MIAM July-August 2013 : Page-124

THE 50 FINEST! We’ve seen it happen before—as the mercury rises, special things start to sizzle at restaurant kitchens all over the city. The stakes are high when it comes to dining out this summer and we’ve got 50 reasons why: hot new eateries to consider, well-known favorites that haven’t lost their fire, cocktails and desserts that can’t help but raise our body temperatures, and talented chefs who know how to stay cool under pressure. The question is, diner: Can you take the heat? By Riki AltmAn, Jen kARetnick, chRistinA lAwRence & luis R. RiguAl | mAin PhotogRAPhy By michAel PisARRi ITALIAN FLAIR Pasta and style go hand in hand at Cipriani on Brickell.

Dining The Finest 50!

Riki Altman, Jen Karetnick, Christina Lawrence & Luis R. Rigual

We've seen it happen before—as the mercury rises, special things start to sizzle at restaurant kitchens all over the city. The stakes are high when it comes to dining out this summer and we've got 50 reasons why: hot new eateries to consider, well-known favorites that haven't lost their fire, cocktails and desserts that can't help but raise our body temperatures, and talented chefs who know how to stay cool under pressure. The question is, diner: Can you take the heat?<br /> <br /> 1 CIPRIANI <br /> <br /> That's right, the restaurant family that gave the world the Bellini (at Harry's Bar in Venice back in the 1930s) has opened an outpost of its revered brand on our shores. Brothers Maggio and Ignazio Cipriani (grandsons of founder Giuseppe) have long been at work on this 20th location to ensure all the Cipriani trappings are in check. Martinis? Dry as ever. Pasta? Al dente, of course. Sprezzatura swagger? As if yo have to ask. Icon Brickell, 465 Brickell Ave., Miami, 786.329.4090<br /> <br /> 2 RESTAURANT MICHAEL SCHWARTZ AT THE RALEIGH <br /> <br /> Chef Michael Schwartz has checked in at the Raleigh with a menu that touches on everything the man does so well: honest eats that illustrate the chef's ever-processing imagination— from potato chips with panfried onion dip to pan-roasted local swordfish with red lentil tabbouleh, yogurt sauce and chili oil. 1775 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305.612.1163<br /> <br /> 3 CATCH <br /> <br /> Adjacent to SL nightclub and designed by Icrave, CATCH has smart city style well covered. A Manhattan transplant from savvy EMM Group, the kitchen's globally inspired seafood dishes come from Top Chef winner Hung Huynh, who nightly dishes out winning plates, like scallops and cauliflower with tamarindinfused brown butter, that never fail to impress us. The James Royal Palm, 1545 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 786.224.7200<br /> <br /> 4 KHONG RIVER HOUSE <br /> <br /> There's a very good reason why Khong was nominated as a semifinalist for Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation this year: a talented group of dedicated professionals, led by owner John Kunkel, who collectively put out some of the best Northern Thai food we've ever tasted in Miami. Wash down the crispy prawns with any of the bar's gin-fueled cocktails and acknowledge two things: How wrong the Beard folks were not to give Khong the final nod, and how right we are to do so instead. 1661 Meridian Ave, Miami Beach, 305.763.8147<br /> <br /> 5 TONGUE & CHEEK <br /> <br /> The opening of ^Bm Tongue & Cheek has at last put the innovative talents of Jamie DeRosa on full display. Here, the chef is making American food on his terms: "simple" dishes that are anything but when it comes to execution. His beef cheek burger with cheddar pimento cheese on housemade brioche is such an involved dish, it's only available on a limited basis. And if he's willing to do that with a patty, you can only imagine how he's treated the rest of the menu. 431 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 305.704.2900<br /> <br /> 6 OAK TAVERN <br /> <br /> Sibling to The River Seafood & Oyster Bar, David Bracha's Oak Tavern is very much a golden child. Having experimented on previous eateries, papa Bracha clearly knows the key to raising a restaurant: homemade everything (from the cornbread to the charcuterie), superior service and warm, homey decor. Indeed, this young 'un is darn near perfect—enough to make any older offspring jealous. 35 NE 40th St., Miami, 786.391.1818<br /> <br /> 7 DOLCE <br /> <br /> Style and substance is a tricky balancing act, but Dolce manages culinary equilibrium quite nicely. Located at the Gale, this primo Italian eatery, headed up by chef Paolo Dorigato, provides a front seat to the sidewalk shenanigans of South Beach while keeping the diner's palate equally entertained with bountiful servings of glorious carbs. 