caramelized free-range quail with foie gras and his classic potato puree.

Details: 151 NE 41st St., Suite 135

Nammos

This famed Mykonos beach club — and all its fashion-forward, Champagne-taste, party-vibe excess — plans to cross the Atlantic by the end of this year and plant roots at the Delano South Beach hotel. Savor its signature, seafood-centric Greek restaurant and enjoy its legendary lounge-style beach and pool club experience.

Details: 1685 Collins Ave.

Osaka

This internationally recognized Nikkei restaurant concept, which originated in Peru, has flourished and grown to nine restaurants in seven South American countries, each serving locally inspired items alongside staples such as wasabi ceviche. Plans call for the 10th Osaka to launch stateside in March in downtown Miami’s Brickell neighborhood.

Details: 1300 Brickell Bay Drive

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