Welcome to Miami, Michelin Guide: PART 2. Now what?

Back in June, I received confirmation that the Michelin Guide was discussing a partnership with the state of Florida. As a result, I posted the fourth installment of my Miami Michelin Guide series and further explored Miami’s potential in great detail. I suggest reading Part 1 before moving on to Part 2.

Last week’s bombshell (yet expected) announcement by the Michelin Guide became South Florida’s “it” topic. Food fans weren’t shy about voicing their opinions on the upcoming guide inclusion, whether psyched or salty. I am a little concerned for those who, for years, argued that Miami already had Michelin restaurants. Oye, are you OK, boo? Or those outlets and restaurants who endlessly click-baited headlines about their “Michelin Starred Chef” and the “New Michelin Restaurant Opening in Miami.” Time to give the trend up. That’s so 2019.

Finally, we enter a new culinary phase for our city. For the most part, the excitement is real and electric in that same way one feels after sipping that 3:05 pm cafecito. Miami, Orlando, and Tampa will soon join the New York City & Westchester, California, Washington, D.C., and Chicago guides. Our gateway location alone sets us up for success. If you are new to Michelin dining, here is one essential fact to remember (whether you agree with it or not): Traveling for food experiences is a thing. This arrival will absolutely have a positive impact on Florida’s tourism revamp efforts. Another fact? Of course, the guide is a magnet for controversy. But I will not focus on that much in this post. Go kick Michelin rocks in your own time, if you please. Today I will focus once again solely on Miami.

For the past 13 years, I have personally taken the “will travel for food” mantra seriously. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy mapping out our next hitlist spots and building a trip out of them as often as possible. Some of the best dinners in my life have been experienced at three-starred restaurants rated by the Michelin Guide. Until now, that meant flying elsewhere. Seven years ago, I began wondering, why not Miami? Where do we rank among the country’s starred locations? That’s when I launched the Miami Michelin Guide series. It’s important to note that those posts lead as the most read on this website. That tells me there has always been interest in a Miami version of the guide.

Here’s a link cheat sheet to check out later:

2021 Welcome to Miami, Michelin Guide. What took you so long?

2018 Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Miami

2016 Miami Michelin Guide…Are we there yet?

2014 Miami Michelin Guide Selections


Spoiler: Miami is ready. Judging by the many comments and questions I have received this week on social media and the usual predictable (and comical) comments I have seen, it’s obvious the concept remains foreign to many. And that’s OK. I will do my best to shed light on the topic. Below, I address your most asked questions and concerns.

Do you think Miami is ready? The easiest way to answer this is to remember that no three-star rating was awarded during D.C.’s inaugural guide. Only two restaurants received two stars, and a handful ranked as an honorable one star. I doubt the list will debut with twenty-something restaurants. It is only a starting point. My guess would be a conservative listing with only six or seven restaurants—the first step towards food destination mecca. I visited D.C. that first year and returned home feeling confident in our dining scene. The stars have aligned, and we are ready to shine.

Miami service isn’t up to par. I won’t disagree here, but I will say service has significantly improved. Technically speaking, the guide “claims” service is not looked at for the overall star rating. Instead, service is ranked with the number of ‘covers’ it receives, represented by Michelin’s signature fork and spoon symbol. The focus is always the food. Perhaps that can be Miami’s loophole? That said, I have never been to any three-star rated restaurant (and I have been to all in the U.S. but two) that did not render impeccable service and attention to detail from start to finish. We do have plenty of restaurants that provide professional service, even now post-ish Covid.

Prices will increase. Who wants to spend so much money on a Michelin restaurant, anyway? I think prices will increase at those restaurants receiving a star, or two, and definitively if they receive three. Who wants to spend “so much” money on “those” dinners? Newsflash: plenty of people do. Go be a hater elsewhere. No one is forcing anyone to dine at a Michelin restaurant. The city has plenty of flavors and price points to please everyone. It’s important to understand the big picture and what this means for South Florida as a whole.

Reservations will be harder to score. Demand will increase, yes. Reservations will, unfortunately, become tougher to score at the higher-rated restaurants.

Michelin only rewards fine dining. If you look strictly at the coveted three-star category in the United States, yes, that seems to be a pattern. So what? Do you really feel La Carreta deserves three stars? Understanding the “why” becomes easier once you try several of those starred establishments. A one-time dinner at Chicago’s Alinea won’t answer that question completely. How complex is that dish that looks so incredibly simple on your plate? Is it thrown together or thoughtfully plated? Is the restaurant sustainable? Are they using quality products? Is the menu seasonal? Has consistency remained between visits?

