Food

Miami Spice is here. We tried these restaurants’ menus and here is what we liked

Miami Spice is an invitation to take a chance.

More than 200 restaurants are participating in the annual summer dining promotion with three-course, fixed-price menus for brunch and lunch ($23) and dinner ($39). You can see the entire, exhaustive list here. The choices can seem overwhelming — but they don’t have to be.

Instead, because there are so many affordable options, you can take a flier on a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try without flinching at the bill. A great Spice experience is just an invitation to try the rest of the menu on another night.

So we asked several of our writers to see what some of the more popular Miami Spice spots had to offer this year. After attending various preview dinners, here are ones that stood out:

Addikt at W Miami (Brickell)

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Madeleine Marr

What we ate: Samplings from award winning executive chef Christian Quiñones’ “specialized Latin-focused menu,” including some of his favorites growing up in Puerto Rico, but with a twist. Three bangers were the Octopus a la Plancha, Skirt Steak Salsa Verde and Snapper Ceviche. The biggest highlight had to be his pigeon pea risotto, which was comfort food with a luxurious spin, containing plump Gulf shrimp, cilantro emulsion and the tropical condiment annatto. We are still dreaming about it.

Who should go: Anyone who loves to ogle the gorgeous Miami skyline from on high. The restaurant sits on the 15th floor pool deck. Walk off the calories after your meal and light up your Instagram feed with those spot-on skyscraper views.

— Maddy Marr

Addikt at W Miami, 485 Brickell Avenue

Alter

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The snapper crudo appetizer with green tomato aguachile, black lime, maracuya and radish is an delicious edible work of art.

What we ate: There are good meals and great meals. And then there is the sort of dining experience that throws your brain and taste buds into an altered state and changes the way you think about food. Brad Kilgore’s Alter provides exactly such an experience, which is why it’s one of the absolute musts of Miami Spice. Each and every item is a work of art. You can’t stray from excellence on this menu, but whatever you do, order the soft egg appetizer with scallop espuma, truffle pearls and gruyere. For $8 more, order the bread and butter to soak it up. Spend $10 if you want it with caviar.

Who should go: Everybody. Absolutely everybody.

- Connie Ogle

Alter, 223 NW 23rd St, Miami

The Bazaar by José Andrés

What we had: The regular menu at Bazaar by José Andrés is an epic 60-dishes-and-counting pageant of small plates so don’t be surprised when you get the Miami Spice menu and see over a dozen choices to create what amounts to a five-course tasting odyssey. Each diner gets to choose one dish from the snacks, verduros tradicional, fruits and vegetables, carnes y mariscos and dessert of course. Plates start out small with bites of “bagels and lox” - a singular cone of creme fraiche and salmon roe - and get progressively bigger as you go down the list. Mix classics like patatas bravas with their take on a caprese salad that includes orbs of liquid mozzarella. Don’t miss the Cuban coffee-rubbed rib eye with passion fruit sauce and the classic chicken and bechamel croquetas. Desserts of deconstructed key lime pie and S’mores chocolate cake keep the innovative culinary shenanigans going for a sweet finish.

Who should go: Adventurous eaters looking to have a taste of award-winning chef Jose Andres’s whimsical take on Spanish tapas. The more people the better, with an long menu of choices.

— Sara Liss

The Bazaar by José Andrés, 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Byblos

What we had: This Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, located in the Royal Palm Hotel on South Beach, is a perpetual Spice favorite, with an outstanding menu and a lush but welcoming vibe. Kick the evening off with a habibi marguerite: chili-spiced strawberry tea, cilantro lime and Don Julio tequila ($30 for a two-person serving; $60 for a four person serving). Unlike most Spice menus, Byblos offers the choice of two appetizers, and one of them really should be the roasted red beets. All things lamb are popular here, but we really loved the Ora King Salmon with harissa, sumac, citrus and creme fraiche and the Middle Eastern Fried Chicken with tahini, za’atar and housemade hot sauce (note: no hyperbole here; this sauce is hot). Supplemental items include an addictive black truffle pide with buffalo mozzarella, halloumi and tartufata ($10 extra) and a delicious grilled whole branzino with chermoula and saffron toum ($15 extra). Both are worth the higher price..

