Mr. Whet Palette’s Favorite 2022 Miami Restaurants

Guest post by Lawrence, The Hubs, Mr. Whet Palette.

My part is to (1) not touch the food until Brenda has photographed it, (2) occasionally hold a flash, and (3) pick the vino! These are MY 22 favorite Miami restaurants.

This is not a list of Miami’s best restaurants. I am not the Whet Palette. You can check out Brenda’s Top 22 Miami Restaurants list here. Sadly, there are several old favorites (i.e., Scarpetta) that I did not get to this year and, thus, cannot be on my list. Side note: Talking about this Italian restaurant at the Fontainebleau, per the Whet Palette, word around town is that chef Michael White might be taking over this establishment.  Not sure what to think of this news as I no longer believe that Lido Restaurant, the establishment chef White took over about a year ago, is special any longer in any way other than the beauty that is the actual space, which he had nothing to do with. Not surprisingly, Lido does not make my list despite multiple visits in 2022.

Because I love my vino, wine “service/prices/ selection/corkage fee” will play a part in my decision. Moreover, value matters as well. Occasionally, I don’t mind paying big money for an excellent experience.  But there has to be value. I can’t just overpay for the sake of being able to say I was at, say, (cough cough) Papi Steak. In that instance, I would much rather skip the glitter and the sparklers and go to a classic like Bourbon Steak.  More on them later.  Restaurants that offer no value on their food menu or wine list (i.e., more than 3x markup on fine wines and more than 1x markup on vinos in the $100 range) will likely not make my list. 

I realize I can go to any of these restaurants and spend half of what I usually spend, so I know some will argue that the establishment is not as expensive as asserted.  But I am not going to drive an hour each way for an appetizer, a shared entrée, and a shared dessert… as if the Whet Palette would even let me! So, when we dine, we dine! Having said that, Miami restaurant prices have become somewhat comical.  It seems every dinner is $450+++.  About a month ago, I ate at three, 3-Michelin Star restaurants in Italy. The average dinner for two, which included a 10+-year-old Italian/French wine, was $487. Miami prices have become ridiculous.  Bren, are we moving to Italia or what?

22 Silverlake Bistro

Little known fact: this is La Fresa Francesa’s cousin. The hidden neighborhood gem, popular with the Normandy neighbors, serves up f’in good comfort eats. That burger tops my list! But don’t sleep on the chicken, meatballs, or pasta specials. Fire! For vino, we usually pay the $25 corkage fee and byow it.

21 Blue Collar

Chef Danny Serfer takes comfort food to the best of levels. His protein game is on fire.  Whether it’s the chicken stew or a daily special like the shank or goat, Serfer delivers every time.  Also, their ‘Vegetable Chalkboard’ is extensive and an absolute delight!  By the way, I always go with the beets.  Blue Collar’s beers are all $8 or less, and if you want wine service, their bottles are usually $75 or less. It is a small list; thus, I always take my vino for one of the better corkage fees in Miami, only $15.  Max value alert!

20 Osaka Comida Nikkei 

One of the pricier Nikkei Miami establishments, but it is well worth it.  Food is always on point and outstanding, although the service could use some work. Now, if they could allow customers to bring their bottles, we could avoid those ridiculous markups. Case in point: $435 for a bottle of Palmaz? $320 for a bottle of Peter Michael Le Caprice?  C’mon! This restaurant might be in my top 10 if not for the wine situation. 

19 Lion & the Rambler

Chef/Owner Michael Bolen is an up-and-coming star. His website describes his restaurant’s approach as an “ever-evolving menu showcasing our relationship with the best farmers and purveyors in the country.”  Well, that and Chef Bolen’s bread game is all I need to keep returning to this gem. This is one to watch! Did I mention a $15 corkage fee?

18 Ghee

Chef Niven, bro! So good in every way and one of the better values around. Tip: Go with another couple or two so you can order the entire menu. P.S. Orno, Chef Niven’s sister restaurant, is good as f*ck too! 

17 Kojin (now Chef’s Counter at Hachidori Ramen)

A sweet 8-10 course tasting menu with a starting price of $105 before supplements? Can you spell v-a-l-u-e? Outstanding experience, all made possible by Chef Pedro Mederos. I’ll let him drive any day of the week!

16 Sushi by Scratch 

Unconventional? Yes. But right now, my favorite high-end sushi experience in Miami. Their progression ($165) and sake/whiskey pairings ($100) are outstanding!  The price tag can hurt once you include pairings, tax, and gratuity. But with a progression of 15+ pieces, believe it or not, there is value here. 

