Habitat – South Beach
If you don’t know the name Jose Mendin, chances are you don’t love to eat. The now-famous—thanks to his dining empire-in-the-making and a People magazine designation as the “Sexiest Chef Alive”—chef and restaurateur has the city talking about yet another, the latest of his delicious concepts: Habitat, located in the space at 1 Hotel South Beach formerly occupied by Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft. Open for nearly three months now, the place has been getting raves from day one for its creative take on Spain-influenced cuisine (pastry chef Patricio Larrea is a Spain native) and a bar program helmed by the talented Mexican mixologist Pedro Sanchez, which, in addition to a good selection of wines by the glass and beers, offers creative concoctions like Tea Service, made with Beefeater Gin, aperitif, beet root, lavender lemonade tea and vanilla bitters, and Silver Pearl, made with Jim Beam bourbon, fernet branca, red wine reduction, egg white, Peychaud Bitters, nutmeg and anise. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, so obviously we can’t sing the praises of all the calorie-worthy dishes we consider a must-try, but a few highlights to pique your interest from the dinner menu, which is divided into categories “Sea,” “Land,” “Fire,” and “Sides,” include Yellowtail Snapper “Chicharron” with butter amazu—a sweet-salty-sour sauce—and nori bernaise; Bone Marrow with steak tartare, caper berries and quail yolk; and Salt Cured Foie Gras with tomato chutney and bread from Zak the Baker. And since we Miamians famously adore our Brunch, that’s a must-do. It’s $80 for adults and $45 for kids ages 8-18, for which guests can feast themselves into a stupor on ceviche, sushi rolls, oysters and salpicón, baked delights such as churro doughnuts, Danish and tarts; omelets stuffed with glazed filet mignon; chilaquiles; and bacon waffles and pancakes, among others. Habitat is yet one more feather in Mendin’s cap, and we say keep ‘em coming.
2395 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305.604.6700; habitatmb.com
Azabu – Miami Beach
Sushi Azabu New York debuts its intimate, authentic Japanese dining experience right here in South Florida this month with the opening of Azabu Miami Beach. Led by Chef Masatsugu (Chef Masa) Kubo, the famous, Michelin-starred restaurant’s various concepts under one roof include a full-service dining room, a hidden sushi counter manned by Tokyo-trained chefs called The Den, and Bar Azabu, a classic-style cocktail bar showcasing sakes and more than 40 imported whiskies. What sets Azabu Miami Beach apart from its New York counterpart? The introduction of two Japanese culinary concepts: the main dining room and a secluded sushi den. There’s also an open-format kitchen where guests can observe chefs preparing dishes using the customary Japanese cooking method of robatayaki, a charcoal grilling technique using special Binchotan charcoal, and the overall experience of the Izakaya dining style, whereby guests can order a variety of shareable dishes, like robata-grilled yakitori, Japanese fried rice served tableside on a sizzling toban-yaki grill, plus traditional fare such as udon. For dessert, don’t miss the Japanese Raindrop Cake, a jelly made with pearl agar—the stuff bubbles in bubble tea are made of—and 90-percent water, served with “Kinako” dried soybeans and Japanese brown sugar syrup. The Den, accessible only through the kitchen doors, features an 11-seat sushi bar with a counter crafted from a Hinoki Cypress tree and serves only Omakase using local and imported seafood flown directly from fish markets in Japan, while the cocktail program at Bar Azabu, the main bar within the dining room area, features unique imported ingredients and Japanese-inspired presentation styles using glassware handcrafted by a Japanese artisan.
161 Ocean Drive in the Marriott Stanton, Miami Beach, 786.276.0520; miami.azabuglobal.com
Mayfair Kitchen – Miami
New year, new concept: That’s the story behind Mayfair Kitchen, which opened officially to the public January 1. The new flagship restaurant for the historic Mayfair Hotel is helmed by executive chef Ted Mendez, winner of “Top Chef of the Grove” 2016, whose résumé includes executive chef positions at Grove Isle and Barton G. The Restaurant. Mendez brings locally focused plates to the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner via a menu that celebrates fresh ingredients from garden, land and sea. Standouts from the central wood-burning grill include Wood-fired Baked Spinach with lemon and parmesan; Cauliflower Gratin with leeks, parmesan and truffle; Seared Scallops with lemon black pepper and spaetzle; Chicken al Carbon with thyme au jus and sweet potato hash, Roasted Short Rib with potato, celery, carrots and blue cheese; Wood-fired Cavatappi Mac & Cheese with spinach, smoked gouda, mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano; and Grilled Swordfish with patty pan zucchini and spaetzle. Inventive small plates like Smoked Fish Dip with pickled onions and Napoli crispbread are especially delightful when enjoyed with one of the wines designed to accompany them from the extensive list.
3000 Florida Ave., at the corner of Virginia Street, 305.779.5100; mayfairhotelandspa.com