Miami Spice Photo Diaries 2016

Last year I introduced the Photo Diaries as a quick reference guide to my Miami Spice dinners, updated as they happened, and consolidated into one post.

All of my past Miami Spice coverage can be found HERE.

This 2016 post features Stripsteak/ Le ZooByblosArieteBlue CollarTuyoCaffe VialettoBLT Prime/ TimoToro ToroPied à TerreMacchialinaLos Fuegosdb BistroBourbon Steak

September 30th, 2016

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Stripsteak
Inside the Fontainebleau Hotel
4441 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33140

What I tried:

 

HIT: Not surprisingly, the $15 supplement for the Ribeye was 100% percent worth it. It’s a steakhouse. It’s Michael Mina’s. Does he ever do anything wrong? My steak was cooked to perfection.

MISS: The only miss here is that despite visiting the Fontainebleau often (Hakkasan + Scarpetta + SOBEWFF events), I still had not dined at Stripsteak until last week. Crazy!

Stripsteak, also sister restaurant to long time favorite Bourbon Steak in Aventura, holds up against Hakkasan and Scarpetta; the Fontainebleau’s winning trifecta.

September 16th, 2016

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Le Zoo
9700 Collins Avenue
Bal Harbour, FL 33154

HIT: The Bistro Chicken: pan roasted breast in sherry vinegar and a black pepper jus…simply delightful.

MISS: Not a single one.

Despite its ritzy location, dining there is surprisingly low key. Le Zoo continues to deliver quality food: uncomplicated, simple French goodness.

September 10th, 2016

Byblos
1545 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

What I tried: 

HIT: I know, it looks like we had the entire menu. Almost. It’s hard to choose what stood out; the ENTIRE experience was a HIT. I actually plan on writing about it a little more in its own post soon. For now, I’ll have to call it a TIE and award the Black Truffle Pide and Chargrilled Cornish Hen the stars for the night. Hot, soft, cheesy, and topped with shaved truffles, the pide was mmm mmm mmm worthy. I gluttoneously ate it slowly and I won’t admit just how many pieces I had. Insert guilty face here. The hen was unexpectedly delicate despite its rustically chargrilled exterior.

MISS: After so many back to back perfect dishes, the Falafel Salad fell short as bland and a little boring. Perhaps serving it with additional green goddess dressing and making the falafel a little bigger could help? Not necessarily bad, just uneventful next to the rest of the standout dishes served.

TIP: A pricey, but well worth add-on to conclude dinner is their Cold Tea Service. $35 for two or $70 for four.

I admit, I often fall in love hard with dishes here and there and won’t stop raving about them. But it’s not often I get so easily wooed by the entire experience at a restaurant. I cannot believe it took me so long to make my way here. Already finding ways to pencil dinner here once again. Byblos took me by storm.

September 9th, 2016

Ariete
3540 Main Highway
Coconut Grove, FL 33133

What I tried:

HIT Ode to the Foie Gras at Ariete. I am naming it not only the best and most unique in Miami, but the very best dish on a Miami Spice menu this year. Yes, it comes with a hefty $19 supplement price, but one bite in and you will not regret it. Although the regular menu lists it as $24/$36 for different sized portions, I found this portion on the Spice menu to be extremely generous. Let me walk you through this one…sour orange vinegar, Cuban-style temptation caramel, ember roasted plantains, and cocoa nibs. In case you missed it, that is foie gras over PLATANOS MADUROS, sweet plantains, aka Cuban crack. I cannot believe it took me this long to find it. Holy Miami, this one is for you!

MISS  Thankfully, I tried the foie after an extremely disappointing Local Fish Crudo. I forgot which fish it was (blaming it on the wine), but even though it was seasoned with a guava, starfruit, almonds, and fennel dressing my tastebuds detected zero of it. Not even a little bit. Given everything else we tried exploded with flavor, something was definitely amiss here.

After a six year Coconut Grove hiatus, I was happy to be back. I loved the vibe at Ariete. The open kitchen worked non-stop. Service was warm and casual yet on point. Next, I hope to try their brunch.

September 7th, 2016

Blue Collar
6730 Biscayne Blvd
Miami, FL 33138

What I tried:

HIT: My darn sweet tooth strikes again. Although I love absolutely everything I had, I have to award this one to the Sticky Toffee. Warm, soft, and just sweet enough, I can have this for breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner, or even an elusive fourth meal.

MISS: Nada. Roll your sleeves up, wear stretchy pants and get thee to Blue Collar. And hey…now on Opentable! Sweet!

When a restaurant survives and succeeds in Miami as long as Blue Collar has (almost five years!), you praise and support it. IT. IS. NOT. EASY. Casual, and beyond unpretentious, it feels like entering someone’s home. Although brunch is where they truly go balls to the wall, every day is an adventure there. Their daily rotation of braised dishes, parmesans, and ribs is worthy of multiple weekly visits. Surprisingly so, they also have one of the most interesting and varied vegetables menu in Miami.

