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Miami: Hakkasan

I’m going to admit, the reason why I decided on Hakkasan was the location.  Ever since the last time I was in Miami, the hotel Fontainebleau was only under construction so this time around, I really wanted to check it out.  If you haven’t been, its beautiful!  And if you haven’t been to Hakkasan, definitely worth having dinner.  What I love most about it is the atmosphere.  Not your typical Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan provides a “nightlife” type of environment serving some good asian-fusion food.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Hakkasan – my first experience at this restaurant was in London, England (Michelin star location) and although I don’t remember the food per se but I clearly remember the atmosphere and liveliness of the place.  And this location is no different.

Inside the bar area at Hakkasan.

Inside the bar area at Hakkasan.

The view from the lobby of Fontainebleau hotel in South Beach.

The view from the lobby of Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach.

Starting the night off right with a variety of cocktails.

Starting the night off right with a variety of cocktails.

A platter full of vegetarian steamed dumplings.

A platter full of vegetarian steamed dumplings.

Pan-fried vegetable dumplings.

Pan-fried vegetable dumplings.

Wild mushroom hand pulled noodle.

Wild mushroom hand pulled noodle.

Fried chicken and orange.

Fried chicken and orange.

Crispy Szechuan beef tenderloin.

Crispy Szechuan beef tenderloin.

Braised vegetable tofu with assorted mushrooms in oyster sauce.

Braised vegetable tofu with assorted mushrooms in oyster sauce.

Miami: Yardbird

Probably my favourite restaurant and meal of our Miami weekend was Saturday morning brunch at Yardbird Southern Table and Bar in South Beach.  Another beautiful day, we were seated by the window soaking in the sun in a lively, loft-like and inviting interior.  Its brunch and we were on vacation so we deservedly ordered Yardbird’s famous blackberry bourbon lemonade made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, fresh lemon and cardamom – it was tart and sweet with just enough bourbon, if you know what I mean :).  Everything on the menu looked delicious so we had to make some tough choices and our server was extremely helpful.  My favourite dish was the BLT Benedict Cast Iron Casserole.  Gorgeously presented in a cast iron dish, made with chunks of their buttermilk biscuits mixed right in the eggs and topped with hollandaise sauce was delicious!  Finished off with cubes of cured bacon and a light frisee salad on the side, its the perfect brunch meal.  I can understand why this place was on every top restaurant list for Miami – I’ve added it back onto my list to go back for dinner, its that good.

Yardbird in South Beach.

Yardbird in South Beach.

Inside Yardbird.

Inside Yardbird.

Yardbird's famous Blackberry bourbon lemonade.

Yardbird’s famous Blackberry bourbon lemonade.

'77 Elvis Pancakes - chocolate chip pancakes, banana compote, bourbon maple syrup and peanut butter.

’77 Elvis Pancakes – chocolate chip pancakes, banana compote, bourbon maple syrup and peanut butter, YUM!

Buttermilk biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits.

BLT Benedict cast iron casserole.

BLT Benedict cast iron casserole – crumbled biscuits, eggs, and hollandaise….delicious.

Macaroni & cheese with 5 different cheeses.

Macaroni & cheese with 5 different cheeses.

Buttermilk biscuit with honey butter and house jam.

Buttermilk biscuit with honey butter and house jam.

Miami: Tongue & Cheek

A beautiful interior space, Tongue & Cheek was our stop for dinner on our second night in Miami.  Our server was great and we practically ordered all her recommendations.  My main dish, the Florida red snapper was delicious.  Typically when there’s fried chicken on the menu, I ignore everything else, but how can I be in Miami and not order seafood – so I took the server’s suggestion and had the red snapper.  However, the most memorable dish of the night was the dessert.  The homemade smoked mallow cream was so unique and a flavour so unexpected – definitely not for everyone but I really liked it.  Completely reminded me of toasting marshmallows over a fire pit.

Tongue & Cheek in South Beach.

Tongue & Cheek in South Beach.

