Tuesday 9 August 2016

Restaurant reviews: Miami Florida

We spent the first four nights of our honeymoon in Miami; I laughed when a few months before the wedding someone asked if I had already booked a hotel for the honeymoon and I told them I had already booked restaurants! That just goes to show how much I like forward planning (I’m really not spontaneous) – but also I was realistic enough to realise that if we wanted to eat in a particularly good restaurant we wouldn’t be able to just wander in off the street and get a table.
I thought about what kinds of restaurants we wanted to go to in Miami. I was keen to focus on the South Beach area where we were staying, and wanted ones that stood out in some way. I didn’t necessarily want high-end expensive restaurants and realised what I really wanted was to feel like we were really in Miami, so somewhere with a view of the beach or in a lively art deco area. The restaurants also had to fit my husband’s fussy eater tendencies. I found an internet article called “9 best restaurants with a view on South Beach” which was exactly what I needed! So I checked menus and used this to suggest to my husband-to-be where we ate.
We were too tired from travelling and the time difference on our first night, so ordered room service at the Fontainebleau hotel where we were staying, which I have reviewed separately.

And for our second night I’d booked Stripsteak, a high end restaurant inside the hotel that is often on lists of top restaurants in Miami. As well as steak, the restaurant is said to serve excellent seafood, but I wanted to try the steak.
We had a large comfortable booth and were greeted with real warmth by the staff. When I’d booked they had asked if it was a special occasion so I told them it was our honeymoon and they brought us over a glass of free Prosecco each, which was really nice.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a wagyu steak – I’ve had wagyu burgers – and we both opted for the 12oz Australian skirt steak, at $48 apiece. It was excellent steak but to be honest I wasn’t really aware I was eating wagyu or how it is supposed to taste different. A 12oz steak is a lot bigger than we would have at home but the portions are much bigger in America – 14oz or 16oz seems typical!
The sides were pretty substantial as well; my husband had parmesan truffle fries and I had the truffle mac and cheese, which I knew would be very filling and I had to leave half of it, which was a shame as it was so good!

I was absolutely stuffed at the end but my husband had been eyeing up the dessert menu and announced ‘there’s always room for dessert’. How wrong he was… he wanted the chocolate ganache cake ($14) and when it came we both gasped – I’ve never seen such a big slice of cake apart from when we ate at Gibson’s steakhouse in Chicago (a dessert that the people next to us ordered). The cake would have served 6 or even 8 people easily I think! My husband held his phone up next to it for a photo as a size comparison. They wrote ‘happy anniversary’ on the plate – I guess they’d forgotten it was our honeymoon we were celebrating. We only ate a fraction of the cake so they gave us the rest of it to go; luckily there was a fridge in our room so we were able to enjoy it again the next day!
 Smith & Wollensky
We also ate at Smith & Wollensky, a steakhouse located in South Pointe Park, at the tip of South Beach just across from the exclusive Fisher Island.

We were asked if we’d like to sit inside or outside, but the wait for an outside table would be at least an hour and we could see several people smoking outside (we are non-smokers) so opted to sit inside, and were given a table next to the window. We were slightly above street level – you have to go down a flight of steps to get to the street – which meant that the outside awning of the restaurant was obscuring part of the view which meant we couldn’t really see the sun set as I’d hoped. But I did pop outside a couple of times between courses to take photos and enjoy the view as the sun went down – and found five cats sitting just off to the side of the tables as well!

Even being inside, the view and the ambience was lovely and the service was excellent. And the food… well, the food was fantastic. We paid less than we had at Stripsteak – it was still expensive, but we didn’t order wagyu steaks – but we actually thought the food was better.

We skipped the starters, knowing that once again the smallest steaks would be huge (to us, anyway) and both had the 10 oz Black Angus filet mignon for $46 (about £35 at the time of writing but this was the day before the EU referendum vote and since then the pound has been in freefall!). It was easily one of the best steaks I’ve ever had; beautifully tender, cooked perfectly to medium-rare. I chose to have a loaded baked potato with it ($10) which came with sour cream and bacon, though the potato was a little under-cooked for my liking.
We were absolutely stuffed and weren’t going to order dessert and then the waiter came over with…. a giant piece of chocolate ganache cake, almost exactly the same as the one we’d had at Stripsteak – and the same size! They’d asked when I booked if it was a special occasion and I said our honeymoon and so they gave us a printed Smith & Wollensky anniversary card (yes, I said anniversary) and wrote ‘happy anniversary’ on the plate containing our dessert. I’m not sure if people don’t get the difference between honeymoon and anniversary or they just keep forgetting! So it was lovely getting a free dessert but quite funny it was the same giant cake we hadn’t been able to manage the day before! Once again, we ate a small piece of the cake and were given the rest to go, and were able to enjoy it the following day – so we had chocolate cake several days in a row!

Larios on the Beach
The same article about restaurants with a view recommended Larios on the Beach, owned by the singer Gloria Estefan and her husband. It serves Cuban food and is located on Ocean Drive, known for its art deco hotels though I’d disagree with the description of it being a restaurant with a view. You can sit outside the restaurant within a roped-off area but it was a very busy area with people walking past and car horns blaring, so we chose to sit inside (where there was air conditioning). If you are upstairs I guess you would have a view over the street and might be able to see the beach as well (across the road but not immediately visible)- I don’t actually know if they have an upstairs seating area as we weren’t offered a table there and instead shown to the back of the restaurant. So in a restaurant I chose for the view, we had no view at all. I took this from the other side of the road to the restaurant:

We also weren’t that keen on the food – I thought Cuban food would be a nice change from all the steak, but neither of us has eaten much Cuban food before.

To start we shared some empanadas, which were really good, but we found the main courses a bit disappointing. My husband had a breaded chicken steak while I had grilled chicken with onions - I can't remember exactly what it was called.  It was fairly plain and with rice as a side order, actually a little bit dry. Sides to choose from were white rice, wholegrain rice, moro rice, crispy plantain or sweet plantain. I tried the plantain but didn’t particularly like it and we were both really just a bit underwhelmed. I had a nice cocktail and it seemed a pleasant enough restaurant with a nice maritime décor otherwise but as we only had a few nights in Miami I was left wishing we’d chosen somewhere else.



We had breakfast and lunch in our hotel every day which I've already reviewed; the only other place we ate in Miami was the airport. It was quite early in the morning when we checked in for our flight to Quito, Ecuador, and we had breakfast at a place called Shula's Bar and Grill. I had French toast with sausage which was a bit disappointing - the sausages were round patties rather than actual sausages and the French toast was fine but nothing special, and when I asked for tea I was told they had run out. My husband had chocolate chip pancakes which he enjoyed but again it was nothing in particular to write home about - realistically an airport breakfast was never going to compare to the other meals we had. Next time I'll tell you about the next part of our trip in Quito.



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