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(CNN) — Miami's restaurant scene has been overlooked in favor of that of New York, London and Las Vegas in the past, but The Magic City is upping its game.
Offering a multitude of high-end dining options, with many delivered by celebrity chefs in decadent surroundings, Miami has becoming a foodie force to be reckoned with.
But which are its best restaurants?
LTI have intensively researched numerous restaurants in the city, before settling on a selection that deliver the kind of dining experience that's worth shouting about.
Waterfront restaurant Seaspice has a 500-foot dock.
This downtown waterfront restaurant attracts the South Beach crowd and has the vibe of an urban Nikki Beach.
Open and airy with huge windows and a large outside wooden decking area, Seaspice has a very modern charm.
It also boasts a 500-foot dock, just in case you'd prefer to arrive by boat.
Grilled prawns and octopus with fresh herbs are among the appetizer options and the fresh Dover sole, which is prepared table side, is a stand out main.
Dinner usually leads to dancing most evenings and there are often bongo players and live musicians on site as well as DJs playing eclectic sounds.
Seaspice also boasts a small bar area that's great for people watching.
If you don't have a reservation you can just have drinks at the bar (they do a very good Bloody Mary.)
The restaurant also has a good and extensive wine list -- ask the sommelier for tips on what to pair with fish dishes.
Sundays are wild, building to a crescendo in the late afternoon through to the evening, as most top-notch beach clubs do.
Book a table in advance, as it gets busy.
The tables on the decking by the river are our top pick. However, the outside area becomes a major part of the party action late at night, so sit inside (but not at the bar) if you want a quieter evening.
Seaspice, 422 NW North River Dr, Miami, FL 33128; +1 305 440 4200
Upland is best known for his handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas and seasonal vegetables.
STARR Restaurants/Andrew Hektor
This spin off of restaurateur Stephen Starr and chef Justin Smillie's New York original of the same name serves Italian dishes with a Southern Californian flavor.
Featuring an open exhibition kitchen, a bistro-style dining room with moody lighting, jars of preserved lemons lining the walls and an outdoor terrace, Upland is styled after the NYC original and subsequently feels more like New York than Miami
There's an upscale bistro vibe in the dining room with dark wood, low lights and walls lined with wine bottles and jars of preserved lemons and artichokes. Indoor seating is blue leather tufted banquettes or oak dining tables and chairs.
LTI likes Upland for its creative vegetable dishes, wood-fired pizzas and delicious handmade pastas.
Wood-fired prawns over pappardelle with spicy sausage ragu, coal roasted short ribs and stracciatella cheese pizza are among the dishes on offer.
The wine list is also vast and features food friendly California wines along with international selections including some heady Portuguese reds and Canadian Chardonnays.
If you want to see your food prepared, book one of the "front row" tables with views of the open kitchen.
Otherwise the banquettes are comfortable for indoor dining, plus there's the Miami-style outdoor patio, which is a great place to sit and soak up the Miami Beach vibe.
Upland Miami, 49 Collins Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33139; +1 305 602 9998
Headed up by chef David Valencia, an Alain Ducasse veteran, Caviar Russe is based inside the Four Seasons Brickell.
The menu at this New York City transplant focuses on caviar and champagne pairings, offering
10 different caviars and 20 types of bubbly alongside New American fare, seasonal seafood, crudo and a raw bar. Unusually, there are also 20 different sodas from almost every major producer on the planet.
Caviar is served in weights of 25 to 250 grams and accompanied by crepe blinis, crème fraîche and chives. There's also a six-course caviar tasting menu.
As for the décor, think marble walls and tables, gold plates, creamy Italian leather chairs and white and gold adorned bar stools.
Meanwhile, taking pride of place on the ceiling is a glass hand-blown chandelier inspired by caviar and champagne bubbles.
Tables here are well spaced, so you won't feel as if you're sitting on top of your neighbor. LTI likes the center row of two top tables as each person gets his or her own comfy leather backed chair. Try for the last one at the back for the most privacy. There's also a chef's table.
