The Eating House

804 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Coral Gables, FL 33134(305) 448-6524 eatinghousemiami.com

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After seeing this chef, Giorgio Rapicavoli, kick some serious assticosha on Chopped, I have been wanting to go to one of his restaurants so bad I could taste it. And now, I am happy to say that I finally got the chance to actually taste it.

Inside, the space is very casual and cozy, and by cozy I mean small, so it fills up fast. But the lunch crowd is much more manageable making it ideal for walk-ins, so if you can’t seem to squeeze in for dinner, do the day.

What isn’t small here are the portion sizes. Everything serves four. Not by description, but by reality in no uncertain terms. Which I found rather odd for such a tiny place to be serving up such massive mounds of grub.

Of said grub, we kicked things off with a plantain and pork belly soup, served with grilled challah. Now, I ain’t no challah back girl, but let me just say that this soup was so ridiculous, that I would gladly head back for another bowl, even if that required airfare. Two of my favorite things on earth in one bowl?! Are you kidding?! This is an Ultimate among Ultimates!

But to sustain such great heights would’ve been nearly impossible, and so it was. Sadly. Trickling down the steps to heaven you will find a very good side of Brussels sprouts, but even as delicious as they are, I have to say I’m starting to get BS fatigue, because they’re now on every friggin’ menu these days and after having just had better at both Estadio in DC and Bruno’s Pizza in NYC, I’d have to give this the slightest of yawns.

Also falling in the good-but-not-great column would be the pork belly sliders. Especially after that brilliant use of pork belly in the soup, the bar was so incredibly sky high that there was virtually no winning. Also, they only serve two sliders amidst a mountain of mediocre waffle fries which has me scratching my head as to the lack of judgment with a presentation that you’d come to expect from an Applebee’s, not a chef du cuisine.

And then there was the ceviche. Served in a lime and coconut milk marinade with sliced avocado, corn nuts and grapes. Perhaps the most interesting of the also-rans, but again, the sum just wasn’t as impressive as the uniqueness of its parts.

And finally, for dessert, we chickened out of the much touted “Flower Pot.” Apparently it’s like a layered parfait topped with crumbled chocolate to look like dirt, piled into a flower pot and topped with a sprig of mint (pictured). Instead, we opted in favor of the only slightly smaller dessert, the apple bread pudding. It was probably the best thing since the soup, and if you’re a bread pudding fan like me, than you’ll be happy. That said, I do kinda wish we had gone with the Flower Pot for novelty sake.  Oh well, that’s what next time is for.

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The Ultimate Foie Gras (Terrine)

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As much as I love foie gras in the seared form, that affection is significantly tempered when it comes to terrine. Not that there’s anything wrong with terrine per se, but when you have the seared to compare it with, it’s hard to get excited knowing you are only getting the runner up fruits of a goose’s torturous labor. That said, there are a few exceptions to the rule, because the Ultimates below taste like anything but settling…

The Inn at Pound Ridge – Pound Ridge, NY

As if foie gras wasn’t already enough of a treat as is, Jean-Georges took it upon himself to cross-breed it with crème brulée and thus I give you foie gras brulée. A terrine baked into a crust with a caramelized, candied top. It’s so damn good you’ll never want just plain ole terrine again. The only problem with it I can foresee some people having is deciding whether or not it’s more of a dessert than an appetizer- rich people problems are the worst.

The Bazaar – Los Angeles, CA & Miami, FL

It’s going to take you a minute or two to wrap your head around the presentation of this one, but after one bite of the foie gras cotton candy, you’ll take significantly less time wrapping your head around the fact that you want to place another order of it, stat! To elaborate, they take a tiny brick of terrine and hide it at the core of the cotton candy ball on a stick. The result is a fun, melt-in-your-mouth experience, as the cotton dissolves instantly, enveloping the savory pate in sweetness.

The French Laundry – Yountville, CA

This is the most traditional of The Ultimates, served as a straight up terrine from a local farm that exclusively deals with Thomas Keller, which means the geese are probably fed foie gras before they themselves are turned into it. But it’s actually not the terrine that’s the star here. And while the brioche toast they serve it with is divine, it’s not that either. Interestingly enough, it’s the salt. But not just any salt. A medley of salts sourced from all over the world, including one that dates back over 40 million years! Granted that could easily be a crock of shit that they spin to justify the obscene price tag, but Morton’s or not, I felt quite special scarfing down my foie gras with prehistoric seasoning.