Usually arranged in a tasting menu format, the diner at a three-star location is taken through a culinary journey that might include anywhere between 12-22 courses. Courses are typically small flawless bites showcasing a chef’s technique, and personality plus highlighting the quality of ingredients. Read that again. Flavors intensify as the dishes line up and keep you wanting more. A successful experience should impress and obviously be more than a pop-in dinner at your local pizza joint. I am grateful even for those dinners I failed to enjoy completely. It truly is a humbling learning experience to witness the craft in this way.

The Michelin Guide also hands out one and two-star awards. This list is where the lines are often blurred, and it is not exclusive to fine dining. It’s also where I think Miami will launch its star trail. For example, New York’s Cote is listed at one star. Will our newly opened Cote Miami receive one as well? It’s a Korean steakhouse. No gougère nor velouté in sight. Estela and Casa Mono are both hyper-casual small New York restaurants, along the lines of our Little Haiti’s Boia De and Hialeah’s La Fresa Francesa. Why them and not Miami? Napa’s Kenzo (visited this one a couple of weeks ago) in California? My Miami bias is showing but, please, Brickell Key’s NAOE and South Beach newcomer Nossa Omakase blaze them in comparison. NAOE could even be our sole two-star recipient. My point is, we do have serious contenders.

It’s such a small amount of food. Will need a burger later. Repeating this nonsense tells me you haven’t experienced a proper tasting menu. I hate to say it, but my original 2014 comment still stands today, Miamians seem to have an absurd fear of not receiving enough to eat or being cheated out of food at nicer restaurants. Panic strikes when diners are served bite-sized portions. Why must everything be super-sized for it to be deemed impressive? “And again, it’s mostly the three-starred locations that offer a tasting menu format anyway. Relax. How many are you visiting? Again, no one is strong arming you.

Who do you think is making this list? Ah, the million-dollar question. As much as I feel I understand the Michelin process, much mystery remains when trying to grasp the complexities and politics of the rating system. I already noted my predictions here, in Part 1 of this article. Miami should initially present similarly to D.C. without a three-star location, maybe one two-star and several one-starred locations. By year two of the guide, we should see the inclusion of higher-rated establishments and many more to their list.

Getting it right I hope the Michelin Guide understands South Florida’s nuances and does not merely “bring its talents to South Beach.” So much is riding on that first list. To truly showcase Miami, the Michelin Guide needs to deep dive into our heartland and include restaurants showing our local flavors and strengths. South Beach’s Stubborn Seed by chef Jeremy Ford? Miami Design District’s family-owned Nikkei-inspired Itamae? Coconut Grove’s Ariete by Cuban American chef Beltran? Brilliant tiny gem Boia De? Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Those are only a starting point, perhaps followed by the addition of a spot like chef Thomas Keller’s The Surf Club (led by chef Manuel Echeverri). Some of our import restaurant concepts have also performed exceptionally well from day one and deserve recognition too. D.C. Michelin-starred Fiola Miami? Yes. New York City starred L’Atelier de Robuchon Miami and Cote Miami? Yes. My complete list is HERE.

Adding “popular” Miami destination restaurants will make this list the local gourmand’s laughing stock. I said what I said. Prime 112? C’mon. Carbone? I realize there is a New York starred location, but…no. This list should not resemble New York 2.0. Besides, Miami’s Carbone seems more interested in hosting stars than earning them. No thanks. Even our charming Joe’s. No. While I am at it, Bern’s in Tampa? No. I adore the dessert room and wine list, but the food and location are basically the love children of a 1982 porn movie and 1987 luxe cruise ship fare. No.

IYKYK

Why me? Who am I? The short answer? As I mentioned before, I am a Michelin and Miami dining enthusiast. The long answer? An up-close and personal dining enthusiast. My perspective comes from the many Michelin restaurants in which I have dined. You can find them listed HERE. Spoiler alert, it totals 154 stars, for now. That’s a whole lot of miles, and calories. Except for Masa and Benu, that count includes all of the U.S. three-starred locations. It does not make me an expert, at all. But I do have a lot to work with when comparing other cities to Miami. I simply use the guide as, just that, a guide. I enjoy the journey, even when I don’t always agree with the guide’s selections. There’s no way to truly know if the Michelin Guide will properly represent Miami yet. Until we receive more information, possibly next spring, enjoy this series of articles written from my passionate Miami palate, The Whet Palette.