Caviar Russe, 441 Brickell Avenue, Miami, FL 33131; + 1 305 902-6969
Small and intimate -- Hakkasan Miami.
Situated within the vast Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel, this is the debut US outpost of the successful Hakkasan in London.
Sophisticated and reserved, but still achingly hip, with lots of discreet, semi-private tables, this is a popular and romantic venue serving contemporary but authentic Cantonese cuisine.
While this restaurant is large, it's made to feel smaller and more intimate by imaginative use of screens, giving the impression of many semi-private dining rooms.
The interior is dark and seductive, with haute-chinois design, rich fabrics, Chinese screens, carved teak walls, dark tables and low spotlights over every table, giving a subtle golden glow.
As for the menu, London favorites such as Chilean sea bass, lobster stir-fry, roasted satay chicken and shanghai dumplings are proving just as popular in Miami.
The wine list is diverse, with a good selection of new world wines and sake.
The best tables are in the middle room, away from the bar, which can get quite noisy.
Hakkasan Miami, Fontainebleau Resort, 4441 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33140; +1 786 276 1388 after 4 p.m. +1 877 326 7412 before 4 p.m.
Le Sirenuse was devised by Parisian designer Joseph Dirand.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts / Christian Horan
Located within the glamorous Four Seasons at The Surf Club, Le Sirenuse is the first permanent outpost from the Michelin-starred Amalfi institution.
Residing in the club's former ballroom, chef Antonio Mermolia serves up his own Italian creations alongside La Sponda's much-loved southern Italian classics.
Inside Parisian designer Joseph Dirand has incorporated a spot of botanical chic with muted sage green chairs mingling amid oversized potted plants, with glamorous gold accents throughout the restaurant.
Diners can opt for the palm-fringed restaurant or the pergola-shaded terrace with Atlantic views, but whichever you choose, make sure you arrive in time to experience the champagne bar first.
Situated in the club's former ballroom, but partially separated by a wall, you will find Miami's largest collection of champagnes alongside signature cocktails, which pay homage to the club's rich history.
As for the menu, expect plenty of meticulously sourced ingredients flown in from Italy.
Fagottello stuffed with homemade Genovese beef ragu is a particular LTI favorite.
Mermolia has also created original dishes such as the spicy polipo alla luciana (Mediterranean octopus cooked in a light tomato sauce with potatoes, olives and punchy chilli).
However, the portions can be a little on the small side, so make sure you embrace all four courses, Italian-style.
Request a window table. They are quieter, as they're away from the kitchen and bar, affording easy conversation as well as the chance to indulge in views once enjoyed by Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra, who were regulars at the Surf Club in it's heyday.
Pao by Paul Qui
The Unicorn -- Pao by Paul Qui's signature dish.
Faena Group/Juan Fernando Ayora
Based at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, the first concept restaurant outside of Austin for "Top Chef" winner Paul Qui is an opulent affair (although it feels relatively toned down when compared to rest of the lavish hotel.)
A 12-foot-tall golden unicorn holds court under the gold leaf domed ceiling in the center of the main room, which seats 116 people, with room for another 74 on its ocean-facing patio.
The menu is varied, with both tapas sized plates and larger sharing dishes, which are generously portioned for between two and four guests.
Pao also utilizes Japanese binchotan charcoal cooking.
It was originally done table side, but this has now been abandoned due to the large amount of smoke filling the dining room, so the searing now takes place in the kitchen.
LTI loves the whole fish, which is always fresh and simply prepared.
The marbled bone-in wagyu is also an excellent choice, but not to be missed dish is the signature Unicorn -- consisting of sea urchin, grilled sweet corn pudding, sake sioli, Chile de Árbol and lime.
Pair this with one of the rice sides like the pork adobo with fried duck egg or the short rib with wild mushrooms and pickled vegetables.
Leave room for dessert, as these are among the best creations on the menu.
There's also a comprehensive wine list from old and new world regions, with selections by the glass and bottle and innovative cocktails inspired by 19th century classics.