September 3rd, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Miami Culinary Institute – 8th floor
415 N.E. 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33132

What I tried:

HIT: The Chorizo-Wrapped Black Angus Beef Tenderloin was leading the way as my choice for this category. However, it really wasn’t served as hot as I’d like and that was disappointing. Therefore, I’m going to go with the House Made Ricotta and Corn Risotto instead. Served very hot with charred scallion, preserved lemon, fava beans, parmesan tuile and edible gold, I ate every single last drop. The consistency was firm enough, yet still creamy and all of the combined flavors made for a delectable entree.

NOTEWORTHY: The Miami Spice menu at Tuyo allows the diner to choose two plates for the appetizer section. Whatever two are chosen are plated together into one. That was unexpected and worked out nicely.

MISS: I loved the Napoleon’s flakiness and actually enjoyed that dessert. That said, not one person from our party (of 4) tasted the banana component. Odd

In addition, I hate to say it, but I was greatly put off by the service at Tuyo. I’m not entirely sure if the staff employed is part of the student body at the institute. If they are, then it all makes sense and I can understand the situation a little more. It they are not, then it’s embarrassing that this beautiful restaurant with its exceptional food, exhibited such amateurish behavior on the floor. I will not go into details here as I plan to contact the restaurant directly about it, but know service can be hit or miss. Sadly, I’m not planning a return visit anytime soon.

 

September 1st, 2016

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Caffe Vialetto
4019 Le Jeune Rd
Miami, FL 33134

What I tried:

HIT: Caffe Vialetto’s risottos have stood the test of time. A good portion of the main dishes served are accompanied by risottos that can easily stand alone. The Baby Ossobuco offered on the Miami Spice menu is no different. Accompanied by a decadent mushroom risotto, this dish is a clear standout; homestyle, tender, and meaty. You cannot miss out on this one! I have to also give a special shout-out to that intense Dulce de Leche Panna Cotta. WOW! I’m still thinking about it.

MISS: Nada. All good here as usual.

It’s hard for me to even review Caffe Vialetto. I’ve been there so many times in my lifetime that it feels like an extension of my family. It’s a solid choice and the place I visit when I have family in town, for celebrations, or just when I feel the need for a home-cooked meal that does not involve me lifting a finger. The ambiance is ripe with the friendliest of vibes, the kind that involves cheerful welcomes and an eagerness to please. Service is and has always been one of their top priorities from day one. Don’t like something on the menu? Ask about a substitute. Want something a little bit more customized? Ask. Love it? Tell them! The owners and staff love nothing more than making your experience a memorable one.

August 26th, 2016

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BLT Prime
4400 N.W. 87th Avenue
Miami, FL  33178

What I tried:

HIT: How can I choose a favorite when a dinner starts with gruyere popovers and ends with a PB&J dessert?  OK, here’s the truth; please know that I will always be biased when there’s peanut butter or guava anything on a menu. That’s my disclosure and I’m sticking to it. With that said, of course I have to go with the PB&J truffles. When I saw the plate, I wondered just how much peanut butter the truffles would have; they looked rather chocolate heavy. One bite in, I knew. SO. MUCH. PEANUT BUTTER. Rich and sweetened with strawberry and Concord grape jelly, there was no other way to end the night than with these babies.

MISS: Not enough truffles? I kid. Nothing to say in this category. I liked it all.

The last of the BLT restaurants remaining in South Florida,  this location is a bit of an unsung hero. Hidden away inside the Trump National Doral, I think it’s worth the drive. Some of the entrees on the Miami Spice menu weren’t as imaginative or refined as I would have liked (Shrimp Alfredo & Pan Seared Grouper), but they were still flavorful and executed right. After looking through their regular menu while there, I’m now curious to return and try it out. More to come from me on BLT Prime.

August 21st, 2016

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Timó Restaurant
17624 Collins Ave.
Sunny Isles, FL 33160

What I tried:

HIT: I was going to choose the Maine Lobster Raviolo, until I took one bite of the Coconut Cake. Wow. I honestly did not anything would compare to KYU’s Coconut Cake, but Timó’s does. The main difference is that KYU’s is icing heavy, while the one here highlights the fresh mango. Both are knee-weakeners. I’d like to see them add that to the regular menu.

MISS: Nothing. This is a winning Miami Spice menu.

Vegetarians rejoice! I’d like to also point out that Timó has a separate lovely Vegetable Menu from which I ordered the Butternut Squash Lasagna. Technically speaking, I was not supposed to jump between menus, but I asked nicely.

August 20th, 2016

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Toro Toro
100 Chopin Plaza
Miami FL 33131

What I tried:

HIT: The interactive La Bomba dessert, while similar to Alinea’s famous tabletop creation, is still decadent and enjoyable. Fresh berries, dulce de leche, creamy strawberry ice cream, cream cheese mousse, and almond cookie crumbs all collide to create the sweetest possible ending to your dinner.

