Thursday, May 21, 2009

Miami Restaurant Reviews, May 2009

All right, so we have just accomplished the monumental task of eating at as many Miami restaurants as possible, so that I could bring back the most updated information for those of you who are planning a trip to the Sunshine State in the near future. A big thank you goes out to Debbie Zemlinsky and Blima & Jason Cohen for being great company!!
The restaurants are listed in no particular order based on the days we visited them. Please note that all restaurants are Kosher, however, if you wish to be certain, you may want to contact each establishment directly to verify which particular hechsher they hold. NOTE: Many of the restaurants automatically add on gratuity regardless of how many people are in your party. Unless you want to give a 36% or more tip (which you may if the service was unbelievably amazing), make sure that you check you bill.
Cafe Vert - 9490 Harding Ave, Surfside (dairy)
As we were staying in Bal Harbour, our No. 1 choice for breakfast was Cafe Vert. I have written about them in a previous post and am still very much in love with their crepes and omelets. Although there are several other places that offer breakfast fare in Miami, Cafe Vert offers that European vacation feel, which we love. We enjoyed to meals there over the duration of our stay and I have nothing but rave reviews for their cheese, mushroom and onion crepes, their feta and spinach omelets, Greek salad, soups and chocolate crepes. There is a large selection of other items, including fresh quiches and croissants. Currently Cafe Vert is under OK supervision so if you try to find them on, they will not be there. 
Harbour Grill - 9415 Harding Ave, Surfside (meat/sushi)
We did not dine inside the restaurants, but got 2 sushi rolls and Edamame for carry out. The restaurants is a mix of Israeli and American cuisine and has a sushi bar. The sushi was quite good although not on the cheap side. They also do Shabbos catering, however, you would need to provide at least a 24 hour notice and have a minimum of 4 people.
Weber Cafe - 3565 NE 207th St # A11, Miami (dairy)
Located at the Waterways in Aventura (at the same plaza as China Bistro), Weber Cafe is a cute place for a lunch. We set outside and ordered a paper thin pizza, which was great - very similar to The Flat offered at Malibu in Chicago. We also got smoked salmon paninis and an avocado salad all of which were quite good but not out of this world. The waitress was very attentive, which was nice because during my December trip I noticed the level of customer service dropping, hence no visit to China Bistro this time. Weber is also great to visit with kids because it's located right across from an ice cream shop, which has kiddie rides right outside of it, adding to the experience.
Prime Sushi - 726 W 41st St, Miami Beach (dairy / sushi)
Oh my, oh my. What can I say about Prime Sushi? This was my second visit, and I love it more and more. First of all, it's about the only place to get a creme brulee, which is actually awesome! But in addition to that their sushi rolls, appetizers and pizza are UNREAL (ok fine, maybe they are real, but they are really very good). We tried the fake scallops, edamame, and another appetizer, which I cannot recall now, which were all great. After that we got a pasta with Alfredo sauce, sweet potatoes and some secret ingredients and it was delicious:) I don't know if I would get it for one person, but it was definitely something that's great to share. All of the above was followed by a selection of sushi rolls, and I tell you, you cannot go wrong with any of the sushi rolls because they are all really really good! All of the sushi was capped off by the yummy creme brulee, and I can guarantee a repeat visit!!
Van Dyke Cafe - 846 Lincoln Rd, Miami (drinks only)
For those of you looking for an extra activity on an evening without kids, I strongly recommend the Van Dyke Cafe. Located in the middle of Lincoln Road in South Beach, this restaurant/cafe boasts indoor and outdoor seating and hosts a variety of live musicians on a regular basis. We visited it on a Saturday night and were fortunate enough to hear Palo! who played a mix of Afro-Cuban, Funk and Jazz music - SO FUN! They have a large outdoor seating area right on Lincoln Road, where you can have a drink and people-watch. The art work inside the restaurants is also note-worthy - great murals depicting famous paintings decorate the walls and the interior is quite romantic. A great place to visit on your own or with a larger group.
Lofty Latte - 534 W 41st St, Miami Beach (dairy)
On the way to Lincoln Road on Sunday morning, we made a stop at Lofty Latte for a quick breakfast. The place is cute, great soft-serve ice cream!! I tried a Bissaleh, which was a flaky pretzel shaped dough filled with cheese and spinach (you can get other fillings as well). It was pretty darn good! We also tried their mini pancakes, which proved to be an ideal kid meal, an omelet and a Caesar salad. The only thing I was truly unhappy about was my iced coffee, but who complains about iced coffee - it's pretty difficult to dissolve sugar in ice cold coffee I suppose:) The cafe is definitely child friendly as are most of the kosher restaurants in Miami and they do have free WI-FI. This was one of the places where we were surprised by automatic gratuity, it was kind of odd for a breakfast joint, but I guess it's the breakfast joints that barely get any tips.  Overall, it was a pleasant experience, but as I mentioned earlier, I will always have a soft spot for Cafe Vert:)
Thai Treat - 2176 NE 123rd St., North Miami (Meat/Thai/Indian/Sushi)