We like the curved leather banquettes under the dome that are closest to the unicorn. If the weather is nice, the patio fronting the ocean is also a top spot.
Pao by Paul Qui, 3201 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33140; +1 786 655 5600 / +1 844 798 9712
Red, the Steakhouse
After enjoying huge success in Cleveland, Brad Friedlander and his partners, chefs Peter Vauthy and Jonathan Bennett opened Red in Miami.
Serving only the finest cuts of meat in its own unique style, the restaurant is a contemporary and relaxed take on a classic steakhouse.
It's made up of one large room and a bar room (which is ideal for sports fans), and there's also a private dining room for up to 12 people, which is a favorite of basketball legend Michael Jordan's.
While the subdued lighting provides an intimate feel, it's spacious, with candlelit tables and dark floors, offset with red walls. The television screens on display make it a good venue for watching sport.
There's a vast choice of steaks (aged certified Angus and bone-in selections,) which are served with a choice of six sauces, as well as a good selection of pastas and seafood.
LTI favorites include Brad's stuffed hot peppers, crisp chili calamari, frutti di mare, bucatini (a type of pasta) with meatballs, tuna filet mignon and the 22-ounce ribeye and 24-ounce bone-in porterhouse steaks.
Doughnut holes, molten chocolate cake and key lime pie are the best options in the dessert offerings.
Avoid the tables at the back and, instead, request booths at the side. The best are numbers 21 to 26, which seat two to five people.
Cecconi's has an English country house garden feel.
Soho House Beach House
The Miami outpost of the legendary London restaurant of the same name allows diners the privilege of entering the otherwise members only enclave of the Soho Beach House, part of the Soho House growing empire of private clubs.
LTI favors this alfresco all-day dining option, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to an eclectic mix of members, global visitors and in-the-know locals, in a pretty courtyard.
Cecconi's has an English country house garden feel, with its tiled, green floor, silver buttonwood trees with lights entwined throughout the branches, retractable awning and upholstered chairs.
The menu is made up of Venetian-inspired, Italian fare, such as risotto, pizza, pasta, meat and fish.
We recommend the tuna tartar, grilled octopus, branzino, chicken paillard, beef carpaccio, spaghetti with lobster and the goat's cheese and black truffle pizza.
Dessert favorites are the tiramisu, panna cotta and zabaione.
Cecconi's wine list is also worth a mention, consisting of than 200 bottles, including some interesting U.S., South American and Spanish options, but is mainly Italian focused, with an excellent choice of Amarones and some super Tuscans. More than 20 wines are available by the glass.
Tables 131 to 134 in the middle of the room are perfect for two or four people. Any tables with banquettes or couches are better for six or eight.
Ultra-modern space -- Juvia is based at the top of a car park.
The brainchild of restaurateurs Jonas and Alexandra Millan (co-owners of Bonito in St Barth's, an LTI favorite,) dining at Juvia is a unique experience.
It's positioned in a penthouse on the ninth floor of a car park, which overlooks the skylines of both Downtown Miami and Miami Beach.
The setting is intriguing and entertaining, with a large indoor room and an equally large outdoor terrace with an impressive vertical wall garden, created by the horticultural artist Patrick Blanc.
Serving a unique fusion of Peruvian, Caribbean, French and Japanese cuisine, it offers ceviches, however the appetizers outshine the rest.
The bar holds an excellent cocktail list, with the Purple Rain and fresh ginger ale among the stand outs.
Juvia is also a great South Beach hotspot, and a popular place for non-diners.
You must go for any tables on the terrace, with views of the city skyline -- and a great place for sunset cocktails -- or go for a spot at the counter overlooking the kitchen, if the weather drives you inside.
Tables 131-134, alongside the bar, are perfect for overlooking South Beach -- but they can be a bit too close to the action if the bar is busy.
Juvia Miami, 1111 Lincoln Rd. Miami Beach, Fl 33139; +1 305 763 8272
This bullfighter-themed restaurant is inspired by the glamorous supper clubs of the 1950s.
