Let’s face it: not all Miami Spice menus are created alike.
Oh, we’re happy to try any of them. Don’t get us wrong. Spending $39 to eat great food is a deal in this town.
But there are a few restaurants that are particularly enticing because there is no way we can justify spending that kind of money on dinner most of the time.
The danger is, of course, that you will try these places and love them so much that you’ll throw caution to the wind and start eating there on the regular. But isn’t it worth the risk?
Yes. So dig in while you can afford it.
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
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
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.
Los Fuegos, 3201 Collins Ave.
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 up the meal with a light and airy key lime tapioca and walked out feeling like a million bucks. Could have been the rosé 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.