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 786.975.2551<br /> <br /> 8 MC KITCHEN <br /> <br /> Launched by chef Dena Marino (the "M") and her business partner Brandy Coletta (the "C"), this high-powered Italian entity in the Design District was a top runner from the word andiamo. Or is it andate? These ladies have done right by The Boot with superbly executed antipasti like artichoke heart bruschetta with a poached farm egg and truffled fonduta to simply designed affogato. Here's one word we are sure of: amore— which Marino and Coletta have plenty of. 4141 NE Second<br /> <br /> 9 WOLFGANG'S STEAKHOUSE <br /> <br /> Wolfgang Zwiener's Miami outpost of his New York-based original is superb for its service as well as its sirloin, served sliced on a searingly hot plate, and its apple strudel, covered in house-whipped schlag (cream). It's a bonanza of bad cholesterol, sure, but we'll confess that steakhouse gluttony never tasted so good. 315 S. Biscayne<br /> <br /> 10 THE CYPRESS ROOM <br /> <br /> When old Florida—by way of mounted white-tail deer and boar trophies—meets new Miami—by way of patrons exclaiming over small-batch, cask-aged spirits and local-sourced vegetables, heritage meat and 100-mile cuisine—the result is somewhat Gatsby-ish... with a touch of ex-pat Hemingway thrown in. All this is to say that owner Michael Schwartz's restaurateur powers are at their height in this intimate space, where Chef de Cuisine Roel Alcudia predates trends by serving late-night cold tea and smoked salmon or egg salad finger sandwiches. Oh, and antelope with bay turnips and apricot, anyone? 3620 NE Second Ave., Miami, 305.520.5197<br /> <br /> 5 VENUS THAT KEEP RAISING THE BAR<br /> <br /> 1 THE BAZAAR Chef Jose Andres told patrons to expect spins of all sorts at his Miami Beach outpost and the toque has remained true to his word. The surprises here aren't limited to the dinner menu, however. The bar has its fair share of mixology magic with offerings that include a dirty martini with olive spherification and brine "air." New summer contributions by Juan Coronado keep that spirit alive with aromatic libations that make the most out of their ingredients. SLS South Beach, 1701 Collins<br /> <br /> 2.HAVEN GASTRO LOUNGE Head mixologist Isaac Grillo's love for molecular mixology and HaVen chef Todd Erickson's stellar cuisine results in over-the-top cocktails concocted from fresh, seasonal ingredients. For summer, Grillo says he'll tap flavors from wild strawberry, apricot and melon, with cilantro, radish, fennel, spinach and anything else that piques his interest. "I really think about flavor combinations all the time," he says. "I never stop." 1237Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305.987.8885<br /> <br /> 3 THE BROKEN SHAKER <br /> <br /> Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi started The Broken Shaker as a pop-up bar, but the response was so overwhelming, they made it permanent last December during the mad rush of Art Basel. "We juice fruits daily, use five different kinds of ice, grow some of the Herbs we use and try as much as possible to outsource our produce from local growers," says Orta of their winning approach. All that attention to detail pays off in drinks as involved as the Blessing Saddles, made with homemade curry leaves, cumin agave, fresh papaya, tequila, citrus, herbs and a mezcal infused with pineapples, or as straightforward as the daily fruit punch. Freehand Miami, 2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, 305.531.2727<br /> <br /> 4 LIVING ROOM AT THEWSOUTH BEACH<br /> <br /> Scott Beattie's flower-filled libations are so aesthetically extraordinary, one almost hesitates to drink them. Almost. The author of Artisanal Cocktails, who eschews "anything in a bottle that is bright green or blue," was hired to develop new cocktails for the Living Room some months back. He's done so using unique formulations of homemade bitters, simple syrups infused with essential oils and edible flowers, thereby—we have to say it—raising the bar for Miami mixologists. 