Restaurant Michael Schwartz & Coffee Bar

1775 Collins Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 534-6300 raleighhotel.com

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The Raleigh Hotel is such a find in the heart of the deco district. Not as pricey as its neighbors and more low key, but sporting one of the best pools on Collins Avenue.

And while the restaurant may not be a destination unto itself like the headliners at so many other hotels, including its SBE Hotel siblings the SLS (The Bazaar) and The Redbury (Cleo), it still manages to serve up some pleasers.

Going by day part, they do quite well for breakfast. Either at the sit down tables outside by the pool or even at the grab and go Coffee Bar near the front. So if you’re aiming for a quick bite I definitely recommend the honey bran muffin and a glass of the freshly blended Rejuvenator. It’s carrot, ginger and apple and orange I believe. It’s also quite rejuvenating. After three of them I’m now in my twenties.

And as for the muffin, it has that perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness, a little on the sticky side, but moist as can be, speckled with juicy, plump raisins. On the downside, do not take the bait on the apple muffin. It is the Danny DeVito to the honey bran’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s a Twins reference, in case my pop culture illustration is going completely lost on you.

As for sit down options, the Greek yogurt and honey with granola is surprisingly good. Having recently been in Greece I can attest with some modicum of experience that this yogurt is the closest thing I’ve had in the states to the way it is in mother Greece.

The other breakfast pleaser was the brioche French toast with caramelized bananas. It’s a very tough dish to screw up in all fairness, but if there was one surefire way to do it, it’s not soaking the bread through and through. Well, I’m happy to report that there is no infraction here. Dish nailed.

As for lunch, I found the food to be a little weaker. The grilled fish tacos are simple and fresh, which is enough to make them worthy of ordering, but there was nothing inventive or memorable about them. I would say the same about the tuna sandwich, although it did need a little Dijon as a kick in the ass. The only out and out miss was the swordfish sandwich. A bit too dry and a lotta bit too blah. But all in all, solid pool food if you happen to be staying in the hotel, which is nice, not having to make a special trip just for lunch.

Never had dinner there, but considering how friggin’ awesome that octopus looks, maybe that’ll be an amendment to this post the next time I visit Miami.

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Macchialina

820 Alton Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 534-2124 macchialina.com

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We heard about this place from the waiter at Yardbird, who seemed so spot-on with his recommendations that we asked for some on other menus. Very emphatically he proclaimed that only one other restaurant in Miami that truly impressed him was Macchialina. So, without hesitation we booked a table.

But those hesitations we forewent on the front end, crept up with a vengeance the moment we arrived. The location is in the middle of nowhere and the décor doesn’t help much in terms of making up for that. In fact, the setting was so uninspired we opted to sit outside, which is right on the sidewalk of a busy road filled with buses and fire engines. Now, I realize how hypocritical this is, being that I come from New York City where this is the norm, but in Miami it just seems worse.

Once the food came our hesitations were abated for a spell, with dishes like their creamy polenta topped with sausage ragu. The polenta was stick to your ribs creamy, and the ragu was morta bene. But sadly they skimped on the ragu, throwing the dish off balance after the first few bites. Regardless it was still the best thing of the night.

After that came the grilled Octopus, which was also good, but needed something more as well. And that was the general theme here. Everything was missing that one extra element to make the dish truly great. For example, even the escarole salad needed more salt.

But the biggest infraction of the night came from the highly acclaimed short rib tallegio lasagna. Sounds unbelievable, right? In fact I think it was this dish and the bread pudding that sealed the deal on our changing reservations just to go here. Well, it saddens me to say it, but the legend far exceeds the lasagna. It is way too much of one note, in dire need of crushed red pepper to help liven things up. And with the added kick it is most certainly good, but “best lasagna ever” it ain’t.

And as for the other reason we came, the bread pudding, it was every bit as disappointing as the lasagna. Not only is it not the best bread pudding ever, I don’t think it would even crack my top 100. Hell, there are two places in Westchester, New York that would put this pudding’s head in the sand. The Cookery and Fortina– but here’s the kicker, not even those, as much as I love them, make my Ultimates list. That’s how far Maccialina’s bread pudding is from being worthy of its praise.

Suffice it to say that if you’re staying on the other side of the island, this place is most definitely not worth the trip. However, if it’s close by, you could most certainly do worse. Like at Yuca for example.

