Asian fare, which is a category apart from straight Japanese or strictly Chinese food, is an entirely different type of fusion experience in Miami than it is in other cities. The Magic City's ethnic influences are Latin American, and many of the Asian influences emigrated to South America and the Caribbean before they came this way. So Miami sees interesting combos like the Japanese-Peruvian dishes served at Miami Beach's infamous Nobu.
There's lots and lots of Thai and sushi places, and like Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts, they always seem to be paired together. That's okay, because there's more than enough happy customers to frequent them; after all, it's almost impossible to dislike dishes that utilize the fresh product that comes from these shores.
This category also brings you a few top-notch Vietnamese joints, plus Bali Cafe, an Indonesian-fusion eatery that's quite popular with the Downtown suit crowd.
You might notice that South Florida doesn't have much in the way of Cambodian, Tibetan, Bhutanese or other exotic cuisines; that's because the populations that bring the restaurateurs haven't arrived. Yet.
But what Miami has, Miamians celebrate. Whether it's Asian fusion at Dadeland's Lan Pan Asian or the locally beloved Tropical Chinese, the citizens of and travelers to the Magic City stand with fork, chopsticks and soup spoons at the ready.
Sakaya, an innovative Asian fusion restaurant, has taken the city by storm with its creative interpretations of traditional Asian dishes. The moment they walk through the door, guests are greeted by a chalkboard wall sporting daily specials and menu items. Take your time perusing the items and then get in line. Don't be afraid to ask the staff for suggestions; they're happy to inform you of local favorites like Dai-Ji spicy tenderloin or Korean chicken and waffles.
For other options, check out the "Dim Ssam a gogo," Sakaya's food truck, during a rally at Johnson & Wales or at a spot around town. There's also a second location Downtown. (305-576-8096)
Find Chinese cuisine at its best at this spacious, airy restaurant. Devoid of all the typical decorative trappings, the minimalist interior at Tropical Chinese is always full of fans clamoring for some of the best dim sum in town. Cantonese and Mandarin dishes are specialties, and the menu is dotted with unexpected items ranging from early leaves of snow pea pods to fried chicken feet. You'll also find plenty of traditional favorites, including orange chicken, seafood stir-fries, and numerous savory beef and pork dishes. Try the dim sum lunch for a sampling of the best the restaurant has to offer. Reservations accepted. (305-262-7576, 305-262-1552)
Lan Pan Asian Cafe
Chef Johnson Teh has got Asian food covered. Not only does he do Thai, Japanese and Chinese flavors in this pan-Asian cafe, he likes to add in Filipino, Taiwanese, Korean and a blend of original interpretations that Miamians can only label "yum." So while it's difficult to perhaps pinpoint all his influences in some dishes, such as the crispy almond snapper in the saffron-soba broth, it's also hard to really care. From appetizers like the wild mushroom salad with cilantro-ginger dressing to the Filipino rice bowl topped with pork, a sunny-side-up egg and pickles; it's a veritable bonanza of playful Asian flavors.
