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Five Days in Miami Beach: Culinary Highlights and Related Thoughts

Updated: Feb 12

By Billa

Day 1:

Dinner at Joliet

This is a Cajun-inspired seafood bistro. We’ve been here before, a few years ago for lunch. It is where I first tasted avocado toast. At the time, I thought that avocado toast originated in Miami. Turns out, no. The origin is debated; but it’s either Mexico or Australia. Surprising, since it seems to be on most Miami Beach menus.

The meal’s highlight at Joliet was a boozy, chocolaty bread pudding, broiled in a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a caramel drizzle on top.

Day 2:

Lunch at the Perez Art Museum

The Perez museum’s sculpture garden features 52 sculptures of cats and dogs created by 50 different artists. Above, a Miami street cat and a Bassett Hound.

I remember when museum dining was an oxymoron, when the best you could hope for when visiting a museum was a lunch sandwich that was wrapped in waxed paper and probably prepared many hours earlier. These days, however, museums have restaurants that compete for attention with the art.

At the Perez’s Verde restaurant, I ordered a salmon avocado tartare. It was the perfect light lunch. Every bite contained zingy citrus-marinated salmon and avocado, the pop of salmon roe, and the crunch of fingerling potato chips.

Dinner at Macchialina

This is an Italian restaurant purported to have the best pasta in the city of Miami Beach. We had been here four or five years ago when the restaurant was not yet well-known. At the time, it was just my husband Martin and me and another couple who were dining there. We loved our pasta entrees. Since then, word has gotten out and, on this night, every table, inside and outside, was taken.

When you find a dish that is exceptionally good, it’s hard to decide when you return to the restaurant whether to order the same dish or to try something new. The first time dining here I had pasta with abalone mushrooms. When I saw that tagliolini ai funghi was still on the menu, I couldn’t resist. I wanted to have the same wonderful pasta. And it was as good, as creamy and luscious as I’d remembered it.

We were, however, seated inside and the noise level was such that you had to shout to converse with the person at your table. It was also so dark, you could barely see the food. If you like a lively scene that’s noisy and dark with wonderful food, you’d enjoy Macchialina.

Day 3:

Lunch at Essentia

This is a restaurant at the hotel where we were staying (The Palms). It was a chilly, windy day and I felt like having some warm soup. They had a corn and leek velouté with coconut milk. Spicy and smooth and garnished with roasted corn kernels, it was exactly what I was craving.

Dinner at Zaytinya

Zaytinya, which means olive oil in Turkish, is chef Jose Andreas’ restaurant serving Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese food.

Before we ordered, the busboy placed bread on the table. It was unlike any bread I’d ever had before. It was puffy, heavenly, and ethereal. It was served with a dipping sauce made of olive oil flavored with a Kalamata olive reduction.

There are no entrees on Zaytinya’s menu, only mezes, dishes that are meant to provide the backdrop for a social gathering. The chef recommends that each person order 2-3 mezes and share them with everyone at the table.

baba ganoush

smoked mushrooms
roasted cauliflower

seared salmon

sauteed shrimp

Martin and I ordered a total of 5: a smoky-flavored eggplant baba ganoush dip; roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, tahini sauce, and capers; smoked mushrooms with walnuts, dates, and labneh sauce; sautéed shrimp with mustard, shallots, dill, and lemon sauce; and seared salmon with urfa pepper, sweet peppers, and tahini sauce.

For dessert, there was galatopita, a semolina custard topped with crispy phyllo and almonds and a dollop of apple sorbet. It tasted different than any dessert I'd had before, a terrific combination of flavors, textures, and temperatures.

All in all, this meal was our favorite of the vacation. Not only was every dish exotically delicious, the whole meze concept, of sharing everything we chose to eat, made for a fun experience.

Day 4:

Lunch at the pool in The Palms hotel

It had been raining and cold for the first couple of days in Miami. When we finally got a chance to sit by the pool on a warm, sunny day, we didn’t want to get up and go for lunch. Luckily, there was pool service. I chose to have shrimp ceviche. It was tangy, redolent with citrus flavor, and quite good.

Day 5:

Dinner at Sweet Liberty

Sweet Liberty is a bar that is a regular on the list of the World's 50 Best Bars. It is known for having a world-class cocktail menu and spirits collection. Moreover, it serves some very creative American food to go along with those drinks. There was lobster mac and cheese on the menu and that's what I ordered. It was rich and creamy with tender bits of lobster throughout.

Overall, Miami Beach offers many wonderful dining venues with all kinds of cuisines. In fact, it was difficult to decide which restaurants to try as there are so many tantalizing possibilities. I hope we can return next year and experience some of the ones we missed.


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