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

Categories: Review, The Critic

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

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

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

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

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

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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The Grudging of Miami Spice 2014, Part Three

Photo by David Cabrera
Where are the real-deal Thai choices, Khong?
For restaurants, Miami Spice's two months of dining deals can be a raging hassle. With $23 for lunch menus and $39 for dinner, there's the possibility of lower check averages for servers. Plus there's extra ordering and menu planning for chefs and kitchen managers and a whole new slew of dishes for sweat-drenched line cooks to master.

We feel your pain; we really do. Still, Spice is a time to let your restaurant shine. Take it as an opportunity to break out of the daily grind. It's a chance to gain a new clientele that otherwise might not see value in your usual offerings.

See also: The Great of Miami Spice 2014, Part Two

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"A Little Forgotten": On 79th Street, New Restaurants Pave a Better Way Forward

Categories: Review, The Critic

Clams and chorizo at Tap 79.
By the time Brazil and Croatia kicked off the World Cup, Boteco was bursting at the seams. Sweaty bodies in yellow and green jerseys were squeezed together inside the flag-draped Brazilian restaurant that thumped with samba. More were crammed on the covered patio, which opens onto Miami's sometimes-slummy NE 79th Street.

See also: Boteco: Where Brazil Fans Get Turnt Up for the World Cup

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The Great of Miami Spice 2014, Part Two

Courtesy of the Genuine Hospitality Group
Don't miss Michael Schwartz's most refined fare this spice.
Miami Spice's can't miss menus have two things in common: value and creativity. They offer interesting ingredients in combinations that make you eager to learn more and share them with friends. They're also a steal.

You're looking for good range of selections at restaurants where a single course can run the same as an entire spice menu. The more the restaurant can stretch $23 at lunch and $39 at dinner, the more they deserve your attention and support.

See also: The Good of Miami Spice 2014, Part One

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The Good of Miami Spice 2014, Part One

Courtesy of Milos
Get your fill of Mediterranean fish at Milos.
Another steamy summer, another Miami Spice. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is back with the oft-beloved, sometimes maligned dining deals that help fill restaurants during the slow summer months and give less well-to-do diners a way to eat in the city's most lavish spots at a fraction of the price.

Things are bit different this year. Gone is the dual-tiered system that didn't insult any restaurant, but slotted some into a less costly "fine dining" group and others into a higher priced "luxury dining" category. This year lunch is a flat $23 and dinner $39. One chef says this will help cover restaurants' food costs a bit, which hopefully will translate into better menus.

See also: MC Kitchen Launches Bar Menu: Shandys, Calzones, and Light Bites

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