Seven Seas Restaurant & Fish Market: Little Haiti's Hidden Gem

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Photo by Valeria Nekhim
Pan roasted tilapia at Seven Seas Restaurant
Don't let its proximity to the Design District fool you -- Seven Seas Restaurant & Fish Market is all about the food. More specific, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it gem in Little Haiti features inexpensive and expertly prepared Dominican and American dishes.

Owner Nicholas Paulino and his wife, Ana, are originally from San Francisco de Macorís in the Dominican Republic but moved to New York more than 25 years ago to be near family. With no formal training (unless you count a culinary video course and his mother's teachings), Paulino landed a chef's job at Joe Allen on West 46th Street. He then transferred to its Miami Beach location, where he worked for 16 years until it shuttered in 2011.

See also: Doral Japanese-Peruvian Gem Tira.D.Toss. Hides in Plain Sight

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Loba in MiMo Draws a Pack of Admirers

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Loba owner Jessica Sanchez and the restaurant's popular goat cheese balls
Bathroom talk is usually off-limits during meals, but at Loba, a 3-month-old restaurant in MiMo, the lavatory is a conversation piece. That's because apart from the complimentary dental floss (greatly appreciated), the wallpaper is composed of pages torn from the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are. It's no coincidence that the protagonist, Max, dresses up in a wolf costume and that Loba translates to "she-wolf."

Literary accents can be seen (and read) all over the place at Loba because of owner Jessica Sanchez's love of reading and her limited decorating budget. The 28-year-old former financial analyst also wanted to liven up the mood and create a playful atmosphere at this small place across the street from the newly remodeled Vagabond Hotel. For instance, a vegetarian entrée featuring farro piccolo, succotash, radishes, squash blossoms, eggs, and zucchini is cleverly called "Orwell's Dystopia." And checks are delivered inside novels. (On several occasions customers have coincidentally received their bills in their favorite books, says Sanchez, adding a Loba library is in the pipeline.)

See also: Photos from Loba in MiMo

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Michelin Guide Miami: Who Needs It?

Categories: The Critic

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Wikimedia Commons/Trou
A 1929 Michelin Guide.
Lists are a big deal. Hate them or love them, they're successful enough that corporate overlords at media companies of all stripes have handed down firm marching orders calling for lists with haste, creativity, and military-like regularity.

But when the vaunted Michelin Guide for New York City -- one of the food world's ultimate lists -- was released earlier this week, the reminder that Miami has never had any such guide of its own was a happy one.


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Miami Gastropubs Risk Steering the Trend the Wrong Way

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Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Inside southwestern Miami's Finka Table & Tap.
Miami today is replete with truffle oil fries, Brussels sprouts studded with pork bits, and fried-egg-crowned burgers. From the beach to the suburbs, from north to south, scores of restaurants all serve the same predictably heavy fare under the gastropub banner.

The concept was borne of England's pub culture. Chefs with haute cuisine pedigrees made food as much a priority as drink, and started serving upmarket fare in unpretentious settings. A slow collection of gastropubs began shaping up in America starting in the 1990s and the trend seemed to mushroom when April Bloomfield opened the Spotted Pig in New York City in 2004. It rooted in Miami, one could argue, in 2010 when three guys opened a pork-heavy place called Pubbelly in Miami Beach's then-forgettable Sunset Harbour neighborhood.

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Basil Park: Tim Andriola's Long-Awaited Follow-Up Will Change How You Eat

Categories: Review, The Critic

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billwisserphoto.com
Tim Andriola, Basil Park's rotisserie chicken.
Things aren't what they seem at Basil Park, the airy 4-month-old bistro in Sunny Isles Beach. A dollop of sour cream atop some tacos has no dairy. It's made from cashews soaked overnight in water, puréed with yeast and live bacteria, and then fermented for 12 hours to create a tangy, rich blend.

The Parmesan sprinkled over crisp emerald kale chips is also cashew-based. The nuts are pulverized and then mixed with nutritional yeast to mimic the piquant cheese. A dash of sea salt finishes the disguise.

