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Archive for the ‘Critic’s Choice’ Category

MANDOLIN AEGEAN BISTRO

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

4312 2nd Avenue
305-576-6066
www.mandolinmiami.com

An authentic Aegean bistro, this family owned neighborhood restaurant is a great casual find.  Decompress in the garden in the back under a sprawling tree where mezes, either the Turkish or Greek sampler are a great way to begin.  Enjoy generous sized portions of lemony fava bean puree, smoked eggplant, tzatziki, hummus with the sesame-flecked Turkish flatbread served hot from the oven.  The staff is friendly, the prices are reasonable and the classic dishes couldn’t be better. There’s Turkish chorizo, grilled octopus, fried calamari and a great zucchini fritter.  Fresh whole fish simply grilled is offered daily.  Try some of the traditional dishes such as  tasty spanokopita (spinach and feta pie) and kefte (beef and lamb meatballs.)  The seafood, tiny mussels in a classic white wine and garlic sauce deserve a repeat visit.

Just beyond the garden, a new indoor dining room has been added to accommodate the overflow Mandolin’s great popularity creates.

This charming 1940’s blue and white house reminded me of a seaside tavern on the Aegean Coast.   The lantern- laden back garden makes you forget the undistinguished neighborhood.   The friendly service brings you back.

Monday – Saturday: 12 pm – 11 pm

MC KITCHEN

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

4141 NE 2nd Ave #101
(305) 456 – 9948
mckitchenmiami.com

MC Kitchen in the Design District, has the makings of a great Modern Italian restaurant. Dina Marino began cooking in her childhood home where her mother and grandmother manned the kitchen, turning out homemade pastas, sausages and creative pizzas. She honed her culinary skills at the Culinary Institute of America. Marino then worked under the tutelage of Michael Chiarello in his celebrated Tra Vigne in Napa Valley, followed by years as a chef of three of Aspen, Colorado’s top restaurants. Upon her arrival in Miami, Dina and partner, Brandy Coletta, wasted no time giving the interior of what was formerly Fratelli Lyon, a smart new look.  White orchids on crisp tablecloths and butterflies that flutter on a Brazilian wood wall soften the main room.  The ambiance is at once sophisticated and calm; where diners can share an intimate dinner and a conversation, even when all 145 seats are occupied.

Several remarkable antipasti spearhead the menu. I was most captivated by the artichoke heart bruschetta, which is exquisitely posed below a farm poached egg and shaved black truffles, and finished with a creamy Parmigiano fonduta. On a rather quiet evening, it appeared that the artichokes had run low and one heart was portioned among several plates. Nonetheless, the flavors sang out, and the combination was a triumph.  On a lighter note, halibut crudo was perfectly dressed in hearts of palm, baby artichoke shavings and lemon oil. Chili, garlic, basil and orange zest enlivened oven roasted langoustines over polenta. Ten pastas, mostly homemade, are currently on the winter menu. This is an area of the menu where Marino excels. The garganelli Bolognese is a lusty standout of veal, venison, pork and porcini mushrooms. The pumpkin tortellini is flush with Florida rabbit ragu, Tuscan cabbage and house made ricotta.  Signature selections include the lamb sirloin, charred outside locking in the meaty juices, and served with braised lentils, apple butter, and a frisee salad.

Also deserving of your attention and a cause for real indulgence is the Gianduia chocolate mousse crowning a sea salt sugar nest.

Monday – Sunday: 11:00 am – 4:30 pm, 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm

MERCADITO

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

3252 NE 1st Avenue
786-369-0430
mercaditorestaurants.com

Southern Mexican style tapas in a handsome new space, continues to enliven the Midtown area.  A good place to start is the guacamole, either traditional or one of 4  alternative, inventive ways.  Jicama and mango or apple and tomatillo with almond and habanero add brightness and fire to this old standard.

