Tag Archives: Japanese cuisine

Miami's Best Brunches

You can’t beat brunch.  A great brunch is the most sumptuous meal of the week and it’s the best excuse to have all of your favorite foods at one time.

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, just think how important brunch must be!

Looking to plan your Sunday brunch?  Here are my favorite spots in Miami:

Acqua at Four Seasons Miami
An elegant setting to enjoy brunch favorites with a Mediterranean flair.  With extensive cheese, carving, Asian food stations and more, there’s truly something for any taste.  If you’re not in the mood for a Mimosa or Bloody Mary get a mojito — all are unlimited.  Request a table by the window for nice views of Brickell and the bay.
$70 per person.  Located in the Four Seasons Miami, 1435 Brickell Avenue, Brickell. (305) 381-3190

Area 31
Chef John Critchley’s brunch is a gourmet buffet featuring caviar, paté, cold cuts and cooked dishes like roast chicken breast and steak frites.  While sipping on unlimited Mimosas or Bellinis you can enjoy live music.
$50 per person.  Located in the EPIC Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Downtown Miami.  (305) 424-5234

Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, Balans has it all.  You can’t go wrong with one of the four kinds of eggs benedict or the enormous breakfast burrito, though you may be tempted by the lobster club wrap or the chili beef salad.  The à la carte menu ranges from around $8 to $15.  To get your day started there’s a full menu of cocktails for $11 each.  Just be sure to arrive early otherwise you could have a long wait (especially at the Miami Beach location).
Both Saturday & Sunday.  Two locations: 901 South Miami Avenue, Brickell and 1022 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach.  (305) 534-9191

Biltmore Hotel
It doesn’t get any more lavish than Sunday Champagne brunch at the Biltmore Hotel.  The array of selections include carving, omelet, sushi and tapas stations, plus a wall of desserts.
$75 per person.  Located in Fontana Restaurant at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables.  (305) 913-3202

Bizcaya at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove
The Ritz-Carlton always gets brunch right.  Here you’ll enjoy all the traditional favorites plus made-to-order sushi and sashimi and grilled-to-order fresh fish — all in a gorgeous setting that includes a cascading waterfall.  And of course, you’ll be able to take in the view with free-flowing Champagne.
$52 per person, $25 for kids 4 to 12 years old.  Located in the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove, 3300 Southwest 27th Avenue, Coconut Grove.  (305) 644-4680

Cioppino at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
A buffet so big you’ll be full just looking at it.  Go easy on the pasta, salads and grilled meats so you can save room for caviar (three different types), raw oysters and sushi.  Of course there are unlimited Bloody Marys and Champagne cocktails (Mimosas, Bellinis and a few more), and an entire room just for dessert.
$72 for adults, $36 for children under 12.  Located in the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne, 455 Grand Bay Drive, Key Biscayne.  (305) 365-4286

The à la carte menu features a variety of frittatas and egg dishes that start at $12.  Or try the buttermilk pancakes that are topped with caramelized apples and spiced candied walnuts.  Plus you get to enjoy complimentary Mimosas or Bloody Marys with your meal.  Bonus: brunch gets you free entrance to Club 50’s Sunday Refresher party where you can groove to a live DJ and enjoy light bites until 5pm (it’s normally $30).
Located in the Viceroy Hotel, 485 Brickell Avenue, Brickell. (305) 503-0373

Rusty Pelican
Go for the great view of downtown and Brickell, stay for the enormous fresh seafood spread.  If you’re not in the mood for peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters or steamed crab, there’s always the assortment of cold salads and ham or beef at the carving station.  Enjoy the view with unlimited Champagne, Mimosas or orange juice.
$33.95 per person, $13.95 for kids 5 to 10 years old, under 5 free.  3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne.  (305) 361-3818

The Setai
Craving Asian cuisine?  Check out Sunday brunch at the Setai.  In addition to eggs, pancakes and traditional brunch breads, there’s a wide assortment of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian dishes.
$67 per person, $34 for kids 5 to 12 years old.  2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.  (305) 520-6400