Inside Tongue & Cheek.

Inside Tongue & Cheek.

A pillowy little bun to start the meal.

A pillowy little bun to start the meal.

Strawberry lime and gin cocktail.

Strawberry lime and gin cocktail.

Cheese plate - Bayley Hazen blue cheese, Aged goat cheese and truffle gouda.

Cheese plate – Bayley Hazen blue cheese, Aged goat cheese and truffle gouda.

Roasted beet salad with triple cream goat cheese, hazelnuts and hearts of palm.

Roasted beet salad with triple cream goat cheese, hazelnuts and hearts of palm.

Bucatini with uni butter and parmigiano-reggiano.

Bucatini with uni butter and parmigiano-reggiano.

Fried Chicken, cheddar biscuits and creamy coleslaw.

Fried Chicken, cheddar biscuits and creamy coleslaw.

My main dish - Florida red snapper with red quinoa.

My main dish – Florida red snapper with red quinoa.

Strawberry parfait with smoked mallow cream.

Strawberry parfait with smoked mallow cream.

Decadent chocolate bar.

Decadent chocolate bar.

Miami: David’s Cafe Cafecito

Located in the up and coming area of Miami’s Design District (similar to Toronto’s King East which is lined with furniture shops), is a retail space called Chrome Hearts that allows emerging artists and designers a space to sell their goods.  And tucked away past the black gates right beside the open air atrium and patio is David’s Cafe Cafecito.  Normally we would have walked right past this cafe if it weren’t for the folks across the street at Jonathan Adler‘s store.  Taking their advice on getting some good coffee we ventured to David’s.  And what a gem!  Such a funky locale and the perfect weather to sit out on the patio.  Being an iced coffee junky, I ordered the iced cafe con leche.  Made with milk and a giant coffee ice cube – an ingenious way to avoid coffee dilution.  The menu is simple but we didn’t go there to eat.  It’s all about the coffee and the details here, even down to the designs on the sugar cubes.  Great place to sit, have a cup of coffee (iced for me) and catch up with a friend.

Chrome Hearts in Miami's Design District.

Chrome Hearts in Miami’s Design District.

The beautiful outdoor patio to David's Cafe Cafecito.

The beautiful outdoor patio to David’s Cafe Cafecito.

The counter at David's.

The counter at David’s.

Inside the funky space of David's Cafe.

Inside the funky space of David’s Cafe.

David's Iced Cafe Con Leche.

David’s Iced Cafe Con Leche.

A close up view of the coffee ice cube in the iced cafe con leche.

A close up view of the coffee ice cube in the iced cafe con leche.

Mango pastry.

Mango pastry.

Guava and cheese pastry.

Guava and cheese pastry.

Deliciously light guava and cheese pastry.

Deliciously light guava and cheese pastry.

A cup of David's cafe con leche.

A cup of David’s cafe con leche.

Miami: Versailles

The first time I went to Versailles was back in 2008 when I went down to visit my good friend M who was working in Miami at the time.  Seven years later, I’m back in Miami on a girls weekend and after a full day at the outlets shopping we stopped at Versailles for dinner.  Its almost a given that whenever you visit Miami, you have to go to Versailles for cuban food.  I tried the classic cuban sampler platter the first time here so I decided to try something else.  The server recommended the most popular dish, “Chicken Versailles”, grilled half chicken that is marinated in cuban mojo and served with moros rice, sweet plantains and garlic butter.  To this day, I still remember how delicious the fried plantains were and eight years later, nothing has changed – they remain my favourite thing at Versailles.  The server also recommended cuban coffee to finish off the meal and at first I was hesitant, not sure why, but I’m glad I listened to him.  The concentrated and rich coffee was delicious, already sweetened and comes black – you definitely can’t have more than one.

Versailles Cuban Cuisine Restaurant.

Versailles Cuban Cuisine Restaurant.

The dining room side of the restaurant.

The dining room side of the restaurant.

The bakery and cafe side of the restaurant.

The bakery and cafe side of the restaurant.

Pitcher of sangria to start.

Pitcher of sangria to start.

Slices of soft warm baguette brushed with butter.

Slices of soft warm baguette brushed with butter.

The Chicken Versailles - grilled half chicken platter.

The Chicken Versailles – grilled half chicken platter.

The Versailles salad with fresh mango, candied pecans and goat cheese.

The Versailles salad with fresh mango, candied pecans and goat cheese.

Yuca fries.

Yuca fries.

Roast pork cuban style.

Roast pork cuban style.

Cuban coffee.

Cuban coffee.

After a few sips of the cuban coffee you can see the rich, dark colour.

After a few sips of the cuban coffee you can see the rich, dark colour.

The Burger’s Priest

Over the December holidays, I finally had a chance (it took me awhile) to try out the much talked about Burger’s Priest.  The Burger’s Priest lovers are not going to like what I’m about to say but my order of the classic cheeseburger really reminded me of “In-N-Out Burger“.  Everything from the soft bun, fresh toppings of lettuce, tomato, pickle and packaged in a paper bag.  The only difference, and pretty big one, is the better quality meat and the fries – I really did love the fries.  I don’t know what oil they use but they were crisp and so tasty.  The Priest even has a secret menu – I’d go back just to try the blue steel cheeseburger.

The famous Burger's Priest.

The famous Burger’s Priest.

Inside the most recent outpost of the Burger's Priest.

Inside the most recent outpost of the Burger’s Priest.

My order - the classic cheeseburger and fries.

My order – the classic cheeseburger and fries.

A close up view.

A close up view.

The classic cheeseburger.

The classic cheeseburger.

The many layers of the Priest cheeseburger.

The many layers of the Priest cheeseburger.

Cluny

Ever since I went to New York City and dined at Balthazar’s for the first time (dare I say, back in 1998), I hadn’t found a local equivalent until NOW.  Hello, Cluny!  Oh how I have waited a long time for you!  A French bistro through and through, just check out the interior – gorgeous with a view into the kitchen.  And the food, well I can go on and on.  My seared tuna sandwich topped with a sunny-side up egg on a buttery toasted brioche bun was just delicious.  The starters were tasty as well, salted cod donuts and the cauliflower salad were light, the perfect way to start the meal.  But I have to admit, I was really looking forward to dessert.  I mean, when you see souffle and macarons on the menu how can you not.  Well, the souffle was definitely worth another bite – I would order it again and would recommend it to anyone.  But ultimately, I think the reason why both the Balthazar and Cluny experiences stick out so much in my memory is because of the company – I’m very lucky to have so many great friends!

The entrance to Cluny.

The entrance to Cluny.

The beautiful interior of Cluny.

The beautiful interior of Cluny.

Salt cod donuts and smoked potato dipping sauce.

Salt cod donuts and smoked potato dipping sauce.

Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette.

Roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette.

My cocktail for the night - Aviation made with gin.

My cocktail for the night – Aviation made with gin.

Veal meatball tomahawk with braised tomatoes and gnocchi.

Veal meatball tomahawk with braised tomatoes and gnocchi.

Moroccan inspired couscous with vegetable and almond tagine.

Moroccan inspired couscous with vegetable and almond tagine.

My seared tuna steak sandwich with tomato, fried egg on a house-baked brioche bun.

My seared tuna steak sandwich with tomato, fried egg on a house-baked brioche bun.

Breaking the yolk on my tuna steak sandwich.

Breaking the yolk on my tuna steak sandwich.

Kombucha cleansing tea.

Kombucha cleansing tea.

Delicious passion fruit souffle with a pistachio financier and creme anglaise.

Delicious passion fruit souffle with a pistachio financier and creme anglaise.

Look at that height on the passion fruit souffle!

Look at that height on the passion fruit souffle!

Macaron ice cream sandwiches, all made in house.

Macaron ice cream sandwiches, all made in house.

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