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Juvia

1111 Lincoln Rd. Miami Beach, FL 33139 •  (305) 763-8272juviamiami.com

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The setting is an absolute showstopper (pictured). Clean modern lines and glass. Half outdoor, half in. Feels like something Mies Van Der Rohe might design. But here’s the kicker, it’s located on the top floor of a parking garage. To be fair though, it’s the most architecturally stunning parking garage I think I’ve ever laid eyeballs on.

And don’t be fooled by its Lincoln address. I know most of the restaurants on that strip are touristy bile, but Juvia is truly fine dining at its finest, right down to the high-end crowd. Juvia isn’t just a looker though, this beauty has substance, easily living up to the price tag with surprisingly deft, unpretentious service and equally skilled, inventively crafted plates.

Being in a cocktail mood, we both opted for the Juvia lemonade, which was equal parts refreshing and inebriating. Our mood also seemed to be trained on small plates, so we tried quite a few starters, but no entrees.

First up was the only miss for me of the night, the salmon sashimi. Served a touch too cold and thus a touch too chewy. Should’ve been room temp and should’ve been much better than it was.

But wow was the make up sex good. The chocolate unagi was just as unique as it was delicious. And the local buratta was drop dead gorgeous. Quite yummy to boot, albeit a touch lacking in the salt department, but you can always add that yourself.

The short rib gyoza on the other hand, was lacking nothing. Wowza! This Ultimate is so good I almost want to eat the part of my brain that’s thinking about it right now.

For dessert, you’re bound to be swayed by the chocolate candy bars floating to the tables surrounding you, and sure it’s crazy rich, but it’s not as crazy amazing as it looks. In my not-so humble opinion, the tres leche is tres times better. In fact, it’s an Ultimate. Up there with the likes of Animal in LA.

Well done Juvia. You’re the best thing to happen to a parking garage since Seinfeld.

4 teeth

Yardbird

1600 Lenox Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 538-5220 runchickenrun.com

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This place makes me happy. Just one toe through the front door and I knew we were dancing. Great contemporary, rustic Southern décor. Awesome music, like Aretha Franklin’s “The Weight,” pumping out of the speakers. And when it came to service, textbook Southern hospitality.

Every slurp, sip, gulp and bite was a crowd-pleaser and judging from the menu, there’s more where that came from. Fortunately I live over 1000 miles away or I’d be getting my arteries bilged about every other week.

Served in mason jars, the cocktails are as potent and flavorful as they are irresistibly charming. I recommend both the Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade, if you want something more refreshing, or the Bloody Mary, if want something spicy… and packed with goodies (like okra, a pickled green bean, a cornichon stuffed olive and a crispy strip of bacon, because how could you not?).

As a starter we shared the fried green tomato BLT with pork belly (pictured), tomato jam and a homemade pimento cheese. It’s got a little something for everyone. The refreshing acidity of the tomatoes. The savory decadence of the pork. The spice of the jam and cheese. I highly recommend next to the kale salad.

The kale salad being my wife’s idea to be fair. It’s made with cheddar, apple, golden raisins, red onion and cornbread croutons. Definitely one to add to the Ultimate Salad list, I mean c’mon- corn bread croutons!

And I had the eggs benny. Two poached eggs served in a skillet, casserole style, along with a buttermilk biscuit crumble, cured bacon, and cheese grits I believe – just awesome!

Thankfully we were too full to take the waiter up on his suggestion for a maple glazed bacon donut, otherwise I think we’d still be trying to crawl out from under the table.

I’ll tell you what though, next time I’m in Miami, this place is at the top of my list. And that donut is going down… into my belly (to be read in a thick Scottish, Fat Bastard accent).

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A Fish Called Avalon

700 Ocean Dr. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 532-1727 afishcalledavalon.com

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After hearing such swooning reviews both online and from our concierge, I was so hopeful for a less touristy seafood alternative to Joe’s Stone Crab. Well, those hopes were quickly dashed as we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the abyss. Lit up like a mini Vegas, Ocean Avenue is a hedonistic block party filled with patrons of ill repute, pumping techno music out of every orifice.

Fortunately Avalon itself is the classiest establishment on the strip, but to be fair that’s not saying a whole lot. Not that I should be picking on the setting, because truth be told that was the least of my issues. And boy do I have issues- with the snail-like service alone.

But had the food actually have been worth it I would’ve happily endured the aforementioned. Sadly, none of it was. Well, the octopus withstanding. It was actually pretty solid. Beyond that, however, I’ve had better seafood in many a land-locked state. MUCH better. And this is WITH ordering the local catch and specialty of the house, the macadamia crusted flounder with spinach risotto. It’s not bad. But “not bad” isn’t exactly what one would call effusive praise.