Escape the craziness of South Beach at this cozy brunch.  The buffet is set up on the restaurant’s garden patio and features a carving station, pasta, fresh local fish, breakfast favorites like waffles and pancakes and an elaborate display of homemade desserts.
$29 per person which includes juice and coffee.  210 23rd Street, Miami Beach.  (305) 672-0778

Tre Italian Bistro
A great value and a convenient spot for people who live in downtown.  A la carte items are $12 and come with a complimentary Mimosa, Bloody Mary, sangria, orange juice or cappuccino (each additional drink is $3).
270 East Flagler Street, Downtown Miami.  (305) 373-3303

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
It’s a bit of a drive from downtown and Miami Beach but it’s the best dim sum in the area.  A word of advice: don’t get too much off of the baked and fried items cart so you can load up on delicious steamed dumplings.  Dishes range between $3 and $7 so your bill can be as small or as big as your appetite.
Both Saturday & Sunday.  7991 Southwest 40th Street, Miami.  (305) 262-7576

8 oz Burger Bar
I could eat 8 oz’s juicy burgers any time of the day (my favorite is the Niman Ranch lamb), but they’re even better with Bloody Marys that you can customize at the Bloody Mary bar.  Unlimited Bloody Marys cost $20.
1080 Alton Road, Miami Beach.  (305) 397-8246

Have a favorite brunch spot that’s not on the list?  Send an email to tips@amateurgastronomer.com.

RA Sushi in South Miami Celebrates First Anniversary

Bring your appetite and your craziest hat to RA Sushi in South Miami this Thursday evening — the hip sushi lounge and restaurant will be celebrating its first anniversary with an Alice in Wonderland-themed party!

RA sushiThe “Mad Hatter’s Sake-Tea-Ni Party” will feature themed food and cocktails, flavored hookahs, dance beats by DJ Johnny The Boy and drag queen Daisy Deadpetals reigning as the Queen of Hearts.  There will also be a crazy hat contest with the winner taking home a $100 RA Sushi gift certificate.

RA sushiHead sushi chef Kenny Li and RA mixologists worked together to create a menu fit for the wacky celebration.  The “Eat Me” list includes the Wonderland Roll (crab mix, shrimp and cucumber topped with colorful crunchy tempura bits and sweet eel sauce; $7), Smokin’ Caterpillar Roll (freshwater eel, kani kama and cucumber topped with avocado and sweet eel sauce; $10), and the Cheshire Roll (crab mix, cucumber and shrimp tempura topped with seared tuna and avocado; $11).

The “Drink Me” list includes The White Rabbit (Ketel One Vodka, Hakutsuru Sake and Nigori Sake), Mad Hatter’s Long Island Iced Tea (vodka, gin, rum, tequila, Blue Curacao and sour mix), Blushing Alice (lemonade, Skyy Raspberry, raspberry liqueur and a splash of lemon-lime soda), Queen of Hearts Punch (cold sake, flavored liqueurs and tropical juices), and the Wonderland Mojito (white rum, blueberry puree, triple sec, lemon-lime soda and fresh blueberries), all available for $6.  There will also be complimentary iced tea.

Two dollars from the purchase of each roll or drink will be donated to The Wellness Community of Greater Miami.

The Mad Hatter’s Sake-Tea-Ni Party is Thursday, August 20th from 7pm to close at RA Sushi in South Miami.

Eos: A New Dawn for Old World Cuisine

You’d better visit Eos now because once word spreads about the great food you’ll need a reservation.

EosEos is the new Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from Chef Michael Psilakis (whose New York City restaurant Anthos is one of only two Greek restaurants in the world with a Michelin star), and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia.  It’s located on the 15th floor of the Viceroy hotel at the northern end of Brickell Avenue, a short trip over the bridge from downtown Miami.

EosThe word Eos means “new dawn” in Greek.  This idea is captured in both Psilakis’ modern take on his native cuisine and the restaurant’s bright mix of geometric shapes and eye-catching furniture.  At intimate tables for two you’ll feel like a king, sitting on the oversized grey chairs.

