This Photo Diaries page is a quick reference guide to my Miami Spice dinners, updated as they happen, and consolidated into one post.
October 1st, 2017
1545 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33139
I’ve professed my love for Byblos many times over. Once again, my dinner was a multiflavored adventure of the highest caliber.
What I tried:
HIT: That Middle Eastern Fried Chicken was something else. The habanero-spiced hot sauce, set at an 8 out of 10, is not for the faint-hearted. The pickles cut through the spice and balanced out the dish. Very much like every time I dine at Byblos, the Black Truffle Pide and Sweet Jeweled Rice are an absolute must.
MISS: Not a single thing. GO!
Byblos reigns as one of the top restaurants to visit, Miami Spice or not. Great job!
September 16th, 2017
432 W 41st St
Miami Beach 33140
I hate when longtime favorite restaurants repeatedly disappoint.
Whether simply dining in, celebrating special occasions in their wine cellar, dancing the night away at their next door reinvented nightclub du jour, or attending special dinners (such as the Caymus & Wakefield ones and for SOBEWFF), I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited in the last two decades. For me, The Forge was always a class act with deep Miami Beach roots, offering exceptional service and food.
Several years ago, after a night of too many changes (dinner felt like a South Beach club with music at unbearable decibels, and even a bathroom attendant addition-you know, since dining can be so strenuous one might need assistance touching up and washing hands), I decided to take an extended break.
I finally returned to check out the Miami Spice menu and attempt to reconcile with this former love.
What I tried:
HIT: Although I’m still very much against their ban on offering a corkage fee for outside bottles, I loved finding Inglenook’s Cask offered at $105: not a bargain, but not too terrible of a markup. In addition, the cocktail list offered some fun drink options and outstanding by-the-glass options.
Service. Except for a sommelier incident, the staff worked in unison to serve and professionally tend to our table.
The Parmesan Truffle Fries. Granted, I’ve never met any I haven’t liked, but I couldn’t stay away from these thin and crispy sinful ones.
MISS: Everything else.
When the waiter said “the sommelier will be over to open your bottle,” he really meant another waiter would open it. The way our bottle leaked and our glasses were constantly overly topped, there’s no way he was a “somm.” I remember when the sommelier at The Forge wore a suit adorned with pins based on certification and a tastevin around his neck. But hey, guess which DJ is spinning tonight?
The food quality and options left a lot to be desired. Chocolate Lava Cake? Are we still on that train?
The steaks ($10 supplement for each 12oz Strip), while I admit quite photogenic, lacked any substantial flavor. At The Forge? How is that possible?
When told our steaks came alone, we ordered the fries as a side. Does it look like the steak was actually plated alone?
The famed Lava Cake lacked any flowing “lava,” a dormant volcano. When picked up by the waiter virtually untouched, he quipped “Yes, must be a Miami Spice thing,” after I inquired about the passé menu addition.
Which leads me to the following, why even participate if you aren’t willing to go all in and let that menu showcase your restaurant in the best light? Just to fill seats during a less-than-busy season? What about repeat customers? Isn’t it equally important to make the best impression and allure those same diners back the rest of the year? This is why I continuously rave about restaurants like Bourbon Steak and Pied a Terre; offering a Miami Spice menu has never changed who they are; it’s just an extension of their top-notch existence.
I don’t like being hard on any restaurant, especially icons such as The Forge, but it kills me to see such blatant disregard for excellence. Color me not impressed, again, as I dive into another long heartbreaking hiatus.
September 15th, 2017
Southeast Financial Center
200 S Biscayne Blvd
With its Cuban tile, Caribbean flair, and casual vibe, I want to move into this restaurant. Stat. This was my first visit to Zest and certainly won’t be my last. I mostly stuck to Miami Spice, but there’s much to be explored on the main menu. Hello, Fried Chicken & Fried Green Tomato Salad!
What I tried:
HIT: I cannot choose just one dish. I’m newly #obZest with both the Niman Ranch Pork Chop and Braised Pork Belly! I woke up thinking about them the next morning. Shoot, I’ll even take just a bowl of the forbidden rice that accompanied the pork belly right now. The Pan Seared Snapper in a Goan style curry was another favorite. Overall, Zest delivered homestyle eats with a poised edge and the utmost quality ingredients.
BONUS: Although I chose to sit inside, the action outside estaba caliente. Miami beats played, cocktails flowed, and our city triumphantly celebrated Irma’s departure. Come for drinks, and/or zestfully stay for the food.
