Miami is brimming with a sea of great restaurants, and not all of them are on the coast. Head west and you’ll find plenty of haunts that Magic City locals love. From steak places and an Italian classic, to restaurants serving Japanese fare, coastal Mediterranean and what one chef calls “Cuisine of the Sun,” here are six spots you have to try — and what to order at each.
1. M House in Coral Gables
Having recently joined the Coral Gables dining scene, M House (the M is for Coral Gables founder George Merrick) is where the Mediterranean Riviera meets tropical South Florida. Rooted in the middle of the rotunda, you can’t miss the life-sized olive tree — it was the inspiration for executive chef Abraham Silva’s Chocolate Tree dessert.
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“The base of the dish is a flourless sponge cake, and it’s topped with chocolate mousse and cocoa crumble to look like soil,” Silva said. “Solid branch-like chocolate stems were planted in the ‘soil’ to look like a tree.” Every tree needs water to grow, but this one just needs Grand Marnier. It’s pumped right into the cake mix. 2524 South Le Jeune Road, Coral Gables; 786-369-5155; mhouserestaurant.com.
2. Dragonfly Izakaya and Fish Market in Doral
Belly up to the sushi bar at this Japanese gastropub, and ask for the Aged Bluefin Tuna Nigiri. A product of the restaurant’s aged-fish program, the wild-caught bluefin from Boston is a favorite of chef de cuisine Masatomo Hamaya, who monitors the temperature and moisture of the fish as amino acids naturally breakdown fatty tissues and give it a tender, buttery quality. Only three ingredients are needed to complement its flavor: Tamaki Gold short-grain rice, which he marinates in aged red vinegar called Akazu, and aged tamari in place of traditional soy sauce.
“Instead of focusing on lots of sauces to create complex flavor profiles, we’re embracing the authenticity and simplicity of Japanese cuisine, where less is considered more,” Hamaya said. 5241 Northwest 87th Avenue; 305-222-7447; dragonflyrestaurants.com/doral-florida.
3. Devon Seafood and Steak in Kendall
“For me, food reminds me of my family. Growing up, my grandfather used to cook with me and show me different techniques,” executive chef Michelle DeGeorge said. “I live a great deal away from my family now, so creating dishes that make other people happy helps me feel connected.”
Happiness is all you’ll feel after you eat her Prosciutto-Wrapped Grouper. It’s pan-seared with sautéed cabbage, kale, arugula and tomatoes, served on top of a potato galette and finished with a red-chile churrasco sauce and cotija cheese. Happiness indeed. 11715 Sherri Lane, Kendall; 305-275-0226; devonseafood.com.
4. Caffe Abbracci in Coral Gables
Caffe Abbracci has been a Miami staple for almost 30 years, and its signature Colorado Baby Lamb Chops have been on the menu since day one. The chops are pan-seared, then topped with a reduction of dried Montmorency cherries, Cognac, fresh orange juice and red wine. Affable servers bring them to your table with the kind of professional hospitality that makes everyone feel like a regular, from longtime locals to first-timers — even former President Barack Obama is a fan.
“My grandmother used to say, ‘To make a good soup, you need all the right ingredients,’” owner Nino Pernetti said. “I wanted to do a restaurant with heart, with passion, with warmth, with family and with good food. And we still do that.” 318 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables; 305-441-0700; caffeabbracci.com.
5. BLT Prime in Doral
Chef Steve Mendez likes to put his own flair on traditional steakhouse favorites. Take the restaurant’s Filet Mignon, which sits on a bed of thick-cut steak truffle fries and is topped with BLT Prime’s signature onion rings. The meat itself is brushed with butter, seasoned with cracked pepper and kosher salt, and broiled for three or for minutes until it gets that perfect char.
“Since baked potatoes and steak fries are steakhouse standards, we add truffle,” Mendez said. “Our ribeye and porterhouse cuts are traditionally served with bone marrow, so we also thought it would be fun to replace the traditional maitre d’hotel butter with bone marrow butter for extra flavor.” 4400 Northwest 87th Avenue, Doral; 305-591-6606; bltrestaurants.com/blt-prime/miami.
6. Ortanique on the Mile in Coral Gables
This Miracle Mile mainstay from chef-owner Cindy Hutson has been famous for its “Cuisine of the Sun” for almost 20 years. Still, Hutson and her team are always innovating. About six months ago, they gave guests a new appetizer to crave: Roasted Garlic Miso Shishito Peppers are charred with clarified butter and topped with a sesame-miso aioli, toasted black and white sesame seeds, shaved Grana Padano cheese and applewood smoked bacon.
“It’s totally different from most shishito preparations. A lot of people fry their shishito peppers in the deep fryer, but we blister them in black steel pans,” Hutson said. “It’s got Asian flavors, it’s got Italian flavors, and it’s got bacon. It’s got everything.” 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-446-7710; ortaniquerestaurants.com.