The menu at Eos is part Greek, part Mediterranean and part Japanese.  You order from it like you would order at a tapas bar.  From sashimi and salads to poultry and fish, everything is meant to be shared.  The friendly waitstaff are happy to guide your selections.

If you like sushi, you’ll find an array of fresh fish on the menu.  However, the portions are smaller and the fish is more expensive than most sushi restaurants, so you may want to skip it unless you’re craving raw fish.  I’d recommend trying the Beausoleil oyster ceviche or lamb tatare instead.

lobster and sea urchin risottoMy favorite dish on the menu is the lobster and sea urchin risotto.  It is just as rich and decadent as it sounds.  The creaminess of the risotto is enhanced by the melt-in-your-mouth texture and salty taste of the sea urchin.  There’s plenty of large chunks of lobster to share, even though you won’t want to.  There’s even caviar thrown in for good measure.  I could easily eat this risotto every night.

smoked octopusAnother must-taste dish is the smoked octopus.  It’s a dish I couldn’t get enough of during my trip to Greece two years ago.  Biting into Eos’ version transported me back to my favorite tiny cafe overlooking the dazzling blue-green Aegean Sea.

I also enjoyed the whole grilled Loup de Mer (seabass).  Though it looks basic in preparation, the fish is moist and flavorful.  Even if you don’t like having to work for your food, this dish is worth trying.  The seabass is cut into sections which makes it easier to get to the meat, and there are very few small bones.

A big disappointment was the crispy rabbit, which came out looking more like chicken fingers.  The meat was hidden under a thick and salty crust and was fried beyond recognition.  Even after I peeled off the crust the meat was dry and salty.  I kind of felt bad for the rabbit — the poor little guy deserves more respect than this preparation!

If you know you’ll be dining at Eos at least three days in advance and are feeling adventurous, call ahead to order from the “big party” section of the menu.  It’s modeled after traditional celebratory feasts held throughout the Mediterranean region.  The chef will prepare spring lamb, baby kid goat or suckling pig for your special dinner.

While Eos excels with food, it falls a little flat with drinks.  Many of the cocktails sound better than they taste.  The bright pink Pisco Campari Sour I ordered was too sweet to drink with the meal.  If you like rum I’d suggest ordering it neat or on the rocks instead of in the Eos Especial or the Viceroy Old Fashioned.  Though the wine list is a little limited, it does feature bottles that you won’t find at many other restaurants.

This month Eos is launching a Wine Dinner Series organized by the restaurant’s wine director, Sergio Caceres.  The first dinner on June 23rd will feature winemaker Peter Figge of Figge Cellars in Monterey County, California.  The dinner is from 7 to 9pm and costs $95 per person, including tax and gratuity.  To reserve a spot call 305-503-4400 ext 7151.

If you’re a fan of Greek sweets you’ll be disappointed by the lack of Greek desserts at Eos.  Sure there are tasty options like tiramisu or flan but you can find those at many other restaurants.  Even a basic baklava would be a welcome addition.

Still, all I need at Eos is the lobster and sea urchin risotto and the smoked octopus.  A warning to my future dining companions: order your own since I’m not sharing!

Eos at Viceroy Miami is located at 485 Brickell Avenue in Miami.

Dining at the Fontainebleau: Blade Sushi Bar

This article is part of a series on dining and nightlife at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

If you prefer Asian fare, there are a couple of dining options at the Fontainebleau.

blade sushi barBlade Sushi Bar is located on the ground floor of the Chateau.  You can access it from the pool area (where there’s also outdoor seating), or by walking down a staircase near the entrance to LIV.  The dimly lit lounge is a great spot to cozy up to a date or have drinks and a bite to eat with friends before heading to the nightclub.

Besides the seating at the bar and sushi bar, the tables are low to the ground (about knee-level when you’re sitting down), which can make eating sushi difficult.  You’ll have to do a lot of leaning over the table so you don’t drip soy sauce on your lap.