September 3rd, 2017
270 Biscayne Blvd Way
To be honest, despite loving Zuma (oooooh that brunch!), I always stayed away from their Miami Spice menu. I never heard great things about the experience. Well, not only did I love it, it’s been my favorite thus far!
What I tried:
HIT: Oh that dreamy Roasted Seabass with the melt-in-your-mouth kombu butter. I can’t even begin to decipher how many depths of flavors I tasted.
MISS: None, but know the food comes out when ready and they enforce a two-hour maximum dining time. As a party of two (in fact, we were done in just one hour), this wasn’t a problem but it might have been had I dined with a larger group.
September 2nd, 2017
Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar
11510 SW 147 Avenue
This Kendall gem remains hot and in demand. Although the Miami Spice menu isn’t offered for dinner, this one is a solid choice for lunch if in the area.
What I tried:
HIT: Not. Just. Chicken. Served with sauces that are scrape-the-plate-clean worthy, you don’t want to miss the juicy Chicken Lollipops and Thyme Dijon Chicken.
MISS: Oh, why does it have to be so far south? That’s my only selfish whine. Ha! Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with a Chef Adrianne’s visit.
August 26th, 2017
7100 Biscayne Blvd,
Shame on me for taking so long to return to a restaurant I’ve been to before and know I love. I won’t make that mistake again. If you haven’t been, Miami Spice or not, get to it.
The Spice menu at Phuc Yea works a little differently than others. Ultimately, it’s a five-course menu highlighting some of their best dishes and some newer additions. The second course (P.Y. Noddles: make them crabby for a $5 supplement) and a chef’s choice dessert are the only preselected items.
What I tried:
HIT: More like doing it, and doing it, and doing it well. I’ll settle on the Cast Iron Lemongrass Chicken and the Pho Spiced Short Rib ($15 supplement) as the standout dishes. I loved the chicken’s layered flavors: citrusy with equal parts sweet and heat for a fun finish. The short rib (regularly $29 on the main menu), arrived plated simply on a large wooden tray, accompanied by a summer watermelon salad. I pushed the herbs covering the meat aside, for the big reveal. Oh my, it looked divine and smelled positively intoxicating. Arriving at the very end of dinner after way too many courses, I gluttonously attempted to soldier through it. The caramelized meat easily fell off the bone and surprised me with its flavor profile. Taking one look around the room, I noticed I wasn’t the only one in a trance by this dish. It almost brought me to tears. Really. What a night!
MISS: Không Có Gì. Is that how you say it? #NothingbutaGThang
As I mentioned in my original review, Phuc Yea’s got soul. Prepare to swag-dine and sway to the baddest of the baddest mix of 90s hip-hop: definitely, the place to be.
August 25th, 2017
db Bistro Moderne
255 Biscayne Blvd Way
Usually one of my favorites, located on the lobby floor of the JW Marriott Marquis in Downtown Miami, but this menu was unlike any other I’d ever experienced there.
What I tried:
HIT: The Crab Cake with its chayote, papaya slaw, and orange aïoli delighted: tangy and flavorful. The generously filled Lobster Ravioli, complemented by a sauce featuring corn, squash, and tomato, was an all around table favorite. Lastly, the Mango Tart managed to highlight each ingredient boldly without overpowering them. For serious mango lovers only.
MISS: db Bistro usually tops my top five list of favorite Miami Spice menus, and makes my overall favorite Miami restaurants list, as well as every single one of my Top Ten Miami Restaurants list: 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In addition, I’ve also even nominated them as possible Michelin star contender if Miami ever published a guide. Because of this, I’m shocked at the number of misses I experienced.
Overall, service was efficient, but a far cry from the meticulous nature usually exhibited. Our wine bottle sat unopened for what felt like an eternity and dishes arrived all at different times. I rarely complain about food serving size, but the difference from other years was too obvious to dismiss. The single Crab Cake, while one of the HITS, was a mere two, maybe three bites.
I loved the accompanying polenta, but the deceivingly plated Lamb Brochette contained exactly three small cubed pieces of lamb. Three. To make it last, I took the smallest of bites and lingered in between each. The Seafood Zarzuela, the more decadent dish resembling portions of the past, arrived messily thrown in a bowl with a couple of rustic bread mindlessly placed on the plate’s rim. The Tarragon Chicken resembled something casual I could make at home on a rainy day. The Assorted Cheese Plate brought two pieces of cheese flanked by four grapes, more bread, a bit of jam, and a handful of nuts. This is all fine elsewhere, but not at the height where I usually place db Bistro. Not even close.