Who should go: Diners who want to improve their brunch game. While the dinner options are fabulous, Byblos is also offering a brunch Spice menu for the first time, and you don’t want to miss it. Try the Byblos Big Breakfast with za’atar fried eggs, halloumi, tomato, harissa potatoes and pita or the buttermilk qatayef pancakes with rose cream, pistachio, pomegranate and date syrup. Afterward, all other pancakes are subpar forever. Let’s hope Byblos keeps this brunch menu when Spice is over.

— Connie Ogle

Byblos, 1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Cleo

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Madeleine Marr

What we had: Way too many carbs. Try (key word) to show some self-control and not indulge in the decadently delicious, buttery flatbread set out before your meal with baba ganoush that melts in your mouth. Waiters at this festive “Mediterranean inspired” spot serve you family style, meaning the portions are on the sizable side. Of the nush nush (“snack” in Hebrew), the Spanish grilled octopus with chimichurri and lebaneh (cheese spread) was unforgettably juicy and tender, with just the right amount of spice. Of the mains, the Chicken Tagine, with touches of saffron, ginger, paprika, cumin and turmeric, is a party for your mouth.

Who should go: Singletons and fun couples looking for a party atmosphere, but with good food and an evocative “Arabian Nights” atmosphere.

-- Maddy Marr

Cleo South Beach at the Redbury Hotel, 1776 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Fi’lia South Beach

What we had: Fi’lia South Beach delivers a more intimate and laid-back experience than its buzzy big sister in Brickell. If you’re joining for dinner, start with the tempura-fried zucchini flower (promise it’s a lot lighter than it sounds) or the polpettine al sugo, a mini beef meatball served with Pomodoro and ricotta cheese. The risotto al funghi misti — served with wild mushroom and marscapone — and the charcoal jumbo Madagascar shrimp won our votes for best entrees. And for dessert, Fi’lia’s selection of fruit sorbet is the perfect treat to combat Miami’s summertime heat.

Who should go: Couples looking for a quiet and casual spot to do date night. Families will also feel at ease here, especially given all the kid-friendly menu options like truffle fries during lunch, crispy calamari during dinner, and pizza — lots and lots of delicious pizza.

--Amanda Mesa

Fi’lia, 1610 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Forte dei Marmi

What we had: Walking into this cream-colored building in posh SoFi feels like stepping into an elegant Tuscan villa. From the wait staff who banter in Italian to the fresh herbs cut tableside that get sprinkled into a dish of olive oil for the complimentary focaccia bread service, everything here feels like dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Italy. We dove into the Spice menu ordering the zucchini blossoms stuffed with red prawns and the grilled octopus with warm potato and celery salad, both lovely starters. For mains there’s a choice of Spaghetti Alla Vongole with Bottarga, a linguine with zucchini, branzino filet, lamb chop and veal loin. We loved the spaghetti with clams, hitting all the right notes with the perfect amount of garlic, olive oil and briny bottarga. The veal loin was a generous portion and came with delicious porcini mushrooms and roasted potatoes. For dessert we could not pass up the restaurant’s famous Honey Onyx pistachio gelato, a heaping mountain of creamy pistachio soft serve (normally a hefty $26 dessert on the menu, so a steal for Spice) and the coconut panna cotta served with berries sauteed tableside.

Who should go: Couples looking for a romantic date spot and Italian food purists craving an authentic-yet-upscale take on regional Italian cuisine.

— Sara Liss

Forte dei Marmi, 150 Ocean Dr. South Beach.

Habitat

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Spanish octopus at Habitat.

