Back in Miami Beach, KLIMA is a culinary concept inspired by the gastronomy we find in Barcelona. The restaurant is a creation by veteran restaurateurs Pablo Fernández-Valdés and Yago Giner, who formerly were involved with Barcelona’s premier restaurant company, the Tragaluz Group. In Miami, they rely on the talents of the prolific executive chef, David “Rusti” Rustarazo, who—since it’s opening—has dazzled diners with a menu that combines the very best of local ingredients sourced from premium South Florida suppliers and cooking simple and well thought Catalonian-rooted dishes. Besides being able to find the best cheese and Iberian ham available in the USA, the menu offers fantastic raw bar options, a splendid salad of Fennel shavings with Burrata, Kalamata Olives, and Dried Tomatoes; Tuna Belly, Tomatoes and Spring Onions; and Salmorejo, a Catalonian version of the Andalusian Gazpacho, with a quail egg. My favorite entrees are the marvelously Jasper Oven Lamb Shoulder with a heavenly rich and creamy Potato Parmentier, and Black Cod preparations that change seasonally.
Chef Jonathan Lane heads the food and beverage at the superb Metropolitan by COMO Hotel and its Traymore Restaurant in Miami Beach. Casual, but serving food that is a few nods above anyone’s expectations, the Traymore is a class act and a great discovery. Chef Lane’s timeless menu features classic Florida seafood dishes, deftly prepared and using only fish, shellfish and crustaceans sourced from small-scale, reliable and sustainable fisheries in Florida and around the United States. Heartwarming and delicious is the Sweetcorn and Lobster Chowder; roasted garlic aioli dressed Caesar is complemented by the addition of crispy and creamy conch fritters, instead of boring croutons; and the Steamed Mussels with chorizo, scallions, and cilantro. The Crisp Fried Local Fish with Celeriac Remoulade might look like a plate of Fish & Chips sans the chips, in reality it’s the most sublime piece of fish I have ever had.
A few feet away from the Metropolitan by COMO is a The Continental, a fabulously kitsch eatery by big time Philadelphian restaurateur Steven Starr. The décor screams mid-century modern dining, and it is so inviting it’s hard just to eat and go. The menu—based on his original concept created 20 years ago—offers eclectic but familiar international dishes that can be shared or not. A “wow” dish is the Cheesesteak (a Philly specialty), Egg roll (this is the “ eclectic” part), served with cherry peppers, American cheese and an excellent sweet and spicy sriracha ketchup. Other menu offerings span from an American Backyard Burger, a Cuban Vaca Frita, to Puerto Rican-style Crispy Pork and Korean Fried Chicken with a spicy soy-garlic lacquer and pickles.
Ever since I can remember, during in my early visits to Miami from Venezuela—back in the 1960s—the one place that stands the test of time is the always-reliable The Forge Restaurant & Bar on 41st Street in Miami Beach. The original—a sophisticated restaurant & casino that opened in the 1930s—became a watering hole in the 1950th for the famous and infamous like Judy Garland, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, Arthurs Godfrey and Martha Ray. In 1968, international financier Alvin Malnik acquired The Forge, spending a couple of years transforming it into an opulent restaurant showcasing his vast collection of art and antiques. Celebrities kept pouring in as fast as awards, both from the culinary and wine world. The Wine Spectator named The Forge as #1 Steak in America and recognizes its wine list with their highest honor, the Grand Award and Best of Award of Excellence. Today, the accolades continue and food and wine has been updated as well as décor, thanks to Shareef Malnik, Alvin’s charismatic entrepreneur son. All meats, perfectly dry-aged can be accessorized with any of the Forge’s signature spice blends as well as compatible toppings like Seared Foie Gras & Black Truffle (Rossini), Garden Vegetable Chimichurri, Creamed Caramelized Onion with Blue Cheese, or may favorite Alaskan King Crab “Oscar”. Creativity doesn’t stop there. Yellowfin Tuna is prepared Wellington style, an original 19th-century beef tenderloin recipe encased with mushroom duxelles with foie gras, then wrapped in buttery puff pastry. Additional perks: Over 80 wines can be found by the glass, and Veuve Clicquot Champagne is specially priced at almost cost on certain nights.
Less than five years ago, an enthusiastic group of young entrepreneurs, known as the Pubbelly Boys, took over the Miami Beach neighborhood dining scene like a storm. Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro created something that no one ever thought of in Miami. With the opening of their first venture, Pubbelly, the group offered food that enticed people’s craving for simply prepared, real “ yummy” food, served in an unpretentious environment, a casualness that many new restaurants opening in Miami had missed. These guys are all about offering people a reality check and invite them to enjoy the foods they really crave. Next to Pubbelly is Pubbelly Sushi. Not your usual Sushi place, this is more like a Sushi gastro canteen. Pubbelly Sushi serves unexpected dishes like a Grilled Cheese Lobster Sandwich, an amazingly light but addictive Snow Crab Goma Soy Pepper, a sushi roll served with a slightly clarified noisette butter; Bigeye Tuna with Arroz Pegao rocotto cream; and Southern Fried Soft Shell Crab, as a “snack”.
At Pubbelly, Berkshire Pork Cheeks with Pumpkin Pie Gnudi and pepita brown butter are a culinary triumph, and for those not faint at heart, Veal Brains Meuniere with Blue Crab tartar sauce are a revelation. But don’t be scared if my favorites are out of the ordinary delights, the Pastrami & Sauerkraut dumplings and the Bay Scallops “Bourguignon” with garlic shiso butter can make up for any odd but worth venturing dishes from a menu that offers over 60 items that merit your undivided attention.
Ok, enough with Miami Beach, lets got to Coral Gables…. ■