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.938.3000<br /> <br /> 5 THE REGENT COCKTAIL CLUB <br /> <br /> The philosophy at The Regent is that ^Sm there's no need for overcomplicated concoctions when there are so many great classic cocktails to draw upon. So barmen Julio Cabrera, Angelo Vieira and Danny Valdez do just that, each taking turns manning the bar and putting their particular spins on oldies but goodies like Negronis and Sidecars. Soon, fans will be able to join the venue's new Members Only Cocktail Club, purchase a "passport," and, 50 stamps later, reap the rewards of inclusion: private events, parties and new cocktail previews. Cheers to that! Gale South Beach, 1690 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305.673.0199<br /> <br /> Small Wonders<br /> <br /> We all have one—a tiny, off-the-grid eatery that no one else seems to have heard about. Here's to discovery of the culinary kind. The Sense Beach House hotel has been gaining boutique buzz as of late, but not everyone has caught on to its restaurant, The Local House (400 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, 786.230.8396) where the attentive waiters, cozy decor and killer beer-steamed mussels are a far cry from its tourist trap neighbors. > > > Ni.Do. Caffe (7295 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305.960.7022) has six tables tops, but the restaurant's diminutive size belies the big flavors on its menu. Those lucky to get seated quickly will want to linger for hours while nibbling on stretchy bufala campana mozzarella, creamy artichoke souffle and savory ravioli stuffed with osso bucco. > > > Pedigreed via experience at Timo and Escopazzo, Paola and Jeremy Goldberg, the young couple behind Route 9 (1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305.569.9009), create the types of dishes you didn't know you were craving: beer-battered chorizo "Fig Newtons," pork chops with crispy kale and cheesy grits, and pappardelle with sofr/fo-braised short rib, for example. Enjoy... and spread the word.<br /> <br /> Full of Grace<br /> <br /> We like our classic cocktails as true to form as the next person, but when someone ups the ante on a beloved bar staple, we're willing to go along for the ride. Egor Polonskiy is a man after our hearts. The vodka in his $75 Smoked Salmon Caviar Bloody Mary at Thie Flat is infused with the Alaskan fish for a hint of lox flavor. He then tops this meal of a libation with a quail egg overflowing with black caviar. Hair of the dog? We think not. 500 S. Pointe Drive, Miami Beach, 305.531.3528<br /> <br /> NEIGHBORHOOD NOSHING<br /> <br /> We can be fickle foodies in Miami, but these two new entries have "locals' favorite" written all over them.<br /> <br /> SHOKUDO: Many a nigiri lover wailed when World Resource closed its doors. Now, fans of that Lincoln Road favorite are shedding tears of joy for Shokudo, a more streamlined Asian concept from the WR brass. Here, chef Armando Litiatco is serving up foie gras dumplings with cranberry relish, gyoza stuffed with minced pork and tuna poke with the texture of butter. Toast the comeback with any of the unfiltered sakes available. 4740 NE Second Ave, Miami, 305.758.7782 <br /> <br /> CHARLES ST: Located on the ground floor of the Boulan, this bistro's opening during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival may have gone unnoticed, but chef Wolfgang Birk's offerings should not be overlooked. Attuned to its location, the restaurant offers small plates and a slew of handcrafted cocktails that are ideal for late visits. However, the roasted chicken with potato puree and French beans lets diners know Birk can handle substantial entrees just as well. 2000 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305.763.8983<br /> <br /> 5 FAVORITES THAT CONTINUE TO SURPRISE US<br /> <br /> 1. SUGARCANE "Ever-changing menu" is a phrase restaurants throw around quite often, but in Sugarcane's case, it's the God-honest truth. Since the eatery's debut in 2010, chef Timon Balloo has not stopped experimenting in the kitchen. His culinary alchemy never fails to surprise us, and by the time you read this, new dishes like roasted kale salad, Akaushi beef carpaccio and miso octopus salad may have already made way for new delights. 3252 NE First Ave., Miami, 786.369.0353<br /> <br /> 2. MEAT MARKET Sean Brasel has taken the concept of the steakhouse to an entirely new level with this longtime favorite, which has garnered such a buzzy following that new locations are forthcoming in Downtown, Palm Beach and Puerto Rico. We say bravo! Why should only South Beach be privy to those sumptuous steaks and sweet endings like banana bread pudding with Jack Daniels anglaise? 915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305. 532.0088<br /> <br /> 3. BOURBON STEAK As if Michael Mina's steakhouse—beloved for its duck fat fries, lobster potpie and perfect specimens of beef—had not already hit the culinary stratosphere, it now offers new attractions like Wine Travels, a Monday-through-Thursday vino series hosted by new sommelier Craig Teriaca, who selects and serves wine samples to guests to help them find new favorites—truffled popcorn included! 