[ SOBE RESTUARUANTS ]

CRITICS CHOICE

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— Barton G. the Restaurant   
1427 W. Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-672-8881
The swank, attractive surroundings; swank, attractive crowd; thoughtful wine list; alluring fare; and countless titillating details make Barton G the most daringly and delightfully different restaurant to open in Miami Beach since the respective debuts of China Grill and Tantra -- and this one is a lot more affordable. Cuisine at Barton G can be whimsical and down-home or tastefully sophisticated — point is, you can eat any which way you please, from Dover sole with shrimp mousse to popcorn shrimp to truffled macaroni and cheese to grilled New York strip. Desserts look like props from Pee Wee's Playhouse, especially the "Big Top cotton candy and over-the-top popcorn surprise," a shrub-size wad of lavender cotton candy on a stick, with chocolate truffles bursting from bon bons inside of popcorn balls.
American Contemporary $$$$

— Bond Street Lounge   
150 20th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-398-1806
The menu at this sleek, nightclub-like sushi spot is considerably more limited than that at Manhattan's original Bond Street, but many aficionados consider chef Hiroshi Nakahara's artfully plated sushi, sashimi, and hot or cold small plates the most sophisticated and solidly creative Japanese.
Japanese Sushi $$$$

— Escopazzo   
1311 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-674-9450
Since opening on Washington Avenue in 1993, the restaurant's calling card has been creative Northern Italian cuisine. That hasn't changed, but nowadays, the restaurants' fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are organic, beef is grass-fed and hormone-antibiotic free, and a few raw food selections have been added to the menu. Healthier, yes, but those seeking classic Italian fare will still find comfort in a starter of grilled, goat-cheese-stuffed eggplant rolls atop a gentle sauté of baby calamari, sweet cherry tomatoes, and mint. Or in a hearty main course of rosemary tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce. Escopazzo's kitchen's at mixing and matching big flavors is evident in a signature starter of silky asparagus flan floated in a creamy fondue of fontiana and smoked provola cheeses, capped with crispy shiitake mushrooms and misted with a whiff of white truffle oil. Escopazzo is expensive. The trio of meat entrées, for instance, cost $45 to $58. There is no questioning the quality: Barbera wine-braised beef short rib, pan-seared veal chop, and espresso-dusted, Kurobuta pork tenderloin are naturally raised. Tiramisu might just be South Beach's best, meltingly tender and lifted by assertive coffee undertones.
Italian $$$$

— Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant   
11 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-673-0365
You know Joe's by now. You know about the storied history, the gloriously sweet stone crabs, the notorious wait to get in. Often overlooked are its consistently good food, truly professional service, free parking (or just $4 for valet), surprising affordability (excepting the crabs), and stately ambiance that only a restaurant large enough to seat 450 can provide. Tuxedoed waiters whirl through the rooms with oval trays of food held high above their heads, and the ebullient buzz of diners subtly occupies the air like the intangible gathering of ions before a thunderstorm, yet it's difficult to imagine so sizable a dining room being any cozier. Stone crabs are, of course, the mainstay of Joe's menu, and somehow they seem to taste a little fresher and sweeter here. The rest of the menu doesn't disappoint. And nearly everybody orders Joe's key lime pie for dessert, renowned as the best in town.
Americn Seafood $$$

— Nobu Miami Beach   
1901 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-695-3232
Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa finally brings his groundbreaking Japanese-via-Peru/nouvelle Californian cuisine to the Beach. Skip the good but not unique main dishes and normal sushi in favor of must-not-miss specials like Matsuhisa's signature black cod with miso, often imitated but never better.
Japanese Sushi $$$$

— Spiga   
1228 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-534-0079
Not much has changed here since the pretty, romantic, slightly secluded Italian trattoria opened more than a decade ago. Chef Saele Cantoni and his veteran crew are still baking the breads and foccacias, rolling out pasta doughs, and preparing desserts on premises. The result is fresh, uncomplicated, moderately priced Italian cuisine. Don't miss the quadretti with Portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, truffle oil, and thin shavings of Parmesan; grouper baked in béchamel; and a char-grilled bone-in lamb steak cut from the leg, marinated in olive oil with garlic and rosemary, and gloriously infused with full meaty, slightly gamy flavor. A voluptuously creamy ricotta cheesecake with strawberry sauce is the recommended dessert. The Italy-happy wine list is concise, service experienced, ambiance unbeatable - especially on the wraparound outdoor porch. Familiarity can sometimes breed contempt, but at Spiga it brings only a sense of contentment and gratitude.
Italian $$$

