There are two things that Miami Beach seems to have a lot of these days: constant change and Italian restaurants. Many Miami natives sometimes wonder whatever happened to the quirky SoBe they knew back when Gianni Versace held court there, and it seems as if for the non Miami Beach resident, every subsequent visit to the southern reaches of Collins Avenue reveals more change, more commercialization, and a sense of frustration. As much as we may not like to hear it, there seems to be no going back to the 90s for Miami Beach, and the few remnants of 20th century seem to get polished up and renovated one by one almost every day. Then there are the denizens of Italian restaurants dotting almost every imaginable storefront and hotel lobby, apparently making South Beach a chic, sexy little Italy of the 21st century. There are, obviously, a great deal of bad restaurants, a great many more mediocre ones, but still enough fantastic Italian restaurants to warrant at least an occasional visit for any foodie. A recent dinner at Dolce in the newly renovated Gale South Beach showed that all the change on SoBe can actually be a good thing and that Miami Beach continues to be a destination for some of the best Italian fare.
From the outside, Souen Soho appears quite subtle, nestled into a small area at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Prince Street with bicycles parked all around the ramps. Inside, however, the restaurant feels very roomy, even being furnished with such small tables. The best place to sit is in the back towards MacDougal Street, as it offers a peaceful view of neighborhood apartments, rather than the passing traffic on Prince Street or Sixth Avenue. Once seated, the many potted plants and vines placed around the restaurant present an earthy feel even within the Downtown Manhattan setting.
We all look for that one Asian restaurant that claims to master all types of Asian cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. But what if you wanted not only that, but also a great ambiance, a complete bar, and excellent service? For years, people of South Florida have known China Grill as the spot to go to get all of these qualities. With their modern and upscale décor, China Grill is a great place to get that Asian food you crave without having to go to some run-down little hole in the wall. It’s an upscale venue with upscale versions of favorite Asian classics.
For years I’ve passed by Big City Tavern on Las Olas Blvd, but have never gone in. Perhaps the name or the décor didn’t draw my attention. But recently I took a visit there just after their new renovations and it turned out to be one of those big surprises that make you wish you would’ve checked out the place sooner. Upon entering, even with the patio seating, it truly feels like you’re entering a tavern. As I stated earlier, Big City Tavern has just gone through floor to ceiling renovations and the results were quite astounding.
The fabulous Max’s Grille in Boca Raton is celebrating it’s 20thAnniversary. Though this stellar restaurant is a mainstay in the community, it’s still got quite a spring in it’s step. Having never been to Max’s before, I was anxious to see what proprietor Dennis Max had to offer (other than superb choice of first name, of course). I made sure to ask around beforehand and heard not a single bad review, which of course made me just a teensy bit skeptical. Can a restaurant really be as good as advertised? Well, two hours and a stomach full later, the answer was clear… No. It can actually be far better.
The scene is very Miami in nature when you walk into the newly-opened Makoto. The Bal Harbour Shops are home to this new and innovative restaurant and rightly so. Huge Koi fish ponds line the walk ways of the Shops and its upscale boutiques and high-end brand stores. The Koi set the mood as you enter into a just-as peaceful Makoto. The dark lighting, the wall-hugged seating, and everything in between were very Miami: chic and pristine. But what I discovered in Makoto’s food was far from Miami…Far East I might add. Having just opened about a month ago, Makoto is still booming with excitement and packed with new guests wanting to try the long awaited addition to a string of famous restaurants from restaurateur Stephen Starr. Its Executive Chef is none other than the very talented Makoto Okuwa, for whom the restaurant is named after. Known for working alongside Masaharu Morimoto, Makoto is now showcasing his own style and innovation through this new Bal Harbour Japanese restaurant. What I found on my visit to Makoto was the perfect blend of Miami style, innovation, and traditional Japanese dishes (which I playfully like to call Makoto Beach) to make for a perfect night out.
I must confess that I’m the stereotypical foodie who only likes occasional simple salads and eats everything meat in sight. So when people suggest an organic, sustainable restaurant to me, I cringe as a boring raw vegan diet comes to mind. I’ll definitely go and try it but it probably won’t end up on my list of to-go restaurants at the end of the visit. But if someone told me that the menu of such said restaurant included bone marrow, duck breast, corn dogs, and a ‘fork +knife’ burger- no need for further convincing, you had me at marrow! This was exactly my surprise when I checked out Miami’s new hottest restaurant- Sustain Restaurant + Bar. I left the restaurant with only one word in mind, “fresh”!
Living up to the expectation of your sister restaurant, when it’s been named as one of the Best Italian Restaurants in Miami, is clearly no small feat at-hand. And if that sister of yours is Quattro, the beloved Italian eatery of Lincoln Road, you already have a lot to live up to. Since its opening in 2009, Sosta Pizzeria has been offering more “pocket friendly” Italian options, while it has left the pricier entrees to its big sister Quattro. Ironically enough, these two sister restaurants are run by two identical twin brothers- Nicola and Fabrizio Carro. And in this case, good taste definitely runs in the family.
When one thinks of Italy, one thinks of the finer things in life: the arts, the opera, literature, and of course good food. Definitely the good food! It seems like Italians, more so than other ethnicities at times, put so much time and love into their recipes. A chef once told me that of all the types of cuisines he cooked and of all the different restaurants he cooked in, he admired Italian cuisine the most; since it was in those restaurants that he was taught to put the most passion into his food. I’d have to agree with that since, I mean, clearly you can taste it in the sauces (or gravy, whichever you prefer to call it). With that said, it’s often times hard to find a truly authentic Italian restaurant. One, that not only has that finesse of Italian elegance, but that also still puts time into their dishes like any Italian grandmother would put into hers. Enter: Quattro, Gastronomia Italiana. Opened in the summer of 2006, Quattro has definitely become a gem on Lincoln Road. To this day, it is hailed as the best expensive Italian Restaurant in Miami.
Every time I talk to people about Meat Market, they always say that it’s their favorite place for drinks on Lincoln Road. The bar there is spectacular and it’s so popular that even if you enter Meat Market alone, you’re bound to meet new people at their ever-full bar. I, too, have visited Meat Market a few times to just hung out at the bar and order a couple of appetizers. It’s only natural since the beautiful restaurant décor calls you in from Lincoln Road. But last week I had the pleasure of dining at Meat Market Miami Beach on a dinner date with a good family friend. It was a while since we met up and we had a lot to catch up on; thankfully, Meat Market’s calm and classy atmosphere was the perfect setting for our steakhouse date.