That said, the shrimp scampi was bad. Lacking any sort of impression on the palate. Not with garlic or spice. And while I appreciate the attempt to put a twist on the classic by adding avocado, the shrimp were as indecipherably bland as the “saffron” rice next to them. I use quotes because there was no trace of said saffron to be found anywhere. Not in taste, nor color.

Finally came the Key lime pie and yet another indigenous disappointment. Again second-rate, and I’m sorry, but when a national chain like California Pizza Kitchen bests you at a dessert for which you are supposed to have home field advantage, I think it’s time to question keeping it on your dessert menu.

If you have reservations here, cancel them. Go to Makoto in Bal Harbor, or Juvia on Lincoln. Both of them are better than A Fish Called Skip It!

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Makoto

9700 Collins Ave. Bal Harbour, FL 33154 • (305) 864-8600 makoto-restaurant.com

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It’s rare for mall food to surprise and delight, but then again, it’s pretty rare for a mall to have the flagship restaurant of Morimoto’s former sous chef. Also, to be fair, we aren’t exactly talking about your Gap, Banana and J. Crew kind of mall. It’s more like Bottega Veneta, Moncler and Chanel. Which makes for some nice opulent people-watching.

But don’t get scared off by the price tag just yet, because Makoto is probably the most affordable thing in the place. And while the cost of the food is reasonable, the restaurant itself is priceless. Easily among the top three Japanese meals I’ve ever had.

Here’s why. Every single dish was presented and tasted like a work of art. The kobe carpaccio with jicama melted in your mouth. The ceviche with watermelon ice and wasabi peas was the most inventive ceviche I’ve ever laid lips on. Even the Japanzanella salad was the most interesting panzanella salad I’ve ever had, made with flash fried cubes of rice as the croutons.

And while it’s hard to say any one dish was my favorite, because everything was so tremendous, the short rib noodles were my favorite. Served with a healthy dose of raw red cabbage on top to give it crunch, the contrast of flavors and textures with the buttery soft meat and noodles was simply a stroke of genius. And speaking of strokes, if I keep eating this way I’m probably going to have one, so stay tuned for a few healthy reviews in the near future.

As for now, however, let’s talk about volcano cakes. Not necessarily an ultimate per se, but a damn fine showing. Filled with a layer of crème anglaise, because why not? And placed next to a dome of vanilla ice cream topped with wafer cookies sprinkles because regular sprinkles are obviously for philistines.

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Yuca

501 Lincoln Rd • Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 532-9822 • yuca.com

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Yuca is Yucko. And I find it egregious that a New York Magazine article actually recommend this tourist trap, deeming it great for people watching, or as I would more accurately describe it, rubber-necking, because it’s like a parade of fashion train wrecks marching by. So, for a minute let’s just indulge the entertainment value of the passersby and maybe that gets you to one knife, but once the novelty of watching cows strut past in fishnets and neon thongs you eventually turn your attention to the plate, and that’s when the seven car pile up really gets going.

For example, the habanero guacamole was overly pureed and under spicy, served with unsweetened plantain chips that tasted like balsa wood. Such a simple dish, yet they managed to fuck it up three times over.

Another simple dish, and tapas favorite, turned to trash were the bacon wrapped dates. So dry, the Sahara is suing for copyright infringement. If you want to try a nailed version of the same, go to Boqueria in New York.

Even the empanadas were emperfect. Once again, too dry and lacking any sort of complexity of flavor. In fact, the only thing we had that night worth chewing was the plantain crusted mahi mahi served with sweet plantain mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. Yet again the fish was dry, but the other flavors kept it interesting enough to actually eat.

Then, once again it was back to shitsville as the chocolate tres leche with homemade chocolate ice cream hit the table. It was so bad we left more than half of it stranded on the plate. And the other half I wish I could’ve given to a homeless person on the way back to the hotel, but that would’ve been too cruel.

1 tooth

Joe’s Stone Crab

11 Washington Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139 • (305) 673-0365joesstonecrab.com

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This is basically the seafood version of Morton’s. And while most people fawn over their stone crabs, which is obviously what the place is known for, considering it’s in the name, their black sesame crusted tuna is just about the best piece of tuna I have ever had in my life. So, if you’re not crazy on crab, fret not. Also, the key lime pie for dessert is a must. Service is strong and decor is fine, assuming you like the seafood version of Morton’s.

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