Located inside Miami Beach Edition hotel, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has reinvented the original Matador Room (which was located inside the Seville Beach Hotel).
The dining room is set in a sunken oval reminiscent of Miami's glamorous supper clubs popular after World War II.
Its center piece is the original Matador's opulent chandelier, which resembles an octopus.
With a seasonal menu focusing on Vongerichten's interpretation of classics from the Caribbean, Spain, and South America, Matador Room is now one of Miami's most popular celebrity dining spots.
Try the spicy tuna tartar, which is comprised of super firm fish from Hawaii in a dressing of plum and red wine vinegars, lemon juice, garlic, chipotle, chilies, soy sauce, and Dijon mustard. It's then emulsified with sesame and sunflower oils and comes in a bowl dotted with crunchy rice, oil-cured black olives, and cubed cucumber and avocado.
We like dining on the leafy outdoor terrace, which is a nod to Havana's Tropicana nightclub and is simply stunning -- with beachfront views and a custom Ipe trellis with climbing bougainvillea.
Matador Room, 2901 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 3314; +1 786 257 4600
Smith & Wollensky
Smith & Wollensky offers amazing views of South Beach.
Smith & Wollensky
One of the first steakhouses to open in Miami, Smith & Wollensky is spacious and welcoming, with old school waiters and a classic New York City vibe.
Housed in a green and white clapperboard building and situated on the southern tip of South Beach, it's been around significantly longer than Prime 112 and Red and shows no signs of relinquishing its claim as Miami's best steakhouse.
Featuring wooden floors and chairs, crisp, white linens and subdued lighting, we love its unobstructed views over the water.
It's large, and divided into multiple rooms over two floors, with a large outdoor deck overlooking the water.
The menu here is predominately steak, and the cajun-seasoned bone-in ribeye is an LTI favorite.
But the fish and seafood options are also excellent -- the shellfish bouquet and wasabi crusted tuna are stand out dishes, as is the simple but warming split pea soup and crab cake appetizers.
Classic steakhouse sides (try the truffled mac & cheese) complement any meal -- and are all designed to be shared by two.
The desserts here should not be missed and both the chocolate and coconut cakes are outstanding and huge -- one portion is enough for four people.
The award winning and extensive list boasts an impressive selection of Californian cabernets.
We particularly recommend Smith & Wollensky's own Cabernet Reserve -- an impressive wine that's great value.
Go for the window tables 121 to 126 for two or four people. Booths 144 and 145 are also a great option, pr choose any table outside on the terrace, overlooking the water
Smith & Wollensky, 1 Washington Avenue, At South Pointe Park, Miami Beach, FL 33139; +1 305 673 2800
Situated on the water in Downtown Miami, this sister restaurant to Il Mulino in New York City has great views, through floor-to-ceiling windows, over Biscayne Bay.
Popular with locals, global visitors and sports stars, Il Gabbiano serves a delicious Italian menu in a fine dining atmosphere, with white linen clad tables, comfortable chairs and opulent decor.
However, the food takes pride of place, with an extensive choice of pastas, risottos, veal and steak dishes on offer.
We recommend the red wine risotto (risotto al Barolo), veal Milanese (one of several veal dishes), pollo alla scarpariello, scampi fra diavolo and the zucchine fritte.
Complimentary bruschetta, bread baskets, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar are all served as soon as you get to your table, so it's probably best if you share an appetizer.
Although Il Gabbiano welcomes children, its tightly packed tables make it unsuitable for active kids who don't like sitting still for long periods.
The service here is friendly, attentive and formal service, with tuxedo-wearing waiters.
While the restaurants has its own bar, it's small and really only suitable for pre-dinner drinks.
But it gets busy with people waiting for tables, offering a great cocktail list and a selection of mainly Italian wines by the glass.
This is a very compact restaurant. Tables closer to the bar and at the window offer a little more space (the tables in middle of room are constantly jostled.)
Outside on the patio is a better option, with more room and great views. Request a table beside the rail.