I took some friends who wanted to experience one of Miami’s finest and, honestly, I sat there embarrassed. When someone came by and asked what we thought of the menu, I mentioned that perhaps “it wasn’t their best year. ” His answer? ” The menu changes in a couple of days!” Noted.
Also noted, at Miami Spice’s conclusion, the restaurant will close for alleged renovations and return with a different- still to be revealed- concept. They hope to reopen and be ready for Art Basel festivities. Ambitious timeline. Could it be db Bistro is going through the motions until closing time? Time will tell, I suppose.
August 20th, 2017
Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis
730 1st Street
Miami, FL 33139
The lofty and elegant interiors set the stage for grand expectations at this SOFI location on Miami Beach. The vibe unmistakenly classified as SOBE chic. Milos claims to serve the finest Mediterranean seafood. That might be the case, but I felt underwhelmed during my visit.
What I tried:
HIT: Listed as Colorado Lamb Chops, but explained as Australian (which is it?). These weren’t the meatiest, but delivered big on flavor. I ate every last bit. The Real Greek Yogurt could have used a significant amount of honey on the side for my taste, but I enjoyed it regardless. A true delight. The Baklava was equally well done.
- The Dorado Royale. Not necessarily bad, but just too simple and underseasoned for my taste.
- The waiter, while very nice, must have insisted at least four times that “even” if our party went with the Miami Spice menu, “…it was a good idea to get an a la carte appetizer for the table. ” We got it the first time, thanks. No need to keep repeating it. He even mentioned it as they served the entrees. No, just no.
- No corkage fee as an option. Outside bottles not allowed. I paid $140 for a $38 OK bottle of wine. Ouch.
As an avid diner, I often use Miami Spice to visit restaurants that have been on my list for a long time and I’ve somehow overlooked. The way I see it, if they can hook me during Spice, I’ll return often throughout the year (as was the case with Los Fuegos and Byblos last year). Although I liked several of the items I tried, I don’t foresee this happening with Milos. PASS. That said, perhaps Milo is for you. Know that the menu offers a nice variety and the portions do not disappoint. If all else fails, maybe they can interest you in an additional appetizer outside of the Spice menu? #justsaying
August 6th, 2017
Inside the Fontainebleau Hotel
4441 Collins Ave
Miami Beach, FL 33140
What I tried:
HIT: It’s hard to choose a favorite dish over the famous and classic Scarpetta Spaghetti. Because I wanted the best of both worlds, I had someone else order it and I also tried the Oven Roasted Chicken (simple yet elegant, and flavorful). Key words: sharing is caring!
Another positive, and this is a big one for the FOMO Miamians, portions have been kept the same for the Miami Spice menu. It’s a big deal considering the Spaghetti alone is $24 off the regular menu.
MISS: Given its Fontainebleau Hotel location, know that dining at Scarpetta means dealing with the valet-parking headache. The cost for parking is $15 if validated, $25 if not. It took 25 minutes for my car to come out.
TIP: Make an early dinner reservation to fully take advantage of the beautiful hotel grounds, Miami Beach Boardwalk, and ocean views.
August 4th, 2017
Inside Turnberry Isle
19999 W Country Club Dr.
Aventura, FL 33180
What I tried:
HIT: Who am I kidding? Everything is a hit at Bourbon Steak. In case you’ve missed my in-depth coverage (and the reason I chose to visit them first, catch up here). That said, I will go ahead and name a favorite dish. Make that a TIE in favorites: the Alaskan Halibut and the White Chocolate Creméux. Of course, you can’t ever go wrong with the steak option (this year it’s a 5oz Angus New York Strip). But the halibut secretly packed in some heat and bold smoky flavors. It only looked innocent sitting atop the elegant yet unassuming lemongrass and coconut risotto, until I took that first bite: not too spicy, just right. Loved the Calabrian chile addition!
On paper, I knew I’d be trying the White Chocolate Creméux. After all, the magic word “guava” was also listed as an ingredient. The thick and velvety custard’s depth, masked by the passion fruit sauce, surprised me as the spoon easily dove deeper than expected. The guava pâte de fruit combination resulted in mmms all around. Success!
MISS: Not a single thing. It must be tough being this good.
Bourbon Steak packed the house last night; every seat occupied. The staff danced their usual ‘multitask and overachieve’ routine expertly. The first-timer friends I brought along raved and exclaimed this “was their new favorite restaurant.” They’ve got good taste, I see.
Game on, Miami Spice! Who’s next?
***All photos are available without the TWP logo upon written request***