 

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— AltaMare 
1233 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-3061
The new AltaMare is bigger, busier, and better than the old Alta Mar, which itself was no slouch. The classically elegant dining room is also better-looking. Chef Simon Stojanovic honed his craft under the tutelage of Michael Schwartz, and the influence is obvious: The daily-changing menu is more a Mediterranean mash than that of his mentor, but it showcases similar sustainable sourcing such as local organic produce, free-range and organic meats, and line-caught seafood. The chef also baits the hook with the restless worm of intelligent creativity. Whether it be sweet, papaya-colored cara cara oranges brightening crunchy palm heart shavings, chive snippets, and sprinkles of sea salt over a pink/white quiltwork carpaccio of local sheepshead fish, or yellow jack fish plunked atop a broth-based ragout of cipollini onion and artichoke, or Fudge Farms boneless pork chop wrapped in crisped, cured fatback, the flavors are fresh, vibrant, delicious. An Italy-centric wine list showcases more than 200 bottles. Desserts, such as a deconstructed tiramisu, are excellent as well. The old Alta Mar wasn't broken, but owner Claudio Giordano somehow fixed it.
International, Mediterranean Seafood $$$$

— BLT Steak 
1440 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-673-0044
A short Mason jar of slightly warmed chicken liver spread arrives with planks of grilled bread and a slim assortment of pickled vegetables. Gruyère-glazed popovers the color and size of baseball gloves come next. BLT elicits a considerable wow factor before the first course even gets served. Appetizers comprise mostly cold dishes, including shrimp cocktail, tuna tartare, hamachi with yuzu vinaigrette, and raw bar selections such as clams, oysters, and stone crabs. Even the sole warm offering - a moist, lusciously herbed crab cake - comes pooled in chilled dill-flecked Meyer lemon dressing. Steaks are USDA Prime, certified Black Angus, or Wagyu - dry-aged, broiled at 1,700 degrees, and finished with a brushing of herb butter. Try the top cap cut if it's on special. Non-steak eaters might try lemon-rosemary chicken, seven-spice duck breast with foie gras and mango mustard, or harissa-crusted swordfish steak succulently grilled and highlighted with olive oil and lemon. For dessert, diners can choose three or five of eight all-American artisan cheeses or a round of blueberry-lemon meringue pie with a sweetly brittle pte sucre crust, lemon curd, baked berries, a cap of browned meringue, and a scintillating quenelle of lemon-verbena sorbet on the side.
Steakhouse

— The Dining Room 
413 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139 : 305-397-8444
A dimly lit chandelier and some table candles illuminate this intimate Washington Avenue venue; a large mirror and family-style photos of the owners serve as décor. Twenty-four seats surrounding linen-draped tables and a petite cooking station occupy the rest of the teeny arena (with about two dozen more seats outdoors). The palate gets teased from the start via slices of baguette served with soft white truffle-perfumed butter and a plate of pickled vegetables. Chefs Horacio Rivadero (executive) and Christian Alvarez (de cuisine) show a consistent knack for adding sharp flavors that puncture the routine nature of dishes.
American Contemporary $$$$

— The Dutch 
2201 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-938-3111
A heady fizz of frivolity practically kisses diners as they enter this self-described American restaurant, bar, and oyster room. It's a great place to hoist a drink and soak in the excitement of a vibrant venue, but the most wondrous part of the Dutch is just how delicious the food is. From the confident beginning induced by a miniloaf of complimentary cornbread flecked with bits of jalapeño, to the final forkful of flaky homemade pie crust, flavors on the plates are consistently and deeply satisfying. A large part of the credit must go to executive chef Andrew Carmellini, who first wowed New Yorkers with his SoHo Dutch.
American Seafood $$$$

— Gotham Steak Restaurant 
4441 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33140
305-674-4780
Gotham is gorgeous, its two levels cohered by a chandelier of hand-blown glass and glass-enclosed wine tower flowing through both floors. If possible, aim for a table downstairs — it's more intimate, and diners are privy to an open exhibition kitchen where a confederacy of cooks assiduously works the assembly line of comestibles. The front-of-house staff is equally voluminous, and service is spot on. So are steaks such as a 20-ounce Brandt Farms rib eye, easily two inches thick, grilled over hardwood charcoal, and finished on a 1,200-degree broiler ($52). An eight-ounce American Wagyu filet mignon is well priced at $50, and $28 will lasso you a succulent skirt steak sliced and streaked with Southwestern chili rub; you won't find a better bite of beef for the money.
Steakhouse $$$$

