Miami Spice Kicks Off

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

My favorite summer activity is here! Dining indoors at the best Miami restaurants for discounted pricing. The event is an epicurean delight called MIAMI SPICE. From Homestead, to South Beach, to Aventura, restaurants of all scales participate in Miami Spice to showcase their signature dishes at mouth-watering prices.

Miami is known for New World Cuisine, a fusion of international flavors whether it's Asian and Cuban to Japanese and Peruvian or an elegant twist on Thai, Indian and Colombian dishes.  World-renowned chefs are often behind these creations.

The program runs two months, August and September. While considered the slow "tourist" season, the program was created to entice locals to rediscover the fabulous restaurants in their city. Now both locals and Floridians traveling as far as Jacksonville, and tourists who do their homework, plan their visit to Miami to take advantage of this foodie adventure. One can plan an entire week around this event.

This year there are two price sets: $19 and $23 for Lunch and $33 and $39 for Dinner before tax and tip. Keep in mind many of the restaurants do not offer Miami Spice on peak days such as Friday and Saturday. Be sure to check each restaurants schedule of offerings and menu.

Like any program there are the stellar offerings for decent portions and generous offerings across the menu to quite the opposite. Below are my recommendations and a list of ones to avoid to get your money's worth!

Now some restaurants offer more options and portions. Here are some of my favorites on the mainland, Key Biscayne and South Beach.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Start your tour in Coral Gables near the famed Miracle Mile. This modern, handsome, warm and inviting steakhouse offers adequate portions, flavorful meals, outstanding service and an additional twist--a Miami Spice wine menu--wine pairings for each course also at a discounted price. Fleming's raises the bar by offering four courses vs. the standard three course menu. A starting appetizer plus a salad, followed by an entree and finale dessert.  Non meat dishes such as tuna and seafood stew are also available. Click here to read my recent review.

Rusty Pelican
One of my favorites is this long-time icon on Key Biscayne with the best water view. Rusty Pelican also offers a representative sampling of the regular menu -- and that includes all price ranges. Rusty Pelican's five appetizer choices include many of the restaurant signatures, like empanadas of duck confit, foie gras, and goat cheese; sea bass ceviche; and sea bass/salmon croquetas. Main courses are shrimp, mussels, and little neck clams en papillote with lobster broth; sauteed local black sea bass with asparagus, basmati rice, and cinnamon broth; roasted organic chicken with sides; and braised Australian lamb shank with bacon-potato hash. The four desserts include key lime pie, mango cheesecake covered in milk chocolate, coconut panna cotta with passion fruit gelee and berries, or a café con leche/cookies-and-cream ice cream combo. ($23 lunch; $39 dinner. Not available for Saturday lunch or dinner).

Sea Bass ceviche

Many restaurants come and go over the years, but this one has lasted not just for its sex appeal but the food that drives it. The "Aprhodisiac Beauty Cuisine" offers choice of sea bass ceviche; crab/rock shrimp cakes; veal pelmeni (dumpling) with creamy truffle-harissa sauce and Paradise Farms pea shoots; and a "Love Apple", which is a layered Caprese salad with Laura Chenel goat cheese in place of mozzarella. For main course, diners can select a surf and turf of butter-poached Caribbean lobster and grilled Angus rib eye steak with yellow curry cream. Or a seafood hot pot, or chicken tikka, or salmon pinwheels with black Thai rice. Desserts are determined daily by the chef. That's a fine selection of dishes -- plus it might improve your looks and sex life. Not too shabby for $39 and they are open Friday and Saturday for dinner. No surprise this restaurant is located on South Beach.

Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi
Speaking of sex appeal, this one get points for entertainment value. Personally I don't eat sushi so I have not sampled this restaurant for portion size or creativity.  However, it's quite the buzz for spicing up the Miami Spice program with its' Naked Sushi. It's Miami, so your guess is probably spot on.  This food is served on a naked model. Click here for local news report. Kung Fu Kitchen & Sushi is located inside the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club.

(Lunch is $19 and Dinner $33; Open daily!)

Restaurants I would not recommend given their low-end or boring menu offerings or scaled down portions:

While Juvia is the most celebrated upscale hotel known for its setting (atop a parking garage) and trinity of food flavors French, Japanese and Peruvian (read my review),  the portions for Miami Spice are stingy.  Other Miami Vices to avoid: Makoto, J&G Grill, Palme d'Or.

Other restaurants to avoid for boring menu: Morton's Steak House, Mr. Chow,  Gibraltar, Trulucks Seafood, and Jaguar Ceviche.

Some of these are popular and Jaguar Ceviche is one of my favorites, but their Miami Spice menu  price is not much different than ordering a la carte. Let's hope they serve regular portions.

For a list of participating restaurants, CLICK HERE.

 Let us know  how you spiced it up by clicking below on "comment" and share your experience!

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