Complementing the fare, Teh also serves authentic bubble teas, house-made sodas, and a select sake and wine list. A sibling establishment in Coral Gables, Yuga, expands on the pan-Asian theme in a slightly more elegant way. (305.661.8141)
Nobu Miami Beach
The Miami location of world-famous Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's chain of restaurants is located inside the swank Shore Club and has a reputation for being the favorite sushi spot of local celebs. The key to dining at Nobu the first couple of times is to ask lots of questions. Servers are happy to guide you through the menu and help you navigate the sushi experience. Tempura, teriyaki and salads frequently entice diners, or you can give yourself over to the chef's acumen with the omakase, a meal of eight carefully composed dishes that allows you to sample a variety of flavors and textures. It's high-quality Japenese-Peruvian fusion cuisine with a price tag to match--but can you really put a price on phenomenal food? (305-695-3232)
Despite its small, humble dining room, Bali Cafe delivers on quality and service, making it a Downtown Miami favorite. The comfortably cozy atmosphere and expertly prepared, authentic dishes like Lontong Cap Go Meh are offered at astonishingly low prices. The Asian fusion fare is largely Indonesian, and everything, from the three dollar Simple Salad dressed with beets and black sesame seeds to the iced green tea, is exceedingly flavorful and delightfully fresh. Satays and nasi goreng (spicy fried rice with coconut accents) are perhaps the most popular dish, but don't neglect the unusual dumplings or, for that matter, the dessert which can, if you're lucky, include durian ice cream. Do be aware, however, that Bali Cafe only accepts cash and, depending on the day, may only be open for lunch. (305-358-5751)
Miss Saigon Bistro
Miss Saigon Bistro is a tiny, family-owned favorite featuring some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in all Miami-Dade. The decor is simple and minimal, providing a clean, serene setting for your meal. Delicious meat and seafood offerings are available, and each dish can be customized to your ideal level of spiciness. Vegetarians and vegans will be especially happy with the selection here, as this is one of the few restaurants in town featuring dishes made with seitan. Sample great salads, such as green papaya or spicy calamari, and filling noodle dishes topped with savory sauces. Caramelized prawns and grilled salmon with mango are two seafood favorites. A nice wine list and a short but stellar dessert menu make this an all-around winner. Business casual attire. (305-446-8006)
A well-established favorite with the North Miami crowd, Oishi Thai is a consistent bringer of quality on both its Thai and sushi sides. Sushi is expertly cut and always a fresh pleasure, and the Thai food is also particularly aromatic, unlike in other Thai-sushi places where one cuisine tops another. This is probably not a surprise given the history of this establishment: executive Chef Piyarat Arreeratn, a.k.a. Bee, a native of Chiang Rai, Thailand, has worked for Nobu Matsuhisa at Nobu Miami Beach in the Shore Club as well as Chef Kevin Cory at NAOE. Although the fare can be pricey, you won't walk away dissatisfied. (3059474338)
Katsuya resides within the SLS Hotel South Beach and has quickly become the absolute best place to visit for unique custom-made sushi rolls in all of South Florida. Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi has spent years perfecting the delicate art of sushi and has carefully crafted several special rolls to fit American palates. Signature dishes include Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Kanpachi Tataki, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño and Miso-Marinated Black Cod. Feel free to peruse the drinks menu as well, or go off the cuff and order up a Katsuya Fresh (their signature cocktail featuring Grey Goose vodka, Rock Sake, crushed cucumbers and lime juice). Katsuya has been wildly popular in San Diego and Houston, with Miami being the newest edition to their line of fine sushi venues. ((305) 455-2995, (305) 674-1701)
Hakkasan - Fontainebleau Miami Beach
The Zagat Rated, AAA Four Diamond Award Winning restaurant Hakkasan has much to brag about. This gem inside the world-renowned Fontainbleau Hotel on Miami Beach is known for its unique and authentic Cantonese dishes, including a weekend Dim Sum Lunch that high-rolling locals are raving about. Chef de Cuisine Jian Heng Loo has created incredibly delectable dishes including a Black Pepper Beef Tenderloin and a Crispy Duck Salad with Jasmine Tea-Smoked Ribs. Once seated inside this aesthetically divine restaurant, peruse the menu and pick out an appetizer (wild mushroom lettuce wrap, duck roll) for starters; then move on to your main dish (wok baked lobster in supreme stock, tofu claypot in black bean sauce); and wash it down with one of their inspired cocktails (the Hakka, Zen Garden). (877-326-7412)
About Priscilla Blossom
Pris Blossom is a freelance writer and feminist mama with a love for travel, writing, music, film, craft beer, yoga, museums, cultural anthropology, and her awesome kid.
She spent the bulk of the past decade taking trips on a whim, falling in love with and in such places as New York City, New Orleans, and a large portion of Nicaragua.
In 2011, she took off on her own and traveled around the U.S. via bus, bunking with strangers thanks to the power of CouchSurfing. She is currently writing a novel about this.
Read her words at PrisBlossom.com.
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