19999 W Country Club Drive, Aventura, 786.279.6600<br /> <br /> 4. ZUMA The see-andbe- seen vibe at Zuma is only matched by its stellar cuisine. For proof, order chef Michael Lewis' tasting menu, which starts light with seafood and ends royally carnivorous with wagyu cuts of beef in sauces that electrify the taste buds. In June, the restaurant added a Saturday brunch, which means newbies (if there are any left) can be introduced to the culinary overload with copious amounts of Champagne. Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami, 305577.0277<br /> <br /> 5. Db BISTRO MODERNE The name Daniel Boulud calls to mind a menu of not-quite-everyday French dishes, but last summer, the James Beard Award winner appointed Matthieu Godard as executive chef of db to lighten things up. "This can be a place for a low-key lunch," Boulud told us. Low-key here means a focus on locally sourced products like Florida red snapper with piquillo pepper emulsion. JW Marriott Marquis, 255 Biscayne Blvd. Way, Miami, 305.421.8800<br /> <br /> My CeviChe <br /> <br /> When the kitchen at My Ceviche sends out its signature dish, chances are those glossy cubes of protein were swimming in the ocean the day before. Owners Roger Duarte and Sam Gorenstein have one sustainable mantra at their fishcentric eateries: to serve seafood that was caught within a 24-hour window in local waters. Gorenstein relies on relationships he cultivated with area fishermen while at BLT Steak to ensure he gets those top picks, while Duarte’s fishermen peeps simultaneously hunt for fresh, seasonal catches. After that, they let lime do its magic. 235 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305.397.8710; 1250 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305.960.7825<br /> <br /> Juana M Brickell <br /> <br /> Miami’s wine lists cover a lot of vine territory, but every once in a while, you come across one that’s more intimate, speaks to the nationality of the restaurant and is a compendium of that nationality’s smaller, more overlooked and less imported wineries. It’s a burgeoning trend you can find at Juana M Brickell, an Argentine restaurant that’s only a few months old. Carefully vetted by ownerchef Juana Marty, Juana M’s list practically offers a tour of that South American country’s bodegas. What’s more, the wines are sincerely priced, with malbecs ranging from Bodega La Rural’s “Trumpeter” for $13 to Bodega Nieto Senetiner’s “Cadus” 2009 for $52. Perhaps Juana M will be the start of another wine trend altogether: the one where you can order both red and white with dinner without a second thought. 923 Brickell Ave., Miami, 786.693.2725<br /> <br /> Copperbox culinary atelier <br /> <br /> Copperbox is not dinner as usual. The epicurean supper room presents dinner as an experience. Open to the public twice a week, the meals begin with a wine and cocktail hour where strangers mingle, followed by a six-course menu (changed every eight weeks) paired expertly with wines. In lesser hands, the concept could have been a gimmicky mess, but chef gabriela Machado is a seasoned professional who understands—and respects— food. Her dishes are as sophisticated (breast of Hudson Valley duck with mousseline of Cara Cara oranges, parsnip puree, Swank Farm leeks and duck confit powder) as they are aesthetically pleasing— carefully plated with an artist’s eye. Some have called it “couture cuisine.” For Machado, it’s food as it should be. 3328 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305. 392.0983<br /> <br /> 5 TOP CHEFS WE LOVE<br /> <br /> 1 KEVIN CORY <br /> <br /> All those years of training in Kyoto paid off big for Kevin Cory earlier this year when Naoe was awarded the highly coveted five-star designation from the Forbes Travel Guide (only 28 awards were doled out worldwide). The culinary adventure here is rather straightforward: a bento box, eight pieces of nigiri (paired with outstanding wasabi and soy from Cory's family's brewery in Japan) and dessert. No substitutions. Like you would even dare. 661 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, 305.947.6263 <br /> <br /> 2 JACOB ANAYA <br /> <br /> The culinary cosmos were rather generous with Brickell this year. Like Naoe, Azul at the Mandarin Oriental also received the Forbes Travel Guide's five-star award. Of course, those familiar with Chef de Cuisine Jacob Anaya's cooking since he took over the Azul kitchen last year didn't need proof of his talents—his tuna poke with flecks of seaweed is a buttery treat of seafood savoir faire. Anaya's menu isn't extensive, but the quality versus quantity argument certainly applies to him. 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, 305.913.8254 <br /> <br /> 3 ADRIANNE CALVO <br /> <br /> There's a reason U. S.1-phobic foodies travel far south to Kendall for chef Adrianne Calvo's cuisine. At Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant, Calvo pays homage to the Napa dishes that inspired her to become a chef. We're talking rustic cuisine with maximum flavor (the title of one of her two cookbooks). Calvo's sweet corn tamale with wild shrimp, scallion and garlic cream clues us in to her love for the tropics as well. 11510 SW 147th Ave., Miami, 305.408.8386 ft <br /> <br /> 4 JEAN-PAUL DESMAISON <br /> <br /> This man first courted us with his ceviche skills at La Cofradia in Coral Gables where we puckered our lips in delight as he won us over with fish and lime. Now Miami is enjoying a broader spectrum of Peruvian-style dishes at Jean-Paul's House where the chef dishes out specialities like paiche marinated in anticucho (that would be Amazonian fish in a miso-like sauce) amidst a charming interior marked by coral rock walls. 2426NE Second Ave., Miami, 305.573.7373<br /> <br /> 5 OJOSE MENDIN<br /> <br /> Mention Pubbelly and you'll hear in-the-know foodies praise away. But go to PB Steak, the fifth (and not last) restaurant in the group's portfolio, and you'll get a bellyful of why those accolades are so abundant. There, chef Jose Mendin takes the gastropub concept to a meatcentric level with versions of dishes we know rather well, yet interpreted in second serving-worthy ways. Chef worship can be risky in Miami, where toques can enchant us one day and betray us the next, but it looks like Mendin has our hearts (and appetites) for good. 1787Purdy Ave., Miami Beach, 305.695.9550<br /> <br /> NOT NEW, BUT IMPROVED! <br /> <br /> No one can argue that, as a pop-up, Eating House (804 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305.448.6524) was rather revolutionary. But now that it has gone permanent, chef-owner Giorgio Rapicavoli has found his groove. The old arrangement robbed the staff of prep time, equipment and storage, and the interiors needed more sophistication. Now that the space has been turned into an artsy-industrial gathering spot with dishes like the chicken and "foie-ffles" on the menu, serious gourmands are happy to break bread next to tattooed hipsters. >>> Mandolin Aegean Bistro (4312 NE Second Ave., Miami, 305. 576.6066) wasn't really in need of a makeover, as much of its charm comes from the Mediterranean vibe in the restaurant's garden dining area. But it was lacking a covered space to shield diners from our virulent summers. When word got around that a new, cozy nook was constructed to accommodate an additional 35—in airconditioning!— heat-sensitive regulars were there in droves for mezze, mussels and more<br /> <br /> Miami Spice<br /> <br /> They're new to our shores, but not to the kitchen. We asked three chef newcomers to reveal which of their dishes best exemplifies Miami.<br /> <br /> "My tuna tartare because the perfumes, the colors and the freshness takes diners on a tropical journey." - Andrea Chiriatti, Gold & Pepper, 101 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305. 397.8362 <br /> <br /> "My roasted branzino with its mix of Provengal vegetables encompasses all those bright South Florida flavors." - Jeff Pfeiffer, Dore, 1669 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305. 695.8696 <br /> <br /> "The fish in my Greek-style sea bass is fresh from the Aegean and marinated like Latin ceviche. It's refreshing with a hint of Latin spicejust like Miami." - Alexa Apostolidis, Kouzina Bistro, 3535 NE Second Ave., Miami<br /> <br /> Michael Shikany<br /> <br /> Fresh off a two-year sabbatical, award-winning sommelier, restaurant consultant, chef and all-around-foodie Michael Shikany is back in the restaurant game—and hanging his own shingle in Wynwood. Shikany, the chef's eponymous eatery set to open in October, will be a small-plates concept where its namesake promises to dish out experiences like themed cooking courses and a tapas bar. "I'll also be doing a tasting table featuring between eight and 15 courses where there's no menu, just what I determine, served at a communal table of 24 seats," says Shikany, who chose Wynwood because the vibe reminds him of the Village in his native New York. "The Beach is too commercial now. There are great things happening right here." Soon, he'll be among them. Shikany.com<br /> <br /> 5 DESSERT STANDOUTS<br /> <br /> 1. J&G GriLL <br /> <br /> Just about everything that comes out of the pastry kitchen at J&G Grill is a sugar-stroked masterpiece. That's because Pastry Chef Antonio Bachour is an accomplished artist with enviable command of color, texture and taste. Order the deconstructed lemon tart with its colorful edible flowers and pastel clouds of citrus foam, and you'll come to realize that sometimes poetry is not written in words, but on a dessert plate. The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305.993.3333<br /> <br /> 2. THE DUTCH <br /> <br /> Traditionalists may scoff at Pastry Chef Josh Gripper for adding a saline component to Florida's official dessert, but his salted lime pie served with toasted coconut sorbet is captivating. "The salt adds another dimension," he says. One he's obviously comfortable with. We can't help but wonder what he'll spice up next. W South Beach Hotel, 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.938.3111<br /> <br /> 3. SWINE <br /> <br /> Locals who think Homestead's Knaus Berry Farm has the cinnamon roll competition all wrapped up haven't given Max Santiago's Warm Sticky Icky Bun at Swine a try. This county fair standard becomes a gourmet delicacy when it's covered with smokehouse-style bourbon maple toffee syrup, sprinkled with candied bacon, swirled with handmade marshmallows and served with a scoop of sweet potato ice cream with pecan \brittle. 2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 786.360.6433<br /> <br /> 4. THE FORGE <br /> <br /> Chef Dewey LoSasso says his kitchen at The Forge pumps out more than 2,500 of the restaurant's iconic souffles each month, which is justifiable considering how the puff towers hit the right mark when they're infused with chocolate, Grand Marnier or Johnny Walker sauce. This summer welcomes more options and we're certain they'll rise to the occasion. 432 41st St., Miami Beach, 305.538.8533<br /> <br /> 5. BLUE COLLAR <br /> <br /> The secret to chef Daniel Serfer's bread pudding at Blue Collar is simple: a ridiculous amount of egg yolks. All that sunny cholesterol is the base for what becomes a fusion of butterscotchsoaked bread and Heath bars that delights the soul. There are other standouts, but the "crack pudding" (nicknamed so by its fan club of regulars) is a sweet tooth addiction no sugar intervention can curb. 6730 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305.756.0366<br /> <br /> NEW APPROACHES<br /> <br /> Twist on Tradition<br /> <br /> It takes guts to mess with Cuban food in Miami, but chef Alberto Cabrera is a proud Cuban-American with two decades of kitchen chutzpah (and a childhood ofpalomilla and black beans meals) behind him. At the buzzy Bread + Butter (2330 Salzedo St., Coral Gables, 305. 442.9622) Cabrera has "fused the carefree charm of Cuba's mambo era with the modish slant of the modern American gastropub," as he puts it. Translation: Kimchee and Sriracha sauce in a frita, bone marrow in ropa vieja and bacon with plantains. That fusion extends to drinks, too. His liquid nitrogen cortadito milkshake is Cuban coffee in a way Bustelo devotees in Little Havana have never envisioned. >>> The mighty Allen Susser is a James Beard Award-winning chef who's one of the founders of New World Cuisine. His latest undertaking? The grilled cheese sandwich. At Midtown's Daily Melt (3401 N. Miami Ave., Miami 305. 573.0101), however, Velveeta and Wonder Bread are nowhere on the menu. Not one to cut corners, Susser's selections are comprised of artisanal cheeses, meats, vegetables, and fresh-baked breads, stacked tall and hot pressed to order. Go for the original American you remember from elementary school and bask in the taste of pure nostalgia.<br /> <br /> LOVE AT FIRST BITE<br /> <br /> As far as some people are concerned, appetizers are where it's at. This trio of new(ish) eateries caters to diners in a snack state of mind. When it comes to tapas, Bulla Gastrobar (2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305.441.0107) means business. The former Por Fin has left its more formal trappings behind and embraced the comforts of casual dining with a menu of cured meats, cheeses and small plates. Our favorites include the pimientos de Padron (blistered shishito peppers sprinkled with salt) and the bombas (two shrimpand- potato croquettes topped with aioli). A pitcher of beer-infused sangria with any—or all—of these and it's check please! >>> Jeffrey Chodorow's Biscayne Tavern (146 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305.307.8300) near the American Airlines Arena not only offers more than a dozen suds on tap, but also a killer selection of eggplant fries, pork belly sliders, fried oysters and smoked salmon-and-herbed cream cheese spring rolls with mango chutney—perfect for a pre-Heat game meal. >>> Don't be misled by the over-the-counter approach and pocket-lite prices at OTC (1250 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305.374.4612). The bites at this low-key bistro have been carefully considered. Standouts include truffle and Parmesan french fries, pan-seared tuna sliders and Brussels sprouts with bacon, all for less than an Andrew Jackson.

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