15 L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Simply stated, I am not a big enough fan to place it higher. The only 2 Michelin Starred restaurant in Florida, the food and service have always been great, at times even outstanding.  Their bread game is incredible, and the parking is easy and affordable. But there are some glaring negatives.  The counter thing doesn’t work well for me.  I don’t particularly love sitting at a counter, to begin with (except when I’m at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare). If they could remove the overhang and open it up a bit, it would make such a big difference.  Additionally, at $280 (last I checked, probably higher now), their tasting menu should be peppered with caviar and lobster, but it’s not. And what’s with the $95 upcharge for wagyu?  Really? But the #1 reason why L’Atelier is not ranked higher for me is their wine list? Not permitted to take my bottle, and their markup is insane, especially for vintage appropriate wines.  Anything from Rhone Valley, usually a more affordable region than wines from Bordeaux, is mostly 2017 or younger and presents at a 300% plus markup.  For example, the 2019 Domaine Georges Vernay/St. Joseph, which retails for $75, is $274 at L’Atelier.  That’s a 300% plus markup on a $75 bottle of wine. The markup is similar throughout the menu, with older vintages going for 5x retail.  I am not into drinking cheap wine at a 2-Michelin, so a meal at this establishment almost always surpasses the $1000 mark.  

14 La Fresa Francesa 

If you haven’t been, what’s wrong with you? Chef Benoit Rablat is not only one of the funniest and most genuine industry people I know but also a sick chef!  So yeah, I’ll take that drive to Hialeah any day of the week. That is, so long as that salted crepe never ever exits the menu. Lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch.  This gem is one of the best in town, which includes a pretty good wine list! (Hint: Ask for his private stash) I can’t wait to try their new PASTALEAH night as well. The only reason they didn’t receive a Bib Gourmand from Michelin is that the morons at Michelin probably have never heard of the City of Hialeah. 

13 Boia De

This Michelin Starred restaurant delivers one of the premier casual experiences in South Florida at tremendous value.  Tough to get a table but once there, you will understand why. I didn’t know Boia De meant, amongst many meanings, “wow.”  Wow indeed! We usually order their entire menu, and they have a unique wine program with lots of organic and small-producer wines.

12 Brasserie Laurel 

But… But… it just opened! So what? My list.  My rules.  What did I say? This is MY list of my favorite places to dine in Miami.  And Laurel, despite my two visits to date, qualifies. Beautiful spot, powered by the one and only Michael Beltran. More on him later. Often, I judge a restaurant by whether I had anything I am dying to return for.  Enter the Guinea Fowl. My f*cking lord, are you kidding me right now?

11 Tur Kitchen

First, a beautiful space.  Second, and most important, one of the better tasting menus of the year filled with flavor and value at less than $160 for thirteen courses! The wine list is extensive, and a reasonable corkage fee ($45) allows me to bring my vino should I choose to.

10 The Gibson Room

Powered by chef Michael Beltran, more on him later, this is not your typical restaurant bar.  If I didn’t know this establishment was headed by a chef of Beltran’s pedigree, given the overpowering bar, which takes up about half of the space, I would have expected decent food, at best. Most bars in Miami do not pull off a solid food menu.  But The Gibson delivers outstanding food choices accompanied by some of the better cocktails in the area.  Among the best food choices are the Tamal en Cazuela, Chicken Liver Mousse, Croquetas, Agnolotti, and the Oxtail & Shrimp Ramen.  As I said, this is not your typical bar menu. In terms of cocktails, I love the Penicillin (Scotch, Lemon, Ginger, Honey, Islay Scotch Float), which I might be allergic to, and the Philadelphia Deluxe (Gin, French Brandy, Raspberries, Lemon, Bitters).  All cocktails are $15 or less, and as if all that wasn’t enough, this upscale bar serves the best flan (w/ foie) in Miami and provides live jazz music for its guests.  Home-f*cking-run!

9 Macchialina

Their pasta, service, and a solid and unique wine list are why I will always say yes to a visit to Macchialina, despite a horrible parking situation. Excellent value restaurant and a beautiful overall experience. 

8 La Mar

Chef Diego Oka brings it! This is one of the better Peruvian/Asian-infused menus in Miami. Also, Diego keeps it interesting, introducing many new dishes on the menu, like the delicious Duck Chawanmushi. I can’t wait for the temperatures to drop so I can enjoy a little dinner al fresco.  I have mixed feelings about their wine list; thus, I usually take my bottle, despite their steep $60 corkage fee.  

7 Bourbon Steak

Beautiful establishment.  Attention to detail.  Impeccable service. Meat game is on point. Top-tier wine list and service. This somewhat classic steak house has been consistently delivering one of the better meat experiences in South Florida for a very long time, all under the direction of Chef Gabriel Fenton.  It is my Cheers: where I walk in, and everyone knows my name! The clown show at Bern’s Steakhouse should pay attention!

