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The 38 Essential Miami Restaurants, April 2013

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Here, now, is an updated version of Miami's Eater 38, your answer and ours to any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” This highly elite group, which is in no particular order of importance or rank, has been culled from a panel of experts and covers the entire city, spans myriad cuisines, histories, locations, and, collectively, satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those who are never happy. Every couple of months, we'll be adding pertinent restaurants that were omitted, have newly become eligible (restaurants must be open at least six months), or have stepped up their game.

After much reflecting and pouring over reader emails and comments, we've decided to drop Versailles, Jimmy'z Kitchen and Tropical Chinese Restaurant. The good news is that in their places, we shine light on Azul, Casa Tua, and debut the dim sum go-to eatery, Hakkasan, on this month's list.

Think we missed something? Temper tantrum not necessary- just nominate your favorite restaurant in the comments section or drop us a line. Pop-up restaurants, however, do not qualify.

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1500 Degrees

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You may not read about 1500° in the gossip columns, ahem, but this place doesn't need a Kardashian sighting to validate its place on the Miami dining hierarchy thanks to executive chef Paula DaSilva's rad, rustic farm to table menu that keeps food fans and fellow chefs like Michael Bloise coming back for bold flavors as opposed to the bold faced.


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On the quieter side of Lincoln Road, this low key neighborhood fave is known for fresh fish, pasta and Enrique Iglesias and Anna Kournikova sightings.

Area 31

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There's a reason Area 31's chef E. Michael Reidt won the 2011 Eater Award for Chef of the Year. Actually, there are many reasons, one being the fact that he has managed to keep the dangerously on the verge of being a cliche concept of sustainability from jumping the shark--and eating it. Eco-consciousness was never so deelish.

Bourbon Steak

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Not just another insipid Miami steakhouse, Michael Mina's exceptional clubby, contemporary steakhouse tucked away in the Turnberry Isle Resort & Club is the way it is for many reasons, one big one being executive chef Gabriel Fenton, whose skills are a cut above most as seen in dishes such as lobster-stuffed tempura squash blossoms with truffle vinaigrette and an apple cider-glazed pork belly. And then there are those duck fat fries.

The Dutch

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Star-studded NYC chef Andrew Carmellini made big news in 2011 when he chose the W South Beach for the second coming of his modern twist on American cuisine, The Dutch. With Carmellini classics like white boy ribs, little oyster sandwiches and daily fresh pies, America never tasted so good.

Edge, Steak & Bar

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Bringing a sleek update to the steakhouse, executive chef Aaron Brooks and restaurant chef James King have ambitiously and successfully set their sights beyond just the mastery of your standard filet mignon at Edge, Steak and Bar. And to think, you don't have to empty your wallet to enjoy a steakhouse in the Four Seasons.

El Mago de las Fritas

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The best fritas in Miami. Hands down.

El Palacio De Los Jugos

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Cheap Cuban food, fresh fruits, veggies and a bakery known for it's fresh-squeezed sugarcane, tamales and perfectly salty chicharones cut to order. Sort of like Miami's version of Grey's Papaya- high on pork fat.

La Esquina Del Lechon

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Fans of all sorts of Latin American fare can agree to go here, where the pan con lechon, among other things, is arguably the best in town. Those truffling for an entire pig may want to head here Thursdays through Sundays when they serve the entire hog cooked out back in a caja china. In keeping with the times and the digestive tracts of its customers, they also welcome Gluten-free requests.

The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions

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It seems that no restaurant has as much fun as the folks at The Fed, led by chef Cesar Zapata, Aniece Meinhold, and Alejandro Ortiz. The modern American tavern always keeps things interesting, cranking out adventurous food with a bit of a laugh - Jar-O-Duck, short rib pot pie and buffalo style pig wings, to name a few - and always hosting a hell of a party.

