Miami Spice Memories

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Tuyo

Miami Spice came and went way too fast! Same story, different year.

Tuyo, Caffe Vialetto, DB Bistro, and Escopazzo were the last targets on my long, must-try list.

Located on the 8th floor of the Miami Culinary Institute, Tuyo never ceases to impress me. When dining there, you must arrive before sundown and take in the spectacular Downtown Miami views. Once you park (either on the street or using their $7 valet service), the guard in the lobby will announce your arrival to the hostess upstairs and calls the elevator for you. The elevator doors then open right into the restaurant, you are greeted by name immediately, and your journey begins. There is no bad seat in the entire restaurant but obviously, window seating is always preferred.

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This year’s Miami Spice menu at Tuyo varied weekly. They featured a different city every week. Chicago was the one featured during my visit. We tried the Maxwell Street (Polish Sausage with Cabbage), Greek Town salad, Chinatown (Sea Scallops with XO Sauce), Back of the Yards (Beef Tenderloin with Sauce Bearnaise & Duck Meatballs), Chocolate Ancho Flan with Mexican Wedding Cookie, and the Oaxaca Cheese with Prickly Pear Jelly. We enjoyed every bite and as always, we also loved the wonderful service Tuyo offers.

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Escopazzo was an overall good spot although it did not wow me as much as it has in the past. Some of the items listed on the menu were “not available”. This limited the (already limited) Miami Spice menu even more. Service was also neither here nor there. I have been dining there since the early 90’s. It is not easy to stick around that long in the unpredictable South Beach restaurant scene. They usually do a wonderful job offering local, organic eats as well as  very nice vegetarian/vegan options. Perhaps it happened to be an “off” night? I will say that the lobster-mushroom risotto was the highlight of the night. I look forward to seeing how they shape up next year’s menu.

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Caffe Vialetto was next. I have lost count of how many times I have visited them over the years. I almost did not want to try their Miami Spice menu. I know their entire menu by heart and have clear favorite dishes. Why limit it to Miami Spice choices? But, I did. I played along and was very happy I chose to try it. The portions were beyond generous, everything tasted delicious,  and service was great! My favorite is always the Zucoti Ravioli. This time though, I found a new favorite in the Guava Shell and Cream Cheese Tempura. I had never seen it listed on the menu. If you know me, you know that one sure way to my heart is through GUAVA! I had one happy heart that night.

By the time I visited DB Bistro, I had already dined at 9 other restaurants offering Miami Spice menus. I thought I knew which one would take my overall top rating. I was wrong. Very wrong. DB Bistro is truly in a class by itself. They delivered a seamless experience, Miami Spice or not. From start to finish, this visit did not differ from any of my previous ones, where I ordered off the regular menu. Their service is beyond professional: they have it down to a science. The photos below tell the story on their own. Everything was highly pleasing. I vow, right here, right now, to start with DB Bistro in August, 2014 (instead of leaving them until the end.)

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Miami Spice months (August and September) always fly by too quickly. Several restaurants decided to extend their special menus, beyond the assigned Miami Spice months, and into October. Scarpetta was one of them. I was told they did so, due to it’s Miami Spice menu success.

Here is the list of all the restaurants I visited, ranked highest to lowest (and I use that term very loosely), based ONLY on their Miami Spice menus:

DB Bistro

Scarpetta

Bourbon Steak

Caffe Vialetto

Macchialina

Toscana Divino

Tuyo

Gotham Steak

Escopazzo

Rusty Pelican

Did you miss my other blog series on Miami Spice? Here are the links for those:

PART 1 Miami Spice…What is it?

PART 2 Whet & Wild: Miami Spice is heating up!

PART 3 Tales of Tuscany, a pelican and…some bourbon?

Take note and add these restaurants to your lists for 2014. In the mean time, go visit them anyway. Consider it “practice”. There is no such thing as too much dining experience.

Until next time, from my palette to yours. Enjoy!

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