What we had: Chef Thanawat Bates’ take on Spanish comfort food is more than comforting. It’s so good it can change your mind about things you’re wary of, like kale. Hard to believe but true. The truffle kale salad - with black kale, truffle pecorino, candied ginger pecans and pickled lemon vinaigrette - is the perfect appetizer for sharing. Urge your better half to order the outstanding Spanish octopus appetizer, served with marble potatoes, piquillo, activated charcoal and labneh, and share that, too. The best choice for dinner is the pan seared Ora King Salmon from New Zealand with herbs and chimichurri. Liven the evening up with one of the specialty cocktails named after famous Miami figures, like The D Wade (Brockman’s gin, Giffard PampleMousse, lemon juice, cucumber, basil, ginger beer and Peychaud’s.). The cocktail lives up to its namesake.

Who should go: Couples, friends and large family groups have room to spread throughout the dining room, which is calmer and more relaxed than the banging rooftop bar upstairs.

— Connie Ogle

Habitat at 1 Hotel South Beach, 2341 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

International Smoke

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The Truffle Cesar Salad at International Smoke.

What We Had: The truffle Cesar Salad on the Miami Spice lunch menu is far from basic and full of flavor because each lettuce leaf is individually garnished. The Prime Steak with roasted potatoes, grilled onions, romesco is grilled to perfection with the right amount of crispy tenderness.

Who Should Go: Die hard fans of grilled and smoked meats and dishes will feel right at home at Chef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry’s globally inspired hotspot. For those that love family style dining and trying a little bit of everything after a long day of shopping at the mall, this is your destination. Come hungry.

— Kathy Buccio

International Smoke., 19565 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura

Jaya at the Setai

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Truffle dumplings at Jaya

What we had: Chef Vijayudu Veena executes exquisite Asian dishes and the options are plentiful. We went with the Truffle Dumplings (because, truffles). These beautifully prepared scallop dumplings were shown off in a truffle emulsion sauce and shaved truffles. We kept it in the seafood family with the Taandoor Baked Chilean Sea Bass in a cilantro mint marinade, with crispy shallots and tamarind chutney, which gave it a wild, citrusy flavor. We finished off our meal with the Masala Chai Creme Brûlée with spiced chantilly and Pistachio Biscotti.

Who should go: If you love Asian cuisine and scene-y South Beach, book a rezzie at Jaya and thank me later.

— Kathy Buccio

Jaya at the Setai, 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

KYU

What we had: The only Spice menu this popular Asian-inspired restaurant offers is a weekday lunch menu, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Sometimes, you have to break out of your unimaginative salad rutl. And we can help by telling you exactly what to order at Kyu. For an appetizer, go with the unusual and creative mussels with toasted garlic, chili and lime, then move on to the Korean fried chicken on bao buns with with napa cabbage and parmesan dressing. The grilled seasonal fish with summer vegetable salad is a legit entree choice, too, if you want something lighter. But that chicken! For dessert, get the coconut cake with coconut ice cream. Do not fail at this. Also, make a reservation before you go - this place is packed even on weekdays.

Who should go: Anybody who wants a break from the usual, boring weekday lunch..

- Connie Ogle

Kyu, 251 NW 25th St., Miami

La Mar by Gaston Acurio

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Rocoto relleno at La Mar by Gaston Acurio.

What we had: Chef Diego Oca delivers on innovative Peruvian favorites that will have diners coming back from more. Start at the sea, with a Cebiche Negro composed of octopus and fish in a smoked leche de tigre sauce, olive oil, and cucumber. For the entree, the Recoto Relleno cannot be be missed. The Peruvian pepper from arequipa, filled with juicy beef stew, grilled cheese and pastel de papa is Instagram-worthy. Dessert, a warm Peruvian Chocolate purse, was rich and creamy and almost too pretty to eat.

Who should go: Lovers of elevated Peruvian cuisine.

- Kathy Buccio

La Mar by Gaston Acurio, 500 Brickell Key Dr., Miami

Leynia at Delano

What we had: Chef Jose Icardi has brought the joys of the Argentine grill to the Delano Hotel, and what joys they are. Sit outside on the covered patio with a view of the famous Delano pool and order a glass of crisp, perfect Albariño or slightly chilled Malbec. Leynia generously offers seven appetizers on its Miami Spice menu, so you have some decisions to make. Trust me and choose the following: oysters ceviche (which is just what you think it is, oysters served ceviche-style) or the homemade empanadas (beef and chicken; both meaty and delicious). Meat lovers will love the perfectly cooked churrasco, but do yourself a favor and make someone at the table order the chef’s deconstructed eggplant parmesan. It’s so good your Italian grandmother would be proud.