If you’re looking for a nice glass of sake, prepare to spend a lot.  The sake list is pretty limited and a single glass costs between $20 and $30.  I’d recommend sticking to standard cocktails.

Blade’s menu features upscale Japanese fare and sushi that’s caught daily.  It’s fairly more expensive than most sushi restaurants in Miami Beach so you may not want to go there on an empty stomach.

Whatever you do, stay away from the seared toro sashimi.  I ordered this and couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites.  I don’t know if the chef sliced the fish wrong or if it wasn’t actually toro, but I bit into the fish and it felt like I was biting into gristle.  I didn’t know it was possible for fish to have this kind of texture.  It was so unpleasant that it made me nauseated and I couldn’t eat any more of the dish.  Toro, the fatty part of the tuna, has a great texture that melts in your mouth if it’s fresh and of high quality.  If this dish can’t be prepared properly it shouldn’t be on the menu.

blade sushi barBlade does get bonus points for its cool menus, which automatically light up when you open them so you can actually read them in the dark.  It seems like a no-brainer idea that more dimly lit restaurants should use.

For upscale Chinese fare, Hakkasan will be opening in mid to late February.  It’s the U.S. debut of Alan Yau’s London restaurant and Britain’s only Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant.  I’m really looking forward to Hakkasan and have high hopes for the restaurant.  I had a delicious meal at Yau’s other restaurant in London, Yauatcha.  I highly recommend it if you’re visiting there.

For more information on Blade Sushi Bar click here.

For more information on Hakkasan click here.

We Want Wagamama!

Dear Wagamama: please bring more restaurants to the United States!

Since discovering this restaurant chain during a semester abroad in London I have been craving their delicious noodle dishes and patiently waiting for them to come to the U.S.

Wagamama is an Asian-inspired noodle bar with dishes that include dumplings, ramen noodle soup and stir-fried udon noodles. The first restaurant opened in London in 1992 with the idea “to combine great, fresh and nutritious food in an sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money.” While I was living in London, Wagamama quickly became my favorite place for a meal with friends, family visiting from the U.S., or even on my own.

Wagamama restaurants feature sleek and modern dining spaces that resemble high school cafeterias. Long wooden tables with benches fill the room, leaving little to no space between separate groups. Most of the restaurants are located below the street level entrance so there are no windows. The open kitchen shows a flurry of cooks stir-frying vegetables and stirring soup broth. There are no paper pads here – servers write down your order on wireless handheld devices that send it directly to the kitchen. The dishes come out quickly and as soon as they’re ready, so one person may get theirs before the rest of the group. If you’re thirsty, there is a variety of freshly squeezed juices to choose from. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced.

Currently there are more than 60 Wagamamas around the UK. There are many locations around the world including in Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey and the UAE. I always thought if Wagamama could travel to these far away places, why not to the United States? Wagamama’s recipe for good food served quickly surely would translate to success here. I know I’d certainly keep one near me in business!

The good news is Wagamama has finally arrived here! The first two restaurants opened in the Boston/Cambridge area in the spring and summer of 2007. I recently checked out the Harvard Square location and found the great dining experience wasn’t lost in the trip across the pond.

I started with the duck gyoza. The deep fried duck and leek dumplings are served with a spicy hoisin sauce. They’re crunchy and not too oily, with plenty of tender meat inside. For my main course, I ordered the dish I always ordered in London: yaki udon. Udon noodles are cooked on a hot, flat griddle with curry oil, along with chicken, egg, shrimp, bean sprouts, red and green peppers and shitake mushrooms. It’s garnished with spicy ground fish powder and pickled ginger. Each bite is a different combination of flavors: the spice of the curry oil, the saltiness of the shrimp, the woodsy taste of the mushrooms. It’s a huge portion that somehow, I’m always able to finish.

Wagamama is located at 57 JFK Street in Cambridge and in the Quincy Market building in Boston. Hopefully other U.S. locations will be coming soon!