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Brickell's Bistro BE Brings Cold-Weather Comfort to a Hot Neighborhood

Categories: Review, The Critic

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billwisserphoto.com
Rabbit stew at Bistro BE; Barman Maxwell Parise. View our full slide show of Bistro BE here.
The rust-hued gravy enveloping tender, slightly gamey braised rabbit is a textbook winter dish. The salty bacon matchsticks and tangy, sweet prunes are intensely satisfying, especially paired with a Belgian tripel ale so deeply colored that sunlight doesn't pass through. But on a Miami summer night, as the thermometer hovers above 90 degrees, eating a bowl of stew this rich with a pair of beer-can-size potato croquettes is overpowering.

See also: Photos from Bistro BE in Brickell

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Finka Table & Tap Takes Bold Flavors to Miami's Hinterland

Categories: Review, The Critic

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billwisserphoto.com
Finka owner Eileen Andrade, Cuban bibimbap.
Far beyond Miami International Airport and that tangle of Dolphin Expressway construction traffic, a rising stretch of asphalt threatens to launch you into the sawgrass abyss. Only it doesn't. The road narrows and curves south, spitting you onto SW 137th Avenue and into a maze of low-slung auburn stucco houses and jam-packed strip malls.

Head west on Coral Way and you'll arrive at a bank and a pharmacy. There, in the corner of the parking lot, stands a rust-colored brick-and-wrought-iron building with the faint twinkle of Edison light bulbs crisscrossing a glassed-in patio.

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L'echon, the Pubbelly Team's French Brasserie, Is a Glimpse of What's to Come

Categories: Review, The Critic

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Raie à la Grenobloise (skate wing) at L'echon Brasserie. View the full slideshow of photos from L'echon Brasserie.
While navigating Miami Beach's treacherous construction traffic, you zip past the Hilton Cabana. Damn! You circle the block for another pass. The red pin on your cell phone's map must be out of place. It's doesn't seem possible that a hip restaurant sits amid the dozens of hotels on Mid-Beach's chopped-up Collins Avenue. As you turn the corner and creep up the street a second time, you see it. There, on the hotel's white-stucco façade, is a cartoonish pig-head logo bathed in a halo of blood-red light.

See also: Photos of L'echon Brasserie at the Hilton Cabana in Miami Beach

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"They Just Didn't Sell:" Richard Hales' Struggle to Keep Blackbrick an Authentic Chinese Eatery

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Courtesy of Richard Hales
Miami, Y U no like stir-fried tripe?
There's little doubt Miami's dining ecosystem has expanded and improved by light years in only a decade or two. Chef-driven concepts and smartly sourced ingredients aren't as pervasive as many would like, but they're here and thriving.

However, gastropubs continue reproducing like rabbits. Miami diners still annoyingly cling to lowest-common-denominator dishes -- salt, fat, and starch bombs -- that people ogle and share on social media.

See also: Blackbrick Named One of Bon Appetit's Top 50 New Restaurants

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At Oolite, Kris Wessel Takes Florida's Culinary Influences on a Healthful, Delectable Jaunt

Categories: Review, The Critic

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billwisserphoto.com
Kris Wessel's barbecue shrimp at Oolite.
A half-dozen fat, sweet barbecued shrimp arrive bathed in a fragrant, rust-colored sauce.

One bite reveals that their tingling spice is cut by the rich smack of butter as well as lemon and floral rosemary. The plump crustaceans are perfectly cooked, with crisp exteriors and tender, briny interiors. They come with a few triangles of crumbly roti, an Indian flatbread.
You wouldn't know it, but the dish is gluten-free. Chef Kris Wessel's addictive barbecue sauce, which doesn't contain Worcestershire sauce, is often made with soy. And the roti is prepared with chickpea flour instead of traditional whole wheat.

See also: Oolite's Backyard Mango Cocktail and Wessel's BBQ Shrimp: The Perfect Summer Meal


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