Who should go: Fans of great Argentine cuisine and anybody who wants a reason to return to the Delano.

-- Connie Ogle

Leynia, 1685 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Lobster Bar Sea Grille

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Madeleine Marr

What we had: Ummm, lobster, but of course. This upscale hotspot is a seafood lover’s dream, with white tablecloths, impeccable service and ridiculously fresh fish. The sprawling, elegant dining room is the perfect setting to enjoy one of the most decadent dinners you’ll likely have during Miami Spice. You haven’t lived until you tried the lightly fried Nova Scotia lobster tail served alongside a six ounce petit filet mignon. The dish carries an $8 supplemental fee but your wallet won’t regret it. If lobster isn’t your thing (we’ve heard these people exist), you can’t go wrong with the Arctic Char “Unilateral,” flaky, light and delicious and served with baby Tuscan kale and quinoa with Santorini capers. Definitely a meal to remember.

Who should go: Anyone who is looking for a fine dining experience with fantastic seafood with waiters who are so attentive they know what you want even before the idea pops into your head. Bring your table manners.

-- Maddy Marr

Lobster Bar Sea Grille, 404 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

Los Fuegos at Faena

What we had: Argentine super chef Francis Mallmann is the mastermind behind this gaucho-inspired restaurant at the posh Faena Miami Beach. As such, expect rustic Argentine and Patagonian specialties like oxtail croquetas and “tortilla de papa” for appetizers. For mains we loved the rib eye churrasco with grilled polenta while the local snapper comes with an intriguing rice salad and yogurt and tahini sauce. Desserts keep things simple with a dulce de leche tart and a vanilla profiterole with grilled mango.

Who should go: Fans of Francis Mallmann’s “open flame” style of cooking and those looking to have a glam night at the Faena without breaking the bank.

-Sara Liss

Los Fuegos, 3201 Collins Ave.

Mandrake

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Mandrake Maki PAUL STOPPI

What we had: We started with their signature Mandrake Maki made with salmon, crab, hamachi, tuna, and creamy jalapeño. The Butter Lettuce Salad is also a must if only for the yuzu, truffle and wasabi dressing. The Grilled Black Angus Tenderloin with Kabocha puree was exceptionally tender and juicy in every bite. Finish with the mochi dessert for ultimate refreshment.

Who Should Go: For the foodie that loves a trendy scene and exceptional sushi, this is the spot to go with a crew of girlfriends (or boyfriends).

— Kathy Buccio

Mandrake, 210 23rd St., Miami Beach

Nikki Beach

What we had: Food is almost beside the point at this South Beach party spot, which is about sun, beach vibes and booze, but hey, it’s Miami Spice time, so let’s eat while we day drink, shall we? All three of the appetizers on the Spice menu are good, but the standout is the Sexy Salad, with lobster, shrimp, crab meat, kanikama, avocado, mango, cucumber, tobiko and lime aioli. For an entree we recommend the Spaghetti aux Fruits de Mer, with sauteed shrimp, clams, mussels, garlic, tomatoes and red pepper flakes (it’s a little spicy, but not enough to make you sweat). Speaking of sweating: dress appropriately. Umbrellas will shade you, but you’re still eating outside in the Florida summer. Cool off with a mango smoothie or - even better - chilled rosé.

Who should go: People who enjoy day drinking.

— Connie Ogle

Nikki Beach, 1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach

Novikov

What we had: Decadent cuisine at Miami Spice prices is almost too good to be true, but Novikov delivers the same quality and taste that it delivers in its regular menu. We had four options for appetizer and entree, so we started with the saffron and sweet corn dim sum, which was buttery and flavorful.. We had the pork ribs entree, which was perfectly sweetened and also topped with some crunched nuts, really giving it a nice salty and savory balance. We wrapped op the meal with a light and airy key lime tapioca and walked out feeling like a million bucks. Could have been the rosè too.