There are 11 different tacos to choose from and three perfect ceviches to cleanse and cool the palate.  Save room for the main course,” platos fuertes,” where a chile relleno is stuffed with scallops and shrimp and drizzled with roasted tomato-arbol salsa. Don’t pass up the adobe marinated, organic chicken as too simple, it’s terrific-flavorful and moist. A nice lead-in to the mains are the “botanas,” or hot snacks of quesadillas, tostadas or flautas accompanied by tasty homemade corn  tortillas or lettuce wraps.  The service is friendly and able, so don’t be afraid to ask about the menu.

Monday – Wednesday and Sunday: 11:30 am – 12:00 am
Thursday: 11:30 am -  1:00 am

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 am – 2 :00 am

MERCATO

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

4141 NE 2nd Avenue
786-332-3772
Mckitchenmiami.com

Dena Marino of Mc Kitchen has launched a charming, casual breakfast and lunch petite cafe on Second Avenue, adjacent to her fine-dining establishment. This fills a void in the Design District which had few options for high quality, quick takeout or very casual eat in restaurants.  The neighborhood business people are overjoyed. The menus is limited to sandwiches served on croissants or mulitgrain baguettes.  Fillers include roasted turkey, Swiss cheese with fruited mustard a and local arugula($10) or rosemary Cotta ham, provolone, local arugula and mustard seed aioli.($9)

“Pressatas,” (pressed sandwiches) such as the Cubano, with shaved porchetta, Cotto ham, melted Swiss and Brooklyn pickles for the carnivore, or marinated and grilled garden vegetables, raise the bar on grilled sandwiches.  Three salads are on the menu at $9-$11 and ask for the  soup of the day, if you call for takeout.  Cream of cauliflower, sampled recently, was an elegant rendition. All the salads are as fresh as spring after a light rain. Free Wi-Fi are available.

Luscious looking pastries and a Lazzaro coffee should fit the bill for the afternoon tea time.

Monday -Friday: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD & DRINK

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

130 NE 40th Street  Atlas Plaza
305-573-5550
www.michaelsgenuine.com

Chef/owner, Michael Schwartz has created an unpretentious American bistro rated one of the 10 best new restaurants in the United States in 2008 by the  “New York Times,” and it continues to live up to its initial reviews.

The menu is down to earth, classic and often features organic and regional ingredients. Dishes from the wood-burning oven are a highlight and the Berkshire pork and fig pizza is an awesome combination.  For a snack ,the deviled eggs and homemade potato chips with onion dip will satisfy your longing to return to your youth, only, they’re better.  The house-made cherry rosemary soda is a smash.  The restaurant is all about wines at a reasonable price, A light lunch might include the heirloom tomatoes and burrata or one of their reasonably priced salads.

Don’t pass on desserts, the pastry chef,Hedy Goldsmith, has fun with an exquisite list of mouthwatering, playful desserts that include popcorn and peanuts, or a tangerine cream-sickle pot de crème.

Monday – Thursday: 11:30 am – 11 pm; Friday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 12:00 am
Sunday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm

MICHY’S

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

CLOSED FOR RENOVATION
6927 Biscayne Boulevard
3
05-759-2001
michysmiami.com

Michy’s is the kind of restaurant where many of the dishes linger in your mind and keep you coming back over and over just to see if your memory played tricks. Michele Bernstein, a former ballerina and previously at Azul downtown, runs this serious eatery alongside her husband David who mans the reservation desk and expertly oversees the somewhat funky, floral dining room.

Trained in classical French cooking, Michele decided to offer innovative, beautifully presented plates in two sizes, more often referencing the New American style. On a recent visit, we noticed the number of dishes offered has dimmished. At the beginning, they took a risk opening this ambitious restaurant in an area of Biscayne bereft of fine dining. But word travels fast and bolstered by her reputation at Azul, Michy’s was an instant success. Now Michy’s only improves with age as she continues her quest for “luxurious comfort food.”

Signature dishes include the jamon serrano and blue cheese croquettas, Peruvian-style ceviche and seared foie gras “n” waffles for  starters.  Falling off the bone shortribs with parsnip potato mousseline or seared halibut with wild mushroom salsify or the pan-seared sole accompanied by sunchoke puree, baby artichokes, preserved lemon and olive nage are all dishes in the “transcendent” category.