Il Gabbiano 335 S. Biscayne Blvd Miami, Fl. 33131 (One MIami); +1 305 373 0063
Contemporary steakhouse Prime 112.
Prime 112 is a contemporary take on the classic American steakhouse and has established itself as a Miami institution.
Crammed full of diners seven nights a week, reservations are a must here.
You'll still have to wait at peak times, when the bar becomes the Prime 112 legendary waiting room.
Although the restaurant is made up of one large room with an open kitchen, there's a separate dining room in adjacent Prime Hotel.
With an interior of exposed brickwork and wooden floors, the vibe is classic US steakhouse.
The steaks here may be delicious, but the extensive menu goes way beyond this.
There's also an excellent choice of seafood and fish, as well as great à la carte side dishes (large, ideal for two).
LTI has many favorites here -- oysters Rockefeller, Kobe beef sliders, jumbo shrimp cocktail, truffled lobster mac 'n' cheese, 22-ounce bone-in rib eye and the jumbo lump crab crusted grouper, to name a few. The fried chicken is also remarkably good.
Popular with affluent locals and visitors, celebrities and local sports stars, this classic South Beach experience should not be missed.
If you feel the urge for something Italian -- Prime Italian, directly opposite, is a worthy choice. Plus, you also have the option of Prime Fish, just around the corner.
Pick any of the banquettes at the side of the room. For larger parties, tables 47 and 26 are perfect. Beware: the tables in the middle of the room are liable to get jostled.
Avoid tables in the corridor as well as number 41 in the restaurant, as it faces a brick pillar.
The tables in the adjacent hotel dining room are quieter, with a more subdued atmosphere, while outside tables on the patio are popular.
Prime 112, 112 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139; +1 305-532 8112
Upscale sushi and Japanese-Peruvian fusion is served at Nobu Miami.
Formerly located at The Shore Club, Nobu Miami has taken up residence in a more vibrant and sophisticated venue within the Nobu Hotel.
Known the world over for its innovative food, chef Nobu Matsuhisa's restaurant is still a firm favorite on Miami Beach, attracting discerning locals and travelers alike.
The interior features teak walls and ceilings with large chandeliers, white chairs with black backs and legs, white banquettes and crystal glassware.
The menu takes up a contemporary twist on classic Japanese fare, with sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki, seafood and fish all included, as well as a nod to chef Nobu's Peruvian links, with a choice of ceviches.
Stand out dishes include black cod, rock shrimp tempura and lobster quinoa ceviche.
As for wine, the extensive list is 80% Californian, with a good choice of wines and champagne by the glass, as well as a great sake selection.
We recommend you request one of the banquette tables or one of the high tables, which have slightly more space around. However, if you prefer to be in the midst of the "action" request a table in the middle of the room but be prepared to be jostled a little.
Nobu Miami, 4525 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33140; +1 305 695 3232
The Bazaar by José Andrés
The menu at The Bazaar is focused on the best that Spain has to offer.
Award-winning chef José Andrés' first restaurant in Miami, situated within the SLS Hotel, has taken the town by storm.
With an imaginative and elegant take on Spanish cuisine, as well as a great bar scene (they do excellent Mojitos,) its popularity comes as no surprise.
Designed by Philippe Starck, its eclectic and whimsical, featuring a vast sea shell-encrusted chandelier and a stuffed bull's head complete with a lucha libre mask.
Its large and ambitious 60-plus-dish menu holds inventive tapas-style dishes, with Caribbean and Latin twists.
LTI favorites include the grilled octopus, Colada Cubana (coffee with foie gras,) Black Rossejat (paella-style pasta, squid ink, shrimp, alioli,) Jose's Taco (Iberico ham with Ossetra caviar )and, for dessert, the baby Japanese peaches or key lime pie José-style.
It's more about the best room rather than the best table here. To be in the middle of the action, request a table in the Rojo room (the hotel lobby). For a more intimate atmosphere, request to be in Blanca.
La Petite Maison Miami
The first American outpost of French eatery La Petite Maison is wowing guests with its classic Niçoise and Mediterranean menu.
