Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cipriani Downtown, Miami's Latest Swanky Spot

"I like rich people. I like the way they live. I like the way I live when I'm with them."
                                                            - Max Detweiler, The Sound of Music

Sitting at Cipriani Downtown, the latest glossy outpost of the famed Italian empire occupying a cavernous space in the Icon Brickell building, I couldn't help but churn the above quote in my head. Designed by Florentine architect Michele Bonan, the restaurant feels like the dining room of a glitzy cruise liner with portholes at the bar and windows that frame spectacular water views. There’s a gleaming wooden bar, sofas clad in royal blue and grand Murano glass chandeliers. The white-jacketed waiters add to the throwback vibe with plenty of tableside service. And on the third day open the place was packed. Apparently $17 for a bellini is no biggy these days.
And yes, if you're a sugar daddy with a Russian girlfriend half your age, this is definitely a place that will impress her. But good news for the rest of us that care about food -- it's actually good.
The menu here is practically identical to other Cipriani outposts with a few seasonal and local ingredients thrown in like heirloom tomatoes and fresh catch. Prices are high with most starters averaging $17 and mains $23-$39. The restaurant is famous for a few dishes so it’s best to start off with a round of Bellinis, the house drink (prosecco with peach puree) along with the crisp breadsticks and baguette that are offered. Among their noteworthy dishes: the baked tagliolini with ham and the iconic carpaccio, sliced raw beef with a mayonnaise dressing, first created by Arrigo Cipriani’s father Giuseppe in 1950. This is also the spot to try their Asian "Yotto" menu, featuring a sashimi beef with yuzu ponzu. Other starters include tuna tartar and a mozorella and heirloom tomato salad. Pastas include a risotto primavera and a homemade spincach ravioli. Mains include branzino, braised short ribs and roasted duck. Desserts keep with the over-the-top vibe with vanilla meringue cake and a pillow tiramisu.
My take: sky-high prices and an air of exclusivity shouldn’t deter you from basking in the legendary restaurant’s classic comforts.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Miami's Top New Restaurants

Kouzina, in the Design District
People love top ten lists (just ask David Letterman and USA Today) and since I'm constantly keeping tabs on the local dining scene I decided to offer up a tenner of hot new spots.
1. Cipriani Downtown – Spectacular water views and old school service at this Italian icon.
465 Brickell Ave Miami, Florida 33131, (786) 329-4090
2. Lucali – The purest pizza made by a Brooklyn perfectionist.
1930 Bay Rd Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 695-4441
3. Tongue and Cheek – Jamie DeRosa’s upscale home cooking with a great happy hour.
431 Washington Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 704-290
4. Umami Burger – The California cult burger with its signature “savory” taste.
1080 Alton Rd Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 672-4334
5. S3 – A splashy Ft. Lauderdale beach newcomer with sushi, steak and seafood.
505 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, (954) 523-7873
6. Kouzina - Reasonably-priced Greek small plates.
3535 NE 2nd Ave, (305) 392-1825
7. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse - Massive slabs of beef from a Peter Luger alum.
315 S Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132, (305) 487-7130
8. Gold and Pepper - Italian food...with golf flakes on everything.
101 Washington Ave Miami Beach, Florida 33139, (305) 397-8362
9. Icebox Café - The Lincoln Rd fave now in a bigger space on Purdy.
1855 Purdy Ave Miami Beach, FL 33139, (305) 538-8448
10. Barley and Swine – Porky gastropub down South.
 9059 SW 73 Ct, (305) 678-8903

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Oceanaire Seafood Room: A Briny Adventure in Brickell

Alaskan halibut, PEI mussels, Kumamoto oysters from Washington.
The bounty of the sea. All of it yours for the taking at Oceanaire, a polished seafood joint in Brickell.
If you've spent time in Massachusetts or summered in Maine, you'll recognize the feel. it's the kind of über-sourced fish house that a die-hard New Englander (yes, I am one) can appreciate.
Walking in, you’ll immediately be hit with the clean, fresh scent of oceanic goodness mingled with mustard sauce and key lime. Breathe it in. Then, sink into one of the leather booths circling the room—or grab a table near the bar, which will be buzzing during happy hour. And here's what you'll find: flawless seafood and a bustling atmosphere.
Tempura lobster lollipops.
A glistening raw bar sums up the spot's ample charms: oysters from the Pacific Northwest, lobsters from Maine, lump crab and line-caught fish hauled in daily from local fishermen. (It's like an underwater cavalcade of stars.) And if you’re dining with landlubbers, there are also turf-ables like a 16 oz. bone-in ribeye and a hefty burger with caramelized onions and bacon.
Blackened grouper with pickled pineapples and sweet potatoe.
But Oceanaire isn't just a cathedral of crustaceans and power dinners, it's also a family-friendly spot that easily accommodated me and my underage entourage (ages 4 and 1 -- that's how I roll, yo). A platter of crudite with carrot sticks, celery and pickes hits the table as soon as you are seated -- the perfect thing to keep the little ones busy while you peruse the wine list and prepare for the bounty of the sea. And the matchstick fries, while not something the restaurant is famous for, were damn near perfect. And here's another secret: during lunch the Oceanaire offers a Miami Spice feel with the “Executive Lunch”, which includes a three-course meal for $22.
900 S Miami Ave Miami, FL 33130
(305) 372-8862