For desserts I gravitate to the baked Alaska and Michey’s ethereal bread pudding which are killer endings to an evening at one of Miami’s best.

Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday: 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm

Mmmm

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

2519 Northwest 2nd Avenue
(786) 703-3409

An informal cafe called Mmmm, has sprouted just across the street from Joey’s Cafe and the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar.  It’s a Parisian interpretation of the small plates craze. Mmmm presents exceptional salads and sandwiches that are nuanced and urbane adaptations of American and French classics.

This venture is the creation of Parisian-born art collector Cathy Vedovi, whose family has been coming to Miami since the 20′s, when her French-Canadian grandparents would head South to escape the harsh winters. Vedovi was inspired by a similar Parisian tartine shop next door to the Poilene Bakery on the left bank.

This is where hot pink neon (the outdoor signage) and tropical banana leaves on the exterior set the stage for Miami’s introduction to the tastiest lunch to be had in the area. The focus is on “tartines”, defined and refined by the French as a “slice of bread.”  As in Paris, a perfectly toasted slice of poilene bread,  a country sour dough bread, is topped with choices that include filet mignon, salmon or pulled pork among others; and held together with amazing swaths of homemade mayonnaise customized for each protein.

Chef Alan McLennan, is a native of South Africa who knows how to balance the distinctive flavors, and his creative touches invariably work.  Chunks of mushrooms and artichoke hearts are paired with a lusty tapenade, thin slices of grilled chicken over lemony mayonnaise are finished with a sun dried tomato and micro greens.  Smoked salmon, on a tartine of course, marries well with grainy mustard mayonnaise, fennel and a touch of dill. Why not celebrate the contrasts of flavors and textures with a decadent glass of Billecart-Salmon Rosé champagne?

Four salads and one soup are presently offered and the three salads sampled measured up admirably to the mouthwatering tartines.  Shanghai chicken salad with ginger hoisin dressing on Nappa cabbage, Nicoise salad and Cobb salad were all extremely fresh and beautifully presented.

Salads and tartines range from $10-$15. A $10 lunchtime special is available, serving the soup of the day and a half portion of the tartine of your choice. Desserts include a flourless chocolate cake accented with a smear of fresh raspberry sauce and a coconut cake.  A big draw at the entrance is a cooler stocked with Azucar ice-cream made right here in Miami’s Little Havanna. Lavazza coffee makes a nice finish to an inventive lunch in a charming new dining spot. Outdoor dining is also available in the courtyard.

Closed Sunday
Monday – Saturday: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

OAK TAVERN

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

35 Northeast 40th St
(786) 391-1818
Oaktavernmiami.com

Oak Tavern is a comfy rustic new entry in the heart of the Design District.  A brick archway opens onto a pleasant garden with a namesake oak tree springing from the center courtyard.  Taverns of Yore were seldom known for serving creative, or high quality fare. The weary traveler was more focused on the bar and beds. Such is not the case here, at David Bracha’s modern day version, where the food is surprisingly tasty. Bracha’s River Seafood and Oyster Bar has been a staple on Brickell for more than 10 years, and he knows his way with a crustacean.  Oysters and stone crabs head up the list, “Jewels from the Sea,” but the scallop and snapper crudos are equally well presented and pristinely fresh from the sea.

A long list of small plates to satisfy everyone provides a strong supporting cast.  Bistro fare such as deviled eggs, rabbit pâté, and crispy pigs ears with kale compete for your attention. Try a perfect offering of beets with whipped goat cheese, arugula and pistachio vinaigrette, along with an heirloom tomato salad with sheep’s milk feta. Bracha’s has been one of Miami’s earliest chefs to embrace buying his produce from the area farmers. Pizzas are a standout; my pick for the best is duck confit, mushrooms, oozing Fontina, and a bit of truffle, on a crisp and thin crust.

On one visit, the tavern’s wood grill yielded a perfectly grilled Cobia topped with a medley of peas in a light lemon olive oil, and it was a triumph. Whole branzino at $34 is in keeping with their moderate prices.  The charcuterie offerings are crafted in-house, and the restaurant is justly proud of  this area of the menu.  Each is accompanied by marinated olives, mustard pickled fruit and country bread. The emphasis at this gastropub is craft beers, so enjoy one of the twenty microbrews and 10 draft beers on tap. Their Happy Hour should not be missed.

