On this particular trip, I discovered a few new-and some not so new-fabulous places to go. I love places that provide both good food and the Miami vibe ambiance I adore so much. This trip did not let me down.
First, I found out about a hip, new hotel in downtown Miami called Tempo Rock Resort. Uber-chic design, affordable rates and close proximity to South Beach make this place a rising star in Miami's under-the-radar-but-not-for-much-longer scene. It's one of those hotels that just makes their guests feel cooler upon arrival. Not to mention the 14 badass three story townhouse style structures that surround the pool coming later this year. The Amuse Restaurant was sophisticated, well thought out and delicious. There's also something very soothing about outdoor trees inside a restaurant that I just dig. While you're there, make sure to check out the spa that's worth the trip just for the decor. Seriously.
I also had an amazing dinner at The Setai, another Do Not Miss spot. Bring an empty stomach, a full wallet and dress to impress because this gem is one of the best on the beach. A comprehensive and sophisticated menu with a dizzying variety of Indian and Asian dishes. The staff is largely made up of Indian and Asian employees who bring an authenticity and edge to an already pretty flawless dining experience. The biggest surprise might be the friendliness and attentive wait staff. So often this is where Miami's hottest restaurants miss the mark. You can sit next to the open kitchen or out by the pool. Either way, this is where fabulous lives. Best. Dim Sum. Ever.
Another one of my favorite spots to hit has always been The Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. I lived next door to this hotel for many years and they have never disappointed me. I heard they did some decor renovations and changes in their restaurant, Azul so decided to give it a visit. Chef Joel Huff has really kicked it up a notch. I'd venture to say they will pick up even more steam under his direction. My hairdresser, Manny and I devoured a life changing ten course meal paired with perfectly selected wines over the course of about three hours. Simply divine. Huff is undoubtedly Miami's answer to David Chang, but with his own vibe. Make sure you walk around the hotel for some tropical design inspiration. The revamped decor of the hotel is fresher, brighter and perfectly executed. You might bump into Jennifer Aniston or Tom Cruise.
When in Miami, drink Cuban coffee. I catch a lot of shit for my love affair with Dunkin' Donuts, but, in Miami, finding American coffee isn't as easy as you think. Just drink the Cuban coffee and enjoy the high. But, if you want to get the full Cuban coffee experience, it's best to drink it like a native. Head over to David's Cafe near Lincoln Road or Versailles restaurant on SW 8th Street and sip on your colada while people scream in Spanish about everything from Fidel Castro to the waitresses asses. Get used to the screaming, it's a Cuban thing. No habla Espanol? No problema! If you don't speak Spanish, the most endearing thing to Latins in Miami is to teach you how to communicate with them in their native language. I also recommend taking the plunge and pairing that coffee with a pastelito de guayaba or a Cuban toast. No whole wheat, no organic anything and I'm pretty sure margarine is favored over butter, but it's damn good eating.
Another excellent stop is Chef Jimmy Carey's latest venture, Jimmy'z Kitchen, in Miami's art district, Wynwood. This is my new favorite "off the beach" place to hit. A bright and airy space designed by Carey's fabulous architect girlfriend Rebecca Blanco, it's fresh and modern with a casual feel. Carey's Puerto Rican roots come to life on your plate here. All I have to say is: Mofongo. In a city filled with every variety of Latin food, there has always been a void of any decent Puerto Rican cuisine. Thanks to Jimmy Carey, the wait is over. Grab a beer and mofongo with churrasco steak and thank me later.
Now, about that rocket ship..