When I travel, I love to explore the destination through my stomach as I think it's one of the best ways to get to know a local culture. On my recent trip to Miami, I chose my travel friends wisely, those who like to explore the dining scene as much as I do!
We kicked off the week with dinner at Pao, which is in the Faena hotel. Paul Qui, the executive chef is from the Philippines and also a Top Chef and James Beard award winner so we expected a certain level of amazing. The cuisine complimented the electric decor - especially the golden unicorn who keeps a watchful eye on diners. The ten of us opted to share family style so we could sample a wide variety of the menu, versus the reasonably priced tasting menu. The highlight for me was the fresh whole fish (no surprise there!).
Pao, Faena Hotel
The next evening my friend Maureen and I wanted a catch up just the two of us, but we also wanted to be in a setting where we could be social with friends and colleagues who were in town. The bar at the Dutch in the W was the perfect setting. It's feminine chic style, friendly and attentive bartender and great wine list made it a perfect choice. Plus, we enjoyed on the best pastas we had in a long time - the lamb pappardelle.
Dutch, W Hotel
We celebrated the end of the conference over a long, casual meal amongst friends at Matador, the masculine restaurant in the lobby of the Edition. While there are tables inside to beat the heat, we opted to be outside so we could easily mix and mingle with the other patrons and enjoy some of the evening Miami heat - and a surprise downpour. Since there were so many of us, we were able to try a huge variety of dishes from the avocado pizza to the arrozo con pollo, which was a favorite.
Matador, Edition Hotel
After the conference Maureen and I moved to vacation mode at the 1 Hotel and set up shop in lounge chairs by the pool. We found our favorite new warm weather drink - the froze! The delicious blend of rose and Lillet hit the spot every time while lounging in the heat by the pool between quick dips to cool off.
Throughout the week, we kept hearing about the very hip and cool Broken Shaker, which is in the hostel Freehand. Intrigued, we checked out the cocktail bar by the pool which offered lively people watching while sipping on Sauvignon Blanc (I finally broke away from the frozes, not an easy task). Afterwards we dined at Niaiyara, an Asian fusion restaurant on the bayside which was recommended by many friends. Be warned the food is delivered very quickly, which was fine for this night as we were quite tired, and the portion sizes large so no need to order a ton.
Broken Shaker, Freehand
The real star of the trip was Byblos - a Mediterranean restaurant near Lowes on Collins. The decor is eclectic and comfortable - I felt like I could really settle into this living/dining room for a good, long meal with new and old friends. We started with a mix of plates, my favorite being the hamachi served with yogurt and jalapeño. It's one of those dishes that I continue to think about. The Lamb Ribs and Spanish Octopus and were also must-orders.
Overall, South Beach has so many creative restaurants with acclaimed chefs such as Tom Colicchio. When planning a trip to Miami, it's important to make reservations at a few key spots but also allow yourself time to explore where your belly takes you. When in doubt, remember to talk to your concierge about what's the best fit for you and the occasion. Enjoy!