— Hakkasan 
4441 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33140
786-276-1388
Hakkasan is drop-dead gorgeous, a dusky Oriental lair of dining alcoves seductively lighted by Chinese lanterns and separated by walnut and teak lattice. While Alan Yau's London Hakkasan has earned a Michelin star, many of the dishes here are similar to those found at any other Chinese joint. Just much better. Among the many standouts on this extensive menu are roast duck breast with mango - the meat bursting with five-spice flavor, the fruit perfectly ripe, a light lemon sauce adeptly cutting the sweet richness; jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs, whose soft, aromatic meat slips off the row of bones like silk kimonos from a chorus line of concubines; and a juicy wedge of silver cod with a seductive champagne and honey sauce. For a light dessert, try ripe berries semi-draped in gelatinous Prosecco, with a melon-drenched quenelle of cantaloupe sorbet on top.
Chinese Contemporary $$$$

— Haven 
1237 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
05-987-8885
The snow-capped mountain range is dazzlingly white against an impossibly blue sky, and snowflakes slowly drift to the rhythm of the Tom Tom Club. The Tom Tom Club? Don't ask questions; just go with the flow. The wraparound LCD walls might soon change to images of the Mediterranean. A thousand or so ice-cube lights running in rows on a black ceiling subtly switch hues. The Siberian white-onyx bar changes color too, and if you sit long enough, Haven Gastro-Lounge fills to the brim with an electric late-night South Beach crowd (the room stays plugged in daily till 5 in the morning). Cocktails, placed on our table by a young waitress in a skin-tight micro-skirt, emanate smoke from liquid nitrogen -- also used to great visual effect in creating made-to-order ice creams for dessert.
Contemporary, Small Plates $$$

— Meat Market 
915 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-0088
There is such a hubbub of activity spilling from the crowded entrance to the bustling bar (and raw bar) area to the dazzling dining room that Meat Market's climate and clientele meld into one dizzying, effervescently sexy scene. Plates of food pack a panoply of potent flavor combinations. Among the crudo selections, mahi-mahi gets spiked with jalapeño juice, tequila, and cilantro, while oysters on-the-half-shell are chaperoned (strong-armed?) by yuzu-truffle mignonette, atomic horseradish, and habanero cocktail sauce. Among hot appetizers, crispy crab tail is the most distinctive: a medallion-shaped flap pulled from Alaskan king crab and served as two tender scaloppine that have been bathed in egg batter and pan-fried and pooled in passion fruit butter sauce punched with sesame-and-aji-panca oil. Most folks, though, come here mainly for meat, and won't be disappointed with a center cut of wood-grilled New York steak - thoughtfully offered in full and half portions. A wide price range allows diners to choose from under-$30 options such as prime deckle steak prepared three ways, or from reserve cuts, which top out at $95 for a six-ounce A5 Kobe tenderloin, followed by a 30-ounce Harris Ranch bone-in New York steak ($84, for two). Either way, you'll get a great steak. Seafoods are no less impressive, and there are 21 side dishes; don't miss the Gouda-filled tater-tots. The wine list treads global terrain but covers more ground in the domestic region, with most of the big, steak-friendly reds going for $65 to $300 a bottle. Dining is expensive here, but this is one Market still worth investing in.
Steakhouse

 

— Osteria Del Teatro 
1443 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-538-7850
Osteria has been serving fine Italian cuisine since 1987; dining here is still something of a 20th-century experience. But this South Beach favorite has retained the best attributes formerly fashioned at fine-dining establishments without subscribing to the more regrettable ones. For instance, service is executed peerlessly by professional staff members who have been with the restaurant for a long time; they know all the regulars by name and treat first-timers as though they were regulars too. Chef/partner Martin Perez sticks to textbook renditions of old-school favorites. An eggplant Parmesan starter is prepared the way Italians in a Brooklyn neighborhood might make it (excepting some zucchini slices slipped into the mix). Pasta e fagioli is pretty much like what sits on rustic Tuscan tables. Homemade pastas such as veal ravioli with pancetta and sage, and pappardelle with porcini mushrooms are but two of a number of pasta specials that stand out not only for solid execution but also for unusually high price: $28 to $34. Regular-menu pastas such as alla vongole (clams) or puttanesca go for an only slightly more reasonable $19; main courses, which include hefty steaks, veal chops, and seafood specials, range from $30 to $42. Osteria is an expensive joint, but the cuisine is consistent, and the service and personal attention are unequaled on the Beach.
Italian $$$$