Created by three Michelin-starred chef Raphael Duntoye, who oversees the brand's kitchens around the world, it's a sprawling 4,600 square feet inside and also holds an outdoor patio.
The space is beautiful, with soaring ceilings, Provencal-style shutters stretching from floor to ceiling and a mix of modern art.
Packed nightly, the restaurant can get but the service is excellent.
The menu is classic Niçoise and includes some of Miami's best seafood, most of which is shipped in from colder waters.
The fish carpaccio is excellent and comes dressed in olive oil and lemon with just a touch of coarse sea salt.
The chef is also skilled at warm prawns in olive oil and basil and plump, fresh herb-stuffed escargot appetizers.
La Petite Maison Miami is most famous for its whole roasted heritage green circle chicken stuffed with 200 grams of rouge foie gras and croutons, which must be ordered in advance as it takes an hour to cook.
There are also excellent handmade pasta selections and a thick, bone-in ribeye should you be craving red meat.
The wine list is French-focused, but also offers a well-curated selection of Spanish, Italian and New World bottles, with offerings by the glass and 15-ounce carafe.
The tables next to the shutters by the bar offer the most privacy, although the banquettes along the mismatched art wall are also comfortable.
We also love dining al fresco at one of the umbrella-shaded tables on the patio. When full, the dining room can get very loud, so avoid the tables in the center of the space if you want a quieter night
Byblos offers a unique take on Levantine mezze and exotically spiced meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
It's one of the hottest places to eat in Miami, and locals are even venturing to touristy South Beach to go here.
The yellow-and-blue hued space with high ceilings, fabric-wrapped panels and a patio with terrazzo tile floors are as appealing as the Mediterranean fusion menu at this offshoot of the Toronto original.
It's a big space spread onto two floors, with a sophisticated lounge for après dinner cocktails on the main floor and the opulent 200-seat dining room upstairs.
There is also a fun spirit-spiked tea service delivered via trolley.
The decor is Byzantine in style and the main dining level boasts 17-foot ceilings, with walls adorned with fabric panels.
Featuring an assortment of mezzes (small plates), as well as impressive main dishes, such as the 20-ounce dry-aged rib eye with za'atar butter, the menu showcases Mediterranean flavors created using modern cooking methods.
Everything is excellently prepared, but the mezzes and imaginative sides are the main highlights.
We recommend the wood-fired breads and an order of the sweet jeweled rice, which is made with carrot, saffron, pomegranate, barberries and almonds. The yoghurt-baked fluke with toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts is another LTI favorite.
The wine list includes wines from around the Eastern Mediterranean coast, but the unique cocktails are what to order here. Don't skip the spiked tea -- it's the signature cocktail on the list and features spirit-infused cold tea.
We like the corner banquettes against the walls or pushed up to the windows, as opposed to the more open tables in the center of the dining room. Ask for a stand-alone banquette if possible.
Byblos, 1545 Collins Ave, Miami Beach FL 33139; +1 (305) 680 1308
Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
Los Fuegos has an opulent decor, with plenty of gold accents, bold reds and animal prints.
Faena Group/Nik Koenig
South American chef and grill master Francis Mallmann brings his updated Argentinean concept to the opulent Faena Hotel, serving luscious grilled meats, seafood and classic regional dishes from an open fire kitchen.
Its décor is luxurious, with plenty of gold accents, bold reds and animal prints plus a vast chandelier inside the dining room.
Inside there are 17 lacquered burled wood tables, while outside a covered terrace fronts the pool area.
The menu focuses on grilled meat and seafood, but the chef turns out rustic regional Argentinean staples into sophisticated foodie dishes. We love the grilled octopus, which comes out tender and well-seasoned.
The other grilled meat dishes are all good, but stand outs include a Chimichurri skirt steak and prime rib, that both come out melt in your mouth tender.
The wood oven empanadas are a must do starter -- the stuffing is a gently seasoned chopped filet served with a fresh tomato Llajua sauce, a mix of fresh tomato and vinegar, lemon and olive oil.