Monday – Thursday: 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm
Friday – Saturday: 6:00 pm – 12:00 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am – 2:30 pm, 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm

SALUMERIA 104

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

3451 NE 1st Avenue
(305) 424-9588
www.salumeria104.com

Salumeria 104 is more than a pleasant surprise from another of the unassuming new restaurants lining 1st Avenue in Midtown. The restaurant showcases an extensive list of artisanal carved meats and cheeses which include: Prosciutto di Parma, Proscuitto San Daniele,  Cotto al Tartufo, Mortadella and Bresaola, as well as a homemade bufala, and parmigiano reggiano.

If you long for homemade pasta, you are in luck. The menu currently boasts five including Ricotta cheese cavatello, semolina gnocchi with Parmesan and crispy prosciutto, tagliatelle laden with a rich Bolognese sauce or ham in a cream sauce.  Porchetta, roasted pork loin wrapped in pork belly was dry on one occasion but braised pork ribs with broccolini and chick peas were tender and flavorful.  Like the other restaurants along this tree-lined street, outdoor dining is an added perk.

Monday – Thursday, Sunday: 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Friday – Saturday: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am

SUGARCANE RAW BAR GRILL

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

3250 NE 1st Avenue
786-369-0353

sugarcanerawbargrill.com

International flavors referencing Brazil, Peru, Japan and America are inventively prepared in a raw bar, tapas and grill format.  This large room vibrates with an attractive young crowd in a stunning modern setting.  Everything about this new addition to the Midtown dining experience is right. This recently established area has taken off and this restaurant is at the forefront.

Chinese, Trinidadian chef, Timon Balloo, formerly of Chef Allen, Azul and La Broche is leading the way. The snacks and tapas categories yield mouth watering bites like bacon wrapped dates, Kobe beef sliders with quail eggs, golden beets or Florida tomatoes and strawberries with burrata.  Instead of the ubiquitous chips, with one of the 30 rums and 40 beers, savor the shishito peppers. Fantastic!.  You’ll never reach for a chip again.  The robata grill, a Japanese invention fired up with bincho-tan charcoal, is used for everything from asparagus to Korean-style short ribs.  Crudos of Atlantic salmon, fluke or yellowtail are seldom found in Miami and provide a fresh, light course.  It takes several visits to sample all the categories on this extensive menu unless you share with a group of friends.  Sushi, sashimi and specialty rolls also deserve your attention

Sunday – Wednesday: 11:30 am – 12:00 am
Thursday: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Friday and Saturday: 11:30 am – 2:00 am

WYNWOOD KITCHEN AND BAR

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

2550 NW 2nd Avenue
305-722-8959
wynwoodkitchenandbar.com

Debuting during Art Basel 2010 is this American style brasserie in the heart of the gallery district. The bar and adjacent dining room reverberate with the murals and paintings of street art provocateur, Shephard Fairey and the abstract paintings by the architect, Christian Awe. Outdoors, a spacious courtyard provides a third alternative on one of Miami’s many warm weather days. Here too, murals capture the eye in every direction.

Wynwood Kitchen and Bar is the creation of the late Tony Goldman and his daughter, Jessica Goldman Srebnick. Tony, who was also owner of Joey’s Café in Wynwood, was the ambitious developer who helped transform Soho and Chelsea in NYC into hip cultural neighborhoods.

Small plates are a hit here. Crispy artichokes, tomato gazpacho accented with watermelon, the Mediterranean platter( hummas, baba ghanoush and tabbouleh ) and a seafood ceviche bathed in lemongrass and coconut are all outstanding beginnings.

The menu serves both lunch and dinner and covers all bases from a choice of 6 omelettes to hearty burgers of beef, tuna, turkey and more.  The clay pots such as snapper and mussel curry with charred pineapple and braised pork with garlic crumbs and mint were surprisingly good. Brunch is Saturday only.

Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 4:30 pm; 5:30 pm – 12:00 am