BY LINDA MARX
Dining out is about more than food and drink. The design, social scene and overall vibe add drama and delight for diners who visit a restaurant for the ambience as much as the cuisine. Meals are made exquisite with the right choice of furnishings, furniture, lighting, art and collectibles. These Miami restaurants have extraordinary interiors and exterior garden dining spaces that have been as meticulously planned and executed as the dishes on their menus.
Pao by Paul Qui
Since Faena is where art and glamour collide in Miami Beach, Pao by Paul Qui is the perfect addition to the gorgeous hotel complex. The stunning culinary space, which opened in 2016, evokes the feeling of an upscale club with brown leather circular booths and rich walnut tables punctuated by beautiful verdant accents, a gold leaf ceiling and Damien Hirst’s The Golden Myth sculpture—a massive painted bronze and gold-leaf unicorn—presiding over diners atop a gold pedestal in the center of the room. The sculpture explores boundaries between legend and reality and symbolizes the power of imagination, which is an overall theme of the entire Faena hotel complex, owned and created by Alan Faena, who came to Miami Beach from Argentina. Floors are created in a herringbone wood pattern surrounded by white marble. A Carrara marble bar with mirrored back shelves gives sophisticated diners another visual treat. Chef Qui favorites, like foie gras and Wagyu carpaccio, are served on custom-designed hand-thrown stoneware plates by Jono Landolfi, a ceramic artist and designer. They are matched with gold flatware and wood serviceware. Qui, who won season nine of Top Chef and is a James Beard Award winner, opened Pao as his first venture outside of Texas, where he made his culinary name. The menu showcases his talent at uniting international styles of Spanish, Japanese, Filipino and French to serve large and small plates. He uses smoke and charcoal cooking for his Edo Period Binchotan service, where dishes are seared tableside on Japanese charcoal. 3201 Collins Ave. in the Faena Hotel, Miami Beach, 786.655.5630; faena.com.
Quinto La Huella
This 359-seat, fifth-floor restaurant (quinto means “fifth” in Spanish), owned by the creators of Uruguay’s Parador La Huella, is a fascinating maze of private rooms and rectangular, square and round tables surrounding two cool bars: one indoors and the other outside on the charming, garden-inspired patio.
Anchored by a huge, wood-burning parrilla grill, Quinto La Huella is the signature restaurant at EAST, Miami, the minimalist-designed hotel and residence located within Brickell City Centre. Wafting throughout is the intoxicating aroma of smoke from the ovens fueled with local red and white oak. The social vibe is hip, organic, casual and cool. Massive wood-and-glass cases display candles, glass jugs, mugs, bowls, copper cookware and other tabletop collections that offer a distinct sense of place. Cool lamps hang over the chic rustic tables while colorful, folk-themed Hispanic art, located both indoors and out, brings nostalgia to the frequent Central and South American diners. While dining on specialties like tender and delicious octopus, potatoes confit with paprika, delicate shrimp and squid ink rice, and spicy sushi, diners can admire the Climate Ribbon™, a $30 million elevated trellis that the restaurant shares with the adjoining porch and swimming pool deck. The architectural canopy stretches 150,000 square feet and is worth a stroll. 788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, 786.805.4646; quintolahuella.com.
If Jacques Brel were to meet Edith Piaf and Maria Callas for an after-performance rendezvous in Miami Beach, it surely would be at Paris 6, a new 24-hour brasserie alive with passion and sparkle. With interiors created by Saladino Designs, the colorful destination dazzles with tufted red banquettes, gorgeous chandeliers, damask-covered walls and humorous takes of famous artists—Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso— musicians, and writers such as Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Elliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Woody Allen, created by Brazilian artist Flavio Rossi.
Inspired by the romantic and cultural bistros and cafés in Paris, this brasserie is already a standout in Brazil with six locations. Owner Isaac Azar chose Miami Beach for his first foray into the US when he opened Paris 6 here last October. In addition to the intimate dining area and ornate green bar section, there’s a cool front porch with French-inspired street lights and a vibe that appeals to guests who want to bring their pets or just people-watch along Collins Avenue.