There's also an extensive wine and champagne menu, with offerings by the glass and bottle, and a well-rounded vintage champagne section.
Outside on the patio as close as possible to the Damien Hirst gold-encrusted woolly mammoth, for a truly unique background setting. Inside there are just 17 tables -- we like the ones closest to the open fire kitchen best.
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
Lobster Bar Sea Grille -- a classic steakhouse, with an emphasis on fresh whole grilled fish and seafood.
Lobster Bar Sea Grille
This glam surf and turf restaurant in South Beach has a lobster bar, a raw bar and plenty of fresh fish and seafood -- displayed on an ice bed at the front of the restaurant -- as well as steak selections.
Its vast dining room was designed to resemble the famous oyster bar in NYC's Grand Central Station and has an opulent vibe with vaulted ceilings, custom crystal chandeliers, sparkling white tiles and striking lighting.
Beyond the main dining room, there's a lounge with banquettes and booths, and two private dining rooms that accommodate 20 guests and 100 guests respectively.
The restaurant guarantees its fish and seafood goes from ocean to table in 48 hours or less, and the menu's star attraction, lobster, is sourced from Nova Scotia.
For appetizers anything from the raw bar is excellent. We recommend the live lobster as a main, either solo or in a surf 'n' turf combo.
It comes in a variety of sizes up to four pounds and is steamed, cracked and served with lemon and drawn butter.
The usual array of USDA prime meats and steakhouse sides are also served, including an excellent creamless corn mash.
If you have room for dessert, the apple crumb pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is delicious.
Finally, there's a well-curated red, white and sparkling wine list by the glass and bottle that spans the globe and price brackets.
We love the comfortable banquettes and booths in the lounge area for a more relaxed dining experience.
The fully covered outdoor patio with cushioned furniture is another option if you're looking to just grab a few drinks and raw bar items. There are also two private dining spaces for more intimacy.
Villa Azur brings the South of France to Miami Beach.
This elegant, sophisticated restaurant and lounge, located in the up-and-coming Collins Park area of Miami Beach, is where the chic crowd come to dine and play.
Owned by Olivier Martinez and dedicated to delicious food and a warm and electric atmosphere, Villa Azur brings a distinct St Tropez vibe to Miami Beach.
Comprised of one large room dissected by oversized white wood columns, the elegant décor includes contemporary leather furniture, chandeliers and a feature fireplace.
There's also a stunning marble entrance filled with antiques and billowing drapes, while the marble-topped bar with leather stools is ideal for pre or post-dinner drinks. You can also take a seat in the saloon, where the couches and armchairs are surrounded by a working fireplace.
The menu here is French with an Italian twist featuring a heady mix of seafood, pasta, meat and a raw bar with choice of oysters.
We love the grilled branzino on roasted pepper coulis and veal scallopini in lemon sauce with polenta.
The assorted macarons on the dessert menu should not be missed.
There's also a 200 bottle Cave d'Azur wine cellar that serves French meats, cheeses, and sandwiches during the day, and turns into a wine bar and tasting room at night.
After dinner, stay and party as the DJs spin until dawn.
Go for any of the circular booths along the mirrored wall inside. Our top picks are booths 107 and 108, for the best vantage points of both inside and the outdoor patio.
They also have more floor space for dancing on party nights, when everyone dances around tables, on the patio or in the bar area, along with dancers, saxophone and violin players.
It can get loud later in the evening on these nights (resembling a wedding reception), so request a table inside and wander out occasionally.
The patio is a good choice for an intimate dinner for two, but on party nights we definitely recommend that you request a table inside.
Villa Azur, 309 23rd St, Miami Beach, FL 33139; +1 305 763 868
La Mar by Gastón Acurio
The decor at theme at La Mar by Gaston Acurio is inspired by the surrounding sea.
Acclaimed chef-restaurateur Gaston Acurio's restaurant is the perfect spot for brunch or sunset dining with views.
The restaurant has a large outdoor patio offering sweeping vistas across the bay to the Miami skyline beyond, and serves elevated Peruvian fