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Posts Tagged ‘Critic’s Choice’

GIGI’s

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

3470 North Miami Avenue
305-573-1520

www.giginow.com

A well-edited menu offers up urban chic Asian fare at a reasonable price. The chef, Jeff McInnis is a veteran of top chef and the Ritz Carlton. Your waiter texts your order to the chef, while you dine from communal tables. The design is minimal with steel columns and aluminum bistro chairs. Short rib meatloaf drizzled with soy molasses has already become the signature dish, but don’t hesitate to try the outstanding coconut infused risotto nestling a slowly braised duck leg accented with curry. “Gigi” bao buns, an Asian take on the ubiquitous beef ”sliders” come crowned with tasty pulled pork dusted with peanuts, pulled chicken with a smoky plantain sauce, or filled with shitaki mushrooms. Service is good and the waiters are knowledgeable concerning the ingredients and preparations. The dishes are, for the most part, quite flavorful and the side dishes, such as the cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, still linger in my thoughts. Nothing is over $20.00 and 25% of the menu is under $5.00.

The downside, for many a diner here, is the din of the chatter and bottleneck of human traffic waiting for tables, in a sliver of a holding area. Gigi’s is the latest from restauranteur, Amir Ben-Zion of Bardots, a lounge nearby, Sra Martinez and South beach’s Bond St. Sapporo and Stella Artois are on tap.

Monday – Friday: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Monday – Thursday: 6:00 pm – 3:00 am
Friday and Saturday: 6:00 pm – 5:00 am

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

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

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