Power veggies

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Bring up the topic with any local vegetarian and you’ll likely get an earful—how having a decent power lunch in Miami can be a frustrating and challenging ordeal for them. All too often, they’ll explain, they’re forced to order the pasta-and-sauce item on a menu. Or to cover the table with a medley of sides posing as mains. Meanwhile, their carnivorous companion moves gracefully from course to course in what is considered the “normal” trajectory of a meal. Not a fun—or fair—gastronomic experience for anyone involved. After INDULGE decided to take a closer look, we discovered a couple of things: First, that we understand the frustration because the choices are too often uninspired. Second, that we believe—or at least hope—evolution is on the way: The upcoming opening of Wynwood’s The White Lotus, a collaboration between local event planner Karla Dascal and chef Matthew Kenney, could very well spark a revolution and encourage other restaurants to embrace living and raw foods for Miami’s growing vegetarian community. In the meantime, we looked for the best vegetarian dishes at some of the top business lunch spots. Whichever neighborhood you need to be in, we’ve got you covered.

IF YOU’RE IN BRICKELL… Zuma, a London transplant in the lobby of the Epic hotel, is a Mecca for Miami moguls. Expect a stunning lunch crowd with palates as powerful as their titles. Elaborate and bold Japanese dishes fly out of the open kitchen and are designed to be shared by the table. Happily, the vegetarian won’t have to miss out on the camaraderie—at least not all of it—when it comes time to order. There are several solid salads to choose from, including the piri kara dofu to abokado salada with spicy fried tofu, avocado and intense Japanese herbs. Pair this with superstars from the charcoal robata grill: the azami yaki no truffle wafu dish (a collection of grilled baby artichokes soaked in a popular vinaigrette soy sauce spiked with truffles) and the yaki toumoro koshi (sweet corn dressed in minty shiso butter). Move on to the beautifully presented kinoko no kama meshi, a large rice hotpot with wild mushrooms and Japanese vegetables that’s hearty and satisfying. Zuma, 270 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 305-577-0277.

 
Zuma is a great choice for vegetarian lunches.
Zuma is a great choice for vegetarian lunches.

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IF YOU’RE IN SOUTH BEACH… South Beach’s glorious Mediterranean eatery, Estiatorio Milos, is known for flying in a selection of fresh fish from Greece, Spain and Portugal. If you’re a strict vegetarian—not a pescetarian—you can get creative with Milos’ a la carte menu (aka the dinner menu) during your important power lunch. But trust that you’ll feel like you’re on your very own Greek island when you dig in to the grilled vegetable platter with eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, baby fennel, cipollini onions, Greek mint yogurt and haloumi cheese. Add a side of fresh herb couscous with cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, and lemon as well as the drool-worthy Greek-style fingerling potatoes served with mint, dill, lemon and extra virgin olive oil. To take your lunch to the next stratum of excitement, a glass of ouzo could help or you could dip your veggies in the skordalia, a fresh and creamy garlic dip made with almonds. Estiatorio Milos, 730 1st Street, Miami Beach; 305-604-6800.

IF YOU’RE IN THE DESIGN DISTRICT... The creamless cauliflower soup at chef/owner David Bracha’s Oak Tavern in the Design District is a vegetarian’s dream. You might want to order two bowls and call it day. It’s like a bowl of grits, but with a lighter, smoother consistency and a more uplifting flavor profile. Taleggio cheese, a semisoft varietal from Northern Italy, is melted over rye croutons to give the dish a tangy zest. If you think a two-bowl lunch will scare off your power partner, consider the roasted beets on a bed of arugula with sprinkles of goat cheese and pistachio vinaigrette that’s at once nutty and sweet. Another root vegetable dish could round out the meal nicely. Reach for the roasted carrots that are served with greens from Redland, dressed with Middle Eastern spiced yogurt and dotted with sunflower seeds. Oak Tavern, 35 NE 40th Street, Miami; 786-391-1818.

IF YOU’RE IN MIDTOWN… Step inside the modern yet affordable Blackbrick Chinese (aka Midtown Chinese), the newest restaurant by chef/owner Richard Hales of Sakaya Kitchen, and look for the “V” on the menu. For vegetarians, this serves as the green light for lunch cravings. It means the dish is either vegan or vegetarian or can be transformed into a vegan or vegetarian meal—especially for you. There are more than a dozen options with strikingly fresh and colorful ingredients delivered from local farms like Swank Farms in Homestead. Start with a kick from the numbing and hot peanuts and then be sure to try the di san xian (“Three Treasures”) with eggplant, peppers and potatoes along with the flower sprouts with fava beans and chili paste. When your lunch negotiations turn serious, you can always blame it on Hales’ signature spice. His food is hot! Blackbrick Chinese, 3451 NE 1st Avenue, Miami; 305-573-8886.

IF YOU’RE IN CORAL GABLES… For a vegetarian, Mexican usually means guacamole and lots of chips. There’s a game changer at Talavera in Coral Gables that puts a cultured twist on the traditional dip. The vegetarian option from the Huarache Grill section of the menu marries huarache (handmade corn masa flatbreads shaped like the famed, oblong sandal) with guacamole, zucchini, black bean puree, lettuce, salsa verde and goat cheese—all prepared a la talla style with a mild guajillo chile powder rub and grilled for good measure. Miamians embrace this wildly popular dish from Mexico City for its dynamic components and its ability to defeat hunger quickly during a busy workday. If, by any chance, you have room for more, order the el poblano from the queso fundidos section: melted Oaxaca cheese (similar to stringy mozzarella) in a casserole with mild poblano chiles, corn and onions. Talavera, 2299 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables; 305-444-2955.

There's always veggie pizza! Art and power so often go hand in hand. At Verde, the Stephen Starr restaurant located inside Miami's new art museum, vegetarians with an eye for beauty will most certainly be drawn to the squash blossom pizza. Fresh zucchini, goat cheese and a touch of tomato sugo (stewed sauce) cover the crisp dough. The delicate yellow flowers of the squash are drizzled with a roasted garlic olive oil. It's as scrumptious as the unrivaled view of Biscayne Bay from the restaurant's bright dining room. Verde at Perez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 305-375-8282.

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