6 Phuc Yea

I feel like not enough people understand what a stud Chef Cesar Zapata is in the kitchen of this Bib Gourmand Michelin restaurant. Start with his shishito peppers; followed by the PY Noodles and cucumbers; then go with the best smoked short rib in town, add the bao buns and wagyu fried rice, and finish with one of their amazing cocktails; or as they call it, ‘Liquid Courage.’ Easy parking, monetary value, cool atmosphere, and a fun playlist full of Biggie classics. Let’s f*cking go!

5 The Surf Club Restaurant

The Whet Palette’s favorite restaurant in South Florida, the Michelin Starred Surf Club, delivers the most consistent dinner experience in Miami.  Period!  We’ve been 15+ times, and we have never, not once, had a bad or even average overall experience. Not a single freaking hiccup. From the host, to table service, to the food and wine experience, this establishment has delivered, without exaggeration, every single time.  Why is the Surf Club not ranked higher on my list?  Unavailability of older vintages on their wine list, valet parking prices, and steep wine markup. But primarily the $150 corkage fee.

4 Zitz Sum

This Asian-inspired, Bib Gourmand Michelin restaurant has taken Miami by storm as one of the more flavor-forward profiles of any menu in South Florida. I love Chef Pablo Zitzmann’s menu, particularly his tasting menu.  I am a vino drinker, so you will be hard-pressed to find a spicy menu like this as a top destination for me.  Most French wines don’t do well with overpowering flavors.  But Zitz is the shit, and I will gladly cocktail it for the night to have a meal there!  Also, Diana has always done an excellent job recommending pairings.  Excellent service every time! And if you want to talk about value, considering current Miami food prices, this place is affordable as f*ck! How Zitz didn’t get a star, and Los Felix did is a f*cking travesty. 

3 Ariete

Chef/Owner Michael Beltran is a freaking rock star.  I don’t even know how else to put it.  And it goes beyond his amazing talent in the kitchen. Just give his podcast (Pan Con Podcast) a listen, and you will start to understand the man and what makes this Miami legend do what he does in the way that he does it; all in support of the Miami food scene. This chef walks the walk! He cares about the Miami food scene more than any chef I know.  It’s Miami against the world! The Michelin Starred Ariete offers a couple of tasting menus: Versos Sencillos (Clásicos and Modernos), as well as an extensive a la carte menu with some of the best dishes in town. The ridiculous Florida orange (chicken foie), venison, truffle chicken, an off-the-charts flan, and the famous Cigar dessert are some of my favorites. I enjoy it all while listening to one of the better playlists of any restaurant in Miami.  Beltran’s tasting menu is worthy of the Michelin star the restaurant was awarded earlier in the year as it is imaginative, flavorful, refined, and presents excellent value in today’s ever so rising prices.  And, if you are in the mood, you can indulge in the best duck experience in Miami (Canard a la Presse).  I should also add that their recent addition to the team, wine director Adrian Lopez, has drastically improved Ariete’s wine service. I used to bring my bottles to Ariete. I no longer do.  Wine prices for upscale French can be steep, but Adrian has always helped me find value on his wine list.  

2 Stubborn Seed

Led by Chef Jeremy Ford, this Michelin Starred establishment offers an incredible fine dining tasting menu experience that I would put up against any tasting menu in the country. Chef Ford and team can be observed through the large kitchen glass dividing the kitchen and dining room. Dinner delivers one of the better overall experiences, combining a top-notch highly imaginative menu with perfect presentation and a pretty fucking awesome rock playlist.  Always available to his guests (I wish more chefs would understand the importance of this), Jeremy has delivered some iconic dishes over the years such as the Lavash (sadly no longer – f*ck u Jeremy!), Smoked Foie Gras, Yellowtail Tuna Crudo, Truffle Potatoes Bravas, Truffle Chicken, nd the ridiculous Cacio E Pepe Cheese Puffs.  I don’t enjoy driving to South Beach, especially to a restaurant w/o valet, but I will always go for dinner at Jeremy Ford’s Stubborn Seed. I love seeing that sexy stud working in the kitchen!

1 Fiola

In the dining room, Thomas Angelo.  In the kitchen, Chef Danny Ganem, formerly of Little Palm Island.  In the wine cellar? Wine director Daniel Bishop.  This is a solid squad, always making themselves available to their guests while providing an excellent overall experience time and time again.  Impeccable service, the best wine service in Miami, and an extensive food menu that delivers with every bite. You want pasta? Wagyu/grass-fed steaks? Fish? Foie? Truffles? Caviar service? Crudo/oysters? Pasta omakase? Innovate dishes like bison ravioli or black winter truffle potato fonduta? Check! In terms of their wine service, Daniel’s honesty, willingness to share his knowledge, and understanding of clientele’s budget and preferences make him the best sommelier in Miami. There can only be one, and Daniel is it. Given guests cannot bring their bottles to Fiola, he plays a crucial role in making this establishment one of my premier destinations for the overall experience.  The upscale Italian restaurant is the total package, and for me, it delivers the best overall dinner experience in Miami.