While enjoying delicious appetizers like steak or wild salmon tartare on tasted garlic bread with cream cheese, Croque Monsieur (French brioche bites of ham with buttery tasting Emmental cheese) or Croque Madame (the same, but with a fried quail egg atop), diners listen to French tunes by lyric sopranos and romantic baritones. The evening vibe mixes glamour, culture, cocktails and cuisine. Paris 6 is a heavenly place to escape for a few hours during the day or late at night. No matter what political stresses you may have experienced, they will melt away when you hear the lyrics to “La Vie En Rose.” 2200 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.363.6806; paris6bistro.com.
This modern, USDA organic-certified fast food eatery in South Miami is owned by basketball star Ray Allen and his wife Shannon. The talented three-point shooter, two-time NBA champion and Olympic Gold Medalist and his wife got into the restaurant business when they couldn’t find healthy meals-to-go in Miami for their young children.
Designed by HKK Architects, the 1,900-square-foot restaurant and drive-through has a rustic facade created from a century-old batch of reclaimed barn wood. Inside, the space is awash in clean white and seaside blue, accented by custom birch millwork and energy-efficient lighting. The focal point of the dining room is a wall of planters filled with edible and aromatic vegetation. There’s also an urban rooftop garden where a variety of local farmers grow vegetables, microgreens (vegetable confetti), herbs and field greens.
With inside seating for 38 and outdoor space for an additional 42, diners can socialize at a communal, wraparound bar or at a booth or table. “When dining for the first time, guests tell us that they feel the restaurant is warm and inviting,” says Shannon. “To me, Grown is a song. Every detail, color, fixture, shape, image, texture, finish, graphic, surface hardware or living, breathing plant material was used intentionally like the melody, baseline, chords, beat and harmonies of a song. Some diners feel eating with us is like being in their grandma’s kitchen.”
Guests enjoy fresh-pressed juices (prepared while they wait), fresh berry and mango smoothies, free-range rotisserie chicken, grilled, wild-caught salmon, slow-cooked, grass-fed brisket and homemade falafel, and a wide variety of organic salads and gluten-free vegan minestrone soup. A private space called Kindergarten holds special events like nutritional workshops, cooking classes and wellness demonstrations. Play areas for kids help educate them on healthy eating as well as provide hands-on “IdeaPaint,” which allows them artistic expression. 8211 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami, 305.663.4769; grown.org.
Glass and Vine
With the bi-level, jungle-like garden setting on the grounds of Peacock Park in Coconut Grove as the backdrop, this 240-seat indoor-outdoor restaurant is an organic delight for the senses. Since the park and colorful playground are the focal points, children can enjoy themselves while parents dine under a giant Ficus tree. Even the indoor seating, which is surrounded by glass and wood beams, feels like it’s outdoors because everything is open. Inside offers high-top tables, a long communal table and a white stone/wood indoor-outdoor bar (all three have lime green chairs and bar stools) atop an orange and white tile floor. Design is minimal, with Old Florida flourishes and racks stocked with mugs, jugs, vases and wine bottles paired with hanging goblets. In the spring, orange flowers blossom around the property matching many of the dining chairs and other Florida trimmings.
Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli, a Food Network Chopped champion and Forbes “30 Under 30” personality, creates large plates to be shared such as chilled heirloom tomatoes with Spanish cured ham and Manchego cheese, lemon zesty hush puppies with blue crab and lemon cream, and a sumptuous pasta of homemade green-pea pesto and pistachios covered in toasted breadcrumbs. The restaurant is not only pet-friendly; there’s a special menu created by a veterinarian nutritionist offering goodies like basil beef with pears and pearls, roasted turkey with sweet potato and chicken with rice. 2820 McFarlane Road, Coconut Grove, 305.200.5268; glassandvine.com.