MISS: The ceviche was borderline warm. Erratic service most of the night: (barely hot) entrees served while we attempted to finish appetizers, repeatedly asked if I finished my food (even while I still had a fork in my hand), rushed to place dessert order. Rush, rush, rush, seemed to be the name of the game. Several men in suits stopped by briefly to ask how it was going, but never lingered long enough to actually listen to my answer. Why ask?

Located inside the Intercontinental Miami Hotel, Toro Toro initially beamed with potential. After looking through the regular menu, my interest was piqued enough to perhaps return soon. By the time my Miami Spice dinner was over, that was no longer the case. Sadly, it seems this restaurant was more interested in turning tables, than it was in offering a memorable experience. Actually, I take that back. It was memorable, just not the kind one wants. On to the next one.

August 19th, 2016

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Pied à Terre
1701 James Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139

What I tried:

HIT: The  Asparagus Creme Brûlée surprised me. Based on the description, I expected something completely different and was certainly not expecting it to be cold. The salmon and the tangy salad dressing harmoniously played off the thick asparagus cream. As an added touch,  you now also receive an amuse bouche, even if you order from the Miami Spice menu.

MISS: None.

As usual, my experience at Pied à Terre did not disappoint. Miami Spice is the ideal time to try this hidden gem.

August 12th, 2016

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Macchialina 
820 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

What I tried:

HIT: Mad love for Chef Pirolo, but this is like having to choose a favorite child.  I will have to call it a tie between the Polenta and the Cavatelli. Both are swoon worthy. I took great pleasure in swirling my spoon around to scoop up every last bit of that hot and creamy polenta (subtly enhanced by a Proper Sausages ragu). Just writing about the cavatelli now (weaved in with some baby meatballs, savory porchetta, and a touch of pecorino) makes me want to wrap this up and drive down.

MISS: It’s because I love Pirolo’s food so much that I must now dish out some tough love. We need an updated menu; I’ve been having the same items every year, Miami Spice or not. I know it’s easy to highlight successful items already listed on the regular menu during Spice season. That’s great for newcomers, but what about the rest of us? Miami Spice is the perfect time to introduce new dishes or showcase some that perhaps aren’t around throughout the year. C’mon! Spice it up!

August 7th, 2016

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Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
Inside Faena Miami
3201 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33140

What I tried:

Confession I fully intended to try the Miami Spice at Los Fuegos. I really did. Instead, I had a brief YOLO moment and decided to order off the regular menu. In all fairness, I suppose you can consider this a partial Miami Spice review. The items photographed are, indeed, part of the  Spice menu.

HIT: Honestly, it’s hard to choose between the Empanadas and the Octopus. Having an Argentinian husband means I’ve had plenty of both in my lifetime and you bet my skeptic-meter was on high alert. The octopus’ smokiness alongside a parade of seasonings (garlic aioli, smoked paprika oil, tomato, sun-dried black olives) and served with a potato confit made me long for each bite as if it was the first time I’d tried it. The just baked, soft empanadas housed hand-cut filet mignon inside. I managed to make each bite smaller to make the empanada last longer. That’s some will power right there.

MISS: No misses here either. The items I tried from the Spice menu were executed just right.

This is your chance to try this newcomer at Miami Spice prices. Located mid-beach inside the swanky Faena Hotel, Los Fuegos is snuffing out any doubters (read: me). Holy-smokes, I loved it all and will be back for more. Miami Spice or not.

August 6th, 2016

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db Bistro Moderne Miami
Inside the JW Marriott Marquis Miami
255 Biscayne Boulevard Way
Miami, FL 33131

What I tried:

HIT: The Country Pâté FTW! Time and time again. A true Boulud classic.

MISS: Shocker. Nothing but hits on this menu.

Dining at db Bistro Moderne back to back with Bourbon Steak was not an accident, given they are usually the two restaurants I rave about annually. Not only was the food exemplary, but the service and attention to detail remained flawless.

August, 3rd, 2016

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Bourbon Steak
Inside Turnberry Isle
19999 W Country Club Dr.
Aventura, FL 33180

What I tried:

HIT: I’m actually going to go ahead and give the crown to the Mahi. Initially, I thought this one would be a little boring, but I was wrong. Blackened and served with a tomatillo salsa, cilantro chimichurri, and coriander rice actually made for a flavorful and interesting Mahi. I will be ordering that again the next time I’m in.

MISS: As usual, NADA! Another perfect Miami Spice score.

Bourbon Steak continues to impress year after year. In a Miami Spice world full of half-ass participation, Chef Fenton and his team go out of their way to put together a menu that represents their constant pursuit of perfection. Bourbon’s stellar service will be the same regardless of your dining preference. Dining a la carte? Great. Dining off the Spice menu? Great. Class. Act.

 

***All photos are available without the TWP logo upon written request***