Who should go: Those who love fresh seafood and a top of the line Japanese/Chinese dining experience in a chill environment.

- Kathy Buccio

Novikov, 300 South Biscayne Blvd, Miami.

Three

What we had: The Miami Spice menu at this tropical Wynwood gem is small, but it is mighty. In fact we’d say Three is one of the musts of Spice. Also a must: if you love wine, pay the extra $25 for the three-course wine pairing. Sommelier Jean Baptiste-Barre is a genius at finding the perfect match for everything, even beet toast with burrata, pickled cherry and pistachio. Do not leave Three without trying the aguachile with local fish (in this case snapper) with summer vegetables, mango and lime. Meat lovers should dive into the smoked and grilled lamb shoulder with cilantro and black vinegar chimichurri, but the gulf shrimp with rice grits and linguica does not disappoint (there’s a vegetarian option of cauliflower, too). Skip the tempting black sesame layer cake and finish the evening off with a passionfruit sundae.

Who should go: Diners who appreciate the romance between good wine and great food.

— Connie Ogle

Three, 50 NW 24th St. #101, Miami,

Traymore by Michael Schwartz

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Traymore Ramen at Traymore by Michael Schwartz

What we had: The tropical flavors of Florida are alive in Traymore’s Miami Spice Menu. Start off with the minty Red Shrimp Ceviche flavored with lemongrass aguachile, cucumber and red onion. It was tough to decide between the Wok Charred Bavette or the Traymore Ramen, but I went for the Ramen and it was pork belly heaven. A hearty mixture of udon noodles, spicy wakame and crispy leeks in a smoked pork broth makes it a winner. Dessert calls for Black Rice Pudding - a sweet trifecta of toasted coconut, sweetened milk and mango.

Who Should Go: Michael Schwartz loyalists will not be disappointed. The space is airy and bright like his other new concept in Edgewater, Amara at Paraiso, but Traymore maintains the architectural spirit of Art Deco. Design buffs and those who prefer locally sourced ingredients and sustainability in general, will have deep appreciation for Traymore.

— Kathy Buccio

Traymore by Michael Schwartz, 2445 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Tuck Room

What we had: iPic’s Tuck Room takes “dinner and a movie” to its logical extreme by providing both a posh lounge and restaurant experience as well as an in-theater food service with a menu of ambitious eats created by James Beard Award-winning chef Sherry Yard. Spice menu starters included creamy tomato bisque, corn croquettes with smoked chipotle aioli and Ceasar salad - all great to snack on during the opening credits of your movie. For mains the choices are salmon with charred asparagus, herb-roasted chicken with caramelized sweet corn and the enormous wagyu “beast” burger with aged cheddar, smoked bacon jam and applewood smoked bacon. For dessert, choose between banana pudding pie, chocolate s’mores cake and black and blue pot pie made with berries, blackberry crumble swirl ice cream and caramel whipped cream.

Who should go: A nice indulgence for movie buffs and those looking for a refined film-watching experience.

—Sara Liss

Tuck Room, 3701 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach

Vista

What we had: At this Upper Buena Vista gem that boasts a cool and chic vibe, we kicked off our meal with the summer corn fritters, made with pepper jam, fresh basil, and ricotta, a refreshing bite before diving into the pan roasted dorada filet, crisped to perfection, garnished with fresh herbs, roasted peas and a sweet brown butter. The trick is to eat it all together in one bite. Take your meal up a notch with a curated wine pairing at an additional cost. Once you’re ready for dessert, the fruit panna cotta is deliciously light.

Who should go: Foodies always looking to stay ahead of the trends and anyone who likes outdoor patios, and urban jungle rooftops. The rooftop opens at 5 p.m. each night.

- Kathy Buccio

Vista, 5020 NE Second Ave., Miami

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