db Bistro Moderne The name Daniel Boulud conjures images of meticulousness, perfection, food too beautiful to eat but too magnificent not to eat. When the French sensation, best known for his eponymous Daniel in Manhattan but also familiar to Floridians for his Palm Beach-based Café Boulud, opened db Bistro Moderne in the JW Marriott Marquis five years ago, Miamians may not have realized it but they were being blessed with all the best Boulud has to offer. The décor is upscale and elegant and the service solicitous though not overly so, but most importantly, the primary reason we patronize any establishment—the cuisine—is just as extraordinary as you would expect a chef of Boulud’s stature demand that it be. Start with expertly crafted snacks like Crispy Pork Belly with Spicy Honey, Fresno Chiles and Arugula, Lamb Flatbread with Labneh, Eggplant and Pine Nuts or a traditional, simple Charcuterie of terrines, cured meats and house pickles. Move on to the Setas Con Huevos, a heavenly marriage of mushrooms, hen egg and croutons, and under no circumstances should you miss out on the Pumpkin Agnolotti with Chestnuts, Sage and Brussels Sprouts (there is an appetizer size available in addition to the entrée size). Duck Confit is picture-perfect, with impossibly crisp skin surrounding tender duck atop a bed of spinach and rutabagas. And if you’re up for a rib-sticker of a meal, go for the restaurant’s famous Original db Burger, made of sirloin filled with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle on a parmesan bun. It’s an award-winner, but be aware: if you go for it, you may not be able to indulge in the warmest, softest, most delicious madeleines you’ll ever come across in your lifetime for dessert. It’s a conundrum, to be sure, but a very tasty and fulfilling one.
255 Biscayne Blvd. Way at the JW Marriott Marquis, Miami, 305.421.8800; dbbistro.com.
Steak 954 Any diner familiar with Stephen Starr knows to have high expectations when they dine at one of his establishments, and Steak 954 in the W Fort Lauderdale sets the bar. The massive, mesmerizing jellyfish tank on the edge of the romantically lit yet bustling dining sets the tone; begin with a cocktail (the Cherry Brown, with its bourbon, cherry heering, sweet vermouth and luxardo cherries, is sure to start you off on a positive note) as you peruse the menu that’s heavy on seafood and raw bar starters (Lobster & Crab Coconut Ceviche is indescribably good). Other notable appetizers include the Big Eye Tuna & Foie Gras Tacos—an order of three—which may end up causing a brawl if you’re dining à deux and one of you must concede the third. Carnivores should take counsel from the knowledgeable servers as to the various varieties of beef options, from filet to NY Strip to skirt steak, none of which disappoints in its presentation, temperature, tenderness and, most of all, flavor, thanks to Chef Nicolay Adinaguev’s preparation method of flash-grilling meats at 1700 degrees—it’s clear why this restaurant is still a crowd favorite while others in its midst have come and gone—but it’s also worth trying unusual treats like the 954 Cheesesteak, a tasty triumvirate of American Wagyu ribeye, truffled cheese whiz and foie gras. You won’t find that in Philly.
401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. in the W Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, 954-414-8333;
The Deck at Island Gardens Just off the MacArthur Causeway, around the back of the Miami Children’s Museum is a fantastic surprise: a gorgeous superyacht marina-side bar and restaurant with all the elements that make you want to settle in and never leave: beach umbrellas, cozy seating vignettes, cabana lounges and dining tables amid gorgeous trees draped with colored lights right on the water with views of Downtown and Biscayne Bay, peppered with yachts. If you’re thinking that means the food must be forgettable, think again: Chef Alvarez, who was the founding chef at Seaspice, offers up beautiful shareable appetizers including The Grand Mezze, a combo of hummus, beet-stained tzatziki, blistered cauliflower and other delights alongside fresh, hot pita, and a Chilled Seafood Tower piled high (and beautifully so) with oysters, crab avocado, shelled poached Maine lobster, salmon gravlax, tuna crudo and an array of sauces; and entrees ranging from a brisket-chuck-short rib burger on grilled brioche to a catch of the day that could, if you’re lucky, turn out to be a 5-lb. red snapper baked in a salt crust and served with shaved truffles. A visit here is a full-on experience—and one you can enjoy midday now, too, that they’ve launched a Prix-Fixe Lunch Menu for $25 per person. Hungry yet? Hit the causeway.
888 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, 786.479.3443; islandgardens.com.