The Forge

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The formerly ornate, over the top Miami Beach institution has grown up, complete with a sleek new look, new chef, new menu and--to the delight of many--no more raucous Wednesday night parties where who was eating was more important than what they were eating. Today, instead of gawking at who's at the table next to them, Forge customers are paying more attention to Chef Dewey LoSasso's offbeat menu including dishes such as a burger with short ribs and lobster marmalade, lamb ribs, shrimp waffles and fluffernutters.

J&G Grill

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Jean Georges Vongerichten, emperor of a large contingent of restaurants throughout the world, has this whole restaurant thing down to a science. For his latest rendition of J&G Grill, JGV pairs the expertly executed cuisine of chef Richard Gras, who puts his own twist on Vongerichten's global cuisine with such successes as veal chops bathed in pistachio pesto and soy glazed short ribs, in the elegant and airy dining room at the St. Regis Bal Harbour.

Joe's Stone Crab

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Like the Madonna of restaurants, Joe's needs only one name and little explanation. It's a South Beach stone crab institution that's always mobbed and home of the original Miami Beach power lunch.

La Camaronera

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Long before Guy Fieri discovered it, La Camaronera was one of Miami's best kept secrets for fresh fish and the best fried fish sandwich you may ever eat. And while it may be no secret anymore and on the to-do lists of every hungry tourist who watches his show, locals still love it, even if they'd rather chase its food truck, The Fish Box, around town instead of standing in line with Fieri fans.

Palme d'Or

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Despite its ornate, old world ambience, Palme d'Or's cuisine is thoroughly modern, nouveau French cuisine that'll have you singing voulez-vous couchez avec moi to your plate. Indulge at the historical Biltmore Hotel's signature restaurant.
A Stephen Starr restaurant in Bal Harbour Shops where what's on the plate is more important than who's sitting in front of it sounds almost as implausible as a half off sale at Gucci, but alas, thanks to chef Makoto Okuwa, former Head Sushi Chef at Morimoto New York and Philadelphia, it's the real deal. In addition to the raw stuff, Makoto's modern Japanese dishes and bincho charcoal robata have even the most finicky fashionistas fawning over the fare.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

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Design District trailblazer featuring groundbreaking, contemporary American, organic fare by Michael Schwartz and divine desserts masking as art by pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith. Michael's remains a celebrity and foodie favorite over the years.


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The diminutive, always packed Upper East Side eatery by Michelle Bernstein features a creative mix of Latin, southern, and comfort foods where pork belly meets fried chicken with a side of croquetas and ceviches.
After shutting down his spot on Sunny Isles, Sushi chef Kevin Cory relocated his acclaimed NAOE to Brickell Key and he hasn't missed a beat. The tiny eight seat NAOE constantly puts out the best sushi experience in Miami, always fresh and never disappointing.

Ortanique on the Mile

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One of the few restaurants where the word fusion doesn't mean 'we're not sure what we are,' Ortanique's seamless blend of Latin, Caribbean and Asian cuisines translates into an exceptional culinary experience. Boozehounds praise the place for their mad mojito making skills, too.

Pascal's On Ponce

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Pascal Oudin doesn't need a Food Network show, a manic Twitter account, or a publicist (chef handles all his own PR) to explain why his cozy, fine, contemporary French restaurant has been in biz since 2000.

Prime One Twelve

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Besides Joe's Stone Crab, there aren't many restaurants in Miami (or the world for that matter) that could get the words "Recession Proof" scribbled on their menus in indelible ink. Prime 112 is one of those restaurants. A meat palace of epic proportion (and profits), Prime is the city's most star-studded, slam-packed steakhouse.


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Typically, serious food fans would laugh off the notion of an Asian-inspired gastropub in Miami, but when it comes to Pubbelly, it's no laughing matter and a serious statement of what happens when people know what they're doing. This is the one that started it all, now with four subsequent siblings to add to the family.

Red, The Steakhouse

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Proving the naysayers wrong and surviving the rife and wrath of other area steakhouses since they opened in 2009, Red, The Steakhouse has carved out its own meaty niche thanks to chef/partner Peter Vauthy's culinary--and social media--prowess. From Andrew Zimmern and Ferran Adria to NBA and celebrity heavyweights, Red's diners, famous or otherwise, are impressive and impressed, and for that it has well earned its permanent spot on the map as an essential Miami meatery.

The River Oyster Bar

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At The River Oyster Bar, you'll find seriously good seafood by David Bracha with no attitude and reasonable prices. A seasonal menu packs 'em in on a nightly basis, especially during daily happy hours when working stiffs, foodies and hipsters flock there to indulge in the restaurant's namesake--the freshest oysters south of the Puget Sound.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

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Overnight sensations are a dime a dozen (see: Justin Bieber), but when it comes to Miami restaurants, Sugarcane is a success story like no other. Chef Timon Balloo is a cool, culinary renegade, leading a talented team that works the restaurant's three kitchens to delightful effect.

Whisk Gourmet Food and Catering

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This South Miami staple has been flying under the radar for years, long before the whole local, sustainable, organic craze really blew up. Executive chef Brendan Connor was a sous chef at Charleston's Hominy Grill and started Whisk as a catering company with his sister. The family affair became a dine-in love affair amongst locals and those who travel quite a distance for the seasonal, home style and yep, gourmet, fare.

Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

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The southern belle of South Beach, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar brought comfort food to Miami when it opened in October of 2011. The work of executive chef Jeff McInnis and 50 Eggs Restaurant Group Founder John Kunkel, Yardbird opened as an immediate success with everyone flocking for fried chicken and green tomatoes, washed down with a bourbon concoction.

Hiro's Yakko-San

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Miami's most authentic Japanese restaurant that needs no bells, whistles (though it has moved to nice new digs) or celebs thanks to an unabridged menu of standouts, traditional and downright funky. It's also where you will find some of Miami's best known chefs on their down time and after hours.
Rainer Becker's modern Japanese inspired by traditional, informal Izakaya-style dining may seem almost oxymoronic, but the sleek, chic crowd of culinary mafia, celebrities and scene-chasers who eat and drink here don't care. After all, it is the first Miami restaurant whose London and Hong Kong siblings made the Top 100 listing of The S.Pellegrino World's Best Restaurants.

Gigi Noodles, BBQ, Beer

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Since Gigi exploded onto Miami's dining scene two years ago, it has continued to serve delicious, inventive Asian-inspired dishes at bargain prices. Even after Chef Jeff McInnis' departure, their buns are still some of the best in town, and it remains the go-to late night spot for good eats in Midtown, always busy at nearly any hour.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

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The best Greek and Turkish food in Miami is tucked away in the intimate, understated courtyard at Mandolin. Transport to the Greek Isles with a menu of elegant small plates (no over-fried falafel here) and entrees like lamb and beef meatballs and the exceptionally grilled octopus with refreshing Greek wine to complete a great meal.

Blue Collar

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Opened at the start of 2012, Blue Collar has moved up in the rankings due to its cult following and rave-worthy American comfort food. Chef Daniel Serfer puts TLC into every meal he serves at the small diner-like spot. Fans include Rakontur director Billy Corben, after whom Serfer created a special off-the-menu Corben sandwich.

db Bistro Moderne

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Daniel Boulud's restaurant at the JW Marriot in Brickell brings a taste of exceptionally refined French fare to Miami. Renowned for their charcuterie, especially the pate, and their namesake sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle, db Bistro Moderne also has been praised for its vast selection of premium wine labels.

Harry's Pizzeria

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Michael Schwartz's second restaurant in the Design District neighborhood has received more than a warm welcome since its opening in the fall of 2011. Harry's continues to be a casual go-to for some of the best wood oven specialty pizza in town, polenta fries, salads, draft brews and more.
The Madarin Oriental’s signature restaurant didn’t receive a 5 star rating from Forbes mag for no good reason. Azul boasts tasty modern, American dishes with an Asian twist created by chef Jacob Anaya, some mean Kobe beef cheeks, great service and a sweet view.