— Pubbelly 
1418 20th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-7555
The quiet block of 20th Street between Purdy and West Avenues in South Beach has given aspiring restaurateurs nothing but headaches. Nowadays folks are gathering beneath Pubbelly's high loft ceilings, leaning against the exposed brick walls, and waiting for one of the three-dozen seats or dozen... More >>or dozen bar stools to open up. So how did the Asian-accented gastropubs's three young owners succeed where others could not? By offering fresh, creative, flavor-packed cuisine in a cozy urban-tavern setting, with attentive service and the one thing those failed ventures did not: value. Of course, it helps that Pubbelly embraces popular dining trends such as Asian food, small plates, gastropubs, and pork belly. The small menu manages to encompass 30-plus items, and half a dozen of them contain belly meat from the pig. On the low end, the $6 McBelly packs a lot of flavor into a small bun via pickles, shaved onions, and kim chee barbecue sauce atop meaty slaps of fatty pork. It's just one of a dozen "small plates" that anchor the bill of fare. Belly beckons in the Pubbelly ramen - lemongrass broth bolstered by bean sprouts, ramen noodles, moistly poached pork belly, and a runny poached egg. Other modes of making a meal here include raw bar items, plates of imported hams such as jamon serrano, ravioli-like dumplings (try the ones with duck and pumpkin butter), side vegetables, and choice of a few entrée-size plates ($25 to $29). On the pub side: more than a dozen bottled beers, 14-ounce draughts, two dozen boutique red and white wines($30 to $79), and a rotating list of sakes. Service is personable and attentive, and the vibe is friendly in a neighborly sort of way.
Asian, Gastro Pub, Small Plates $$$

— Pubbelly Sushi 
1424 20th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-532-7555
Jose Mendin, Sergio Navarro, and Andreas Schreiner were far from the first to flirt with the small-plate trend, but their presentation of Asian-inspired snacks at Pubbelly proved so popular they've since opened Pubbelly Sushi next door. The formula is pretty much the same: tasty, creative food at a good value in a welcoming pub setting. But as the restaurant moniker indicates, this time the menu is baited with raw fish, as well as cooked seafood. A sushi roll of barbecued pork belly and fried clams with kimchi coleslaw thrills; a soft-shell crab BLT is also bright and delightful. Many of the nonsushi snacks come from a robata grill, including pork belly, short ribs, pinchos de pollo, shishito peppers, and a skewer of meaty, delectable Amazon paiche fish brightened by lemon-miso glaze. Other highlights: smoked salmon rillettes and Wagyu beef carpaccio with roasted shiitake mushrooms and a slow-poached egg. Plus there's a beer belly of brews, many imported from Asia.
New American, Japanese, Sushi $$$

— Rosa Mexicano 
1111 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-695-1005
As Rosa has expanded nationally over the years, its upscale take on Mexican standards has dissipated somewhat. But surprise, surprise: The cuisine at the new South Beach branch boasts strong, cleanly defined flavors; the service staff works with relay-team efficiency; and a festive ambiance prevails. Among starters, don't miss the red snapper tostadas: lime-macerated cubes of fish sprinkled with baby arugula leaves, queso fresco, Serrano chilies, truffle oil, and bacon crisps. Zarape de pollo rocks too, with moist, sassily smoked-and-seasoned morsels of chicken sandwiched between two corn tortillas and bathed in yellow-pepper/habanero sauce. A basket of corn tortillas with pronounced notes of corn and slaked lime come alongside juicy strips of carne asada in a mini-cast-iron skillet with melted Chihuahua cheese — a make-your-own taco kit. Vegetarians can build their own tacos from a skillet of mixed vegetables, red beans, and flax-seed tortillas. Rosa's mellow mole Veracruz is one of the better restaurant versions, here bathing shredded beef enchiladas. A more unusual treat presents two roasted ancho chiles rellenos swelled with shredded lamb shoulder and cabbage in pipián sauce. Other main plates ($15 to $27) include short ribs, pork shank, and steak and shrimp stew. Desserts ($7.50 to $8.50) are prepared in-house by pastry chef Jai Kendall. Banana chocolate-chip cake funneled with peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate syrup and cinnamon-swirled banana ice cream might sound a bit overwrought, but just say yes.
Mexican $$$$

— Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante 
1801 Purdy Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-531-2228
Get off to a rousing start by assembling your own antipasti platter from among meats (coppa, bresaola, prosciutto di parma), vegetables (braised fennel, roast beets, assortment of olives with wild fennel flowers), and cheeses (Gorgonzola, Taleggio), presented upon gorgeously garnished wooden boards, ideal for sharing over a quartino or two or three or four of wine. Sardinian chef and co-owner Pietro Vardeu has a bit of Mario Batali in him — less dependent on strange animal parts but equally reliant on the smoke-imbued majesty brought to bear (and boar) by a roaring wood-fired oven. Try the branzino baked in salt crust, a Venetian recipe, brings pristine, juicy, mildly flavored white fillets -- delicious when kissed with a squeeze of lemon. Roasted whole octopus, braised rabbits and leeks, sweet ravioli drizzled with chestnut honey for dessert - yikes, this food is good.
Italian $$$$

— Tudor House Restaurant 
1111 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-534-8455
Diners are started with hot spherical puffs of pretzel rolls, the type you can still get on the streets of American cities, but much fresher. A wide array of bar snacks -- olives, Marcona almonds, bruschetta variations, and the like -- can come in handy for munching with predinner drinks. Seafood plates among them -- chilled octopus, West Coast oysters, and a stunning hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) crudo -- can just as aptly serve as appetizers. Pea soup exemplifies the Tudor cuisine: delicate, full-flavored, and portioned in a more-than-modest manner. The warm, vibrant-green purée is poured into a wide, shallow bowl buoyed with lime marshmallows, crunchy English peas, and crackly coriander seeds. Entrées are no less ethereal: Five fleshy black grouper cheeks intermingle on the plate with baby vegetables; branzino fillets cavort with fava beans and slivers of Cerignola olives; and assertively spiced lamb belly is delicately matched with English peas and miniature infant carrots. Whimsical desserts pay homage to nostalgic American flavors. Homemade Kit Kat bars accompany a brown-butter "popcorn" milkshake; hazelnut milk is matched with a trio of homemade Oreos that tasted as though served to us just after cooling from the Nabisco oven. Some patrons will question portion sizes, but few will gripe about pricing alone -- snacks are $7 to $14, starters $11 to $15, most mains $23 to $29, and sides $8. Those who emphasize quality over quantity will feel right at home in this House.
American Contemporary $$$$

— The Villa by Barton G. 
1116 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-576-8003
Part of the thrill of dining at the Villa is the opulent ambiance. From the nostalgic splendor of the Moroccan Room to the intimate dining area with Versace-designed Rosenthal china atop tables draped in royal-blue linen, diners know as soon as they enter Casa Casuarina that this dining experience will be singular. Yes, it's pricey, but you can see the money on the plate. A truffled asparagus salad, for instance, includes a warm ricotta flan generously gilded in white truffle shavings and sumptuous morel mushrooms. Snapper ceviche arrives looking like a little psychedelic garden, with delicate herbs sprouting vertically from a ring of raw snapper, pickled key shrimp, minced mango, jalapeño, red onion, candied citrus zest, and crisp coins of taro. Main courses, more substantially portioned, include a luscious pairing of a giant breaded scallop and a petite, melting-soft nugget of veal cheek -- with wilted chicory leaves, beech mushrooms, and a puck-size toasted oat cake accented with cumin and moistened with a broth flecked with capers and golden raisins. The flavors bounce off of and light up the senses like a pinball -- emblematic of talented chef Jeff O'Neill at his boldest and best.
Contemporary, Continental$$$$

— Yardbird Southern Table & Bar 
1600 Lenox Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305-538-5220
Yardbird's appeal borrows from other factors beyond the buoyant bill of fare. The farmhouse decor, American blues music, and overall ambiance are synchronized with the Southern American fare to the extent of enhancing the meals like some secret seasoning. Chef/partner Jeff McInnis and chef de cuisine Phillip Bryant hit all the right notes with their menu of "small shares" and "big shares." Delectable successes include buttermilk biscuits; Brunswick stew with alligator sausage and smoked rabbit; sweet tea-brined barbecued ribs; shrimp and grits; and Llewellyn's Southern fried chicken with a cheddar-and-chow-chow waffle and citrus-splashed watermelon — the best fried chicken in town. Craft bourbons, beers, and wines are all-American, and service is sharp. Beer, bourbon, blues, and Southern American fare, at an affordable price point, in a fetching farmhouse environment. Yardbird is a distinct and integrated vision completely realized.
 American, Southern $$$