Now we get to the good part! My dream has finally come true and for the first time in years I had some Indian food! Indian food! I Love Indian Food! This trip was the first time we visited Thai Treat because we had previously heard that it wasn't super great, but this time, when I heard that they started serving Indian food, I decided that no matter what, I have to make it there. Let me tell you, it was so so worth it. Although not very cheap, the food was amazing! We made a mistake though by order miso soup off the Thai menu because I had a craving for it, but the soup really wasn't very good. I am totally sticking to Indian next time. We ordered a vegetable samosa appetizer, followed by Tandoori chicken and AbouGhobi, which is a vegetarian dish of potatoes and cauliflower. All the items were definitely above my expectations, the foods were served in authentic Indian dishes and if not for the Thai decor, which has not been updated since the restaurant made the Indian addition, I would have honestly thought that we are somewhere on Devon Avenue in the middle of the Indian community. After the meal we resolved to come back again before we go home, and come back we did! Once again we had the Samosa appetizer followed by Beef Madras with Basmati Rice. Mike decided to be adventurous and create a new experience for the sense so he also ordered some Thai Spring Rolls and a Pad See Ew with beef. My sister decided to add a sushi roll to the mixture so we walked out of Thai Treat pretty confused but happy! NOTE: Depending on where you are coming from, you may need to pay a toll to get to this restarant. Make sure you have cash on hand.
Yotvata - 18450 W Dixie Hwy, Miami (dairy)
This place reminded me of DaNali's in Chicago, nothing spectacular inside, nothing special to eat. We had a Caesar Salad and a Grilled Salmon Wrap. I think Blima tried a Sweet Potato soup that was pretty good and we also ordered the Stuffed Mushrooms. I will say that the Stuffed Mushrooms at DaNali's are in fact better, which is pretty sad considering that's about the only thing there that's decent. If you happen to be in the area of Aventura mall, then I suppose it makes sense to try this place, but then again, you can always go to the Waterways and have a better scenery.
Rare - 468 W 41st St, Miami Beach (meat)
A perfect place for a date or a group, Rare boasts a modern and tasteful decor, excellent service and a great piece of steak! All I have to say is that the people from Shallot's need to go and take some lessons on how to make a restaurant look attractive. Everything there, from the chandeliers to the house music is well thought out with the patron in mind. Our waitress was extremely attentive and ready to give suggestions, which was very helpful. Mike got an aged Rib Eye, which was excellent and I went with a Chicken Marsala (yes, I know, it was kind of dumb, but I was still kind of stuffed from lunch trying to do a community service here and eat at as many places as I can so that I could tell everyone about it later). We started out the meal with Mushroom Soup and Panzanella with heirloom tomatoes, homemade croutons and fresh basil, which was out of this world. The chicken was quite excellent too even though I am not a huge fan of white meat, I have to say that it was well prepared and juicy. The only thing that was not great was a side order of cream spinach that just tasted too Parve:) The steak was definitely worth the trip! They also have a large wine selection, which adds to the experience. We did not get dessert as we were pretty filled from the meal and were running late to the movie theater for "Angels and Demons". FYI, the Lincoln Road movie theater is not even ten minutes away.
La Parisienne - 1166 96th St, Bay Harbor Isles (dairy)
We made a quick stop at this bakery as it was right next door to the Pediatrician's office whom we had to visit when Eitan developed an unexplained 24 hour fever. By the way, Dr. Steven Segal is AMAZING, I highly recommend him if you have a need for a pediatrician. You can usually get in either the same day or the next day, the staff is extremely attentive and go above and beyond their call of duty. The doctor takes the time to explain everything to you, which I found very comforting. And no, we didn't get the swine flu, which he said is pretty unlikely and is totally overblown by the media. Anyway, we stopped at La Parisienne and had some coffee, fruit and croissants. I have seen some negative reviews online about this place, but honestly, I don't have anything bad to say about it. I love the fact that they had mini croissants, which were perfect for Eitan's small hands and that he really enjoyed. The fruit was very fresh as was the coffee. The place has a charming decor and we had no problems with service. I don't know that I would necessarily make a special trip to this place, but if you happen to be in the Bal Harbour/Surfside area, it's an option.
Cafe Emunah - 3558 N Ocean Blvd, Fort Lauderdale (dairy/fish/sushi)
If you are looking for a unique dining experience and happen to be in the Fort Lauderdale area, check out Cafe Emunah. Located about 15 minutes away from Fort Lauderdale airport, this venue proved to be the perfect ending to a great vacation. Founded by a Lubavitch Rabbi and giving off a Kabbalistic/Holistic vibe, this place is both a restaurant and tearoom. The interior is very zen, with white walls, minimalistic furniture and natural light. The menu boasts a wide selection of regular and seasonal items bearing creative names, such as Inspired Miso Soup or Peaceful Earth Burger, Cafe Emunah has achieved what so many kosher restaurants cannot - an attractive dining venue for EVERYONE. The Miso Soup was actually unbelievable as was the Chilean Sea Bass. Mike tried the Pasta, which was delicious. We also tried the spring rolls and the artichoke appetizer all of which were delightful. All of the menu items are organic and healthy. If you are not very hungry or have to wait for a table, Cafe Emunah has a lounge where you can relax and read - yes, they actually have books there. Honestly, this place was a truly unique experience and I would love a second serving:)
I hope that this was helpful to those of you planning a trip to Miami in the near future. If you are looking for kosher culinary innovation in conjunction with a good beach, Miami is definitely the place to be. Perhaps one of these days we will make it out to New York or Los Angeles - will keep you posted:)

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