Duo Restaurant & Bar
Miami's Brickell district seems fairly tame next to the infamous South Beach or posh Coral Gables. Yet this more business-looking side of town is making a comeback with the young and sophisticated crowd. The city's best restaurants have followed. Duo's creative American cuisine certainly fits in here. Begin with the Rainbow Tartare, a colorful plate of fresh fish: toro tuna and hamachi, topped by caviar and served with a ponzu aïoli ($17). Next, even if you think gnocchi is gnyucky, you'll love their potato pasta with a rich Gorgonzola sauce and balsamic figs ($19). Duo's dessert of sweet, fresh berries served with a bit of homemade ice cream ($10) is a simple delight. One last piece of advice: Do Duo for lunch―you'll save significantly if you eat while the sun is up. 1421 South Miami Avenue; (786) 497-4386. Lunch entrées: $14-$29.
Local Favorite: The River Oyster Bar
In my first five minutes here, I'd eaten oysters from Virginia, the Puget Sound in Washington, and British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, Canada. Choosing a main course is a tough call, but if you like steak, you'll adore the skirt steak, a churrasco-style delight atop yuca fries and grilled summer vegetables. My lunch portion, at $14, may be the best deal in Miami. End with either the seven-layer coconut cake or the Key lime cheesecake. Each is $7. 650 South Miami Avenue; (305) 530-1915. Lunch entrées: $14-$16; dinner entrées: $20-$30.
Spanish for "mosaic," Mosaico may have the most charming location in all of Miami: a restored 1923 Mediterranean-style firehouse. The big garage doors and firefighter poles give way to an intimate dining room with subdued lighting and comfortable seating. The menu changes frequently, but you can be sure that chef Juliana Gonzalez, a native of Spain, will fill your evening's selections with unusual flavor pairings and textures. Mosaico had me at the bread: Their warm, crispy brown olive loaves are superb. I began with a super-tangy Andalusian gazpacho poured tableside. A giant shrimp and tiny square of cucumber gelatin sat in the center of the bowl. The combination sounds weird but tasted fabulous. Mosaico's gazpacho was the best I've tasted. The market-fresh fish was sole the day I visited. Grilled to tender perfection, it came with beet ravioli filled with goat cheese and cashews. If you're lucky, the warm apple buñuelos will be on the dessert list. Tiny doughnut-like pastries arrive in a paper bag loaded with powdered sugar. Need I go on? Add green apple sorbet and a crisp sliver of dried green apple, almost like a cookie, and the result is heavenly. 1000 South Miami Avenue; (305) 371-3473 or www.mosaicorestaurant.com. Dinner entrées: $28-$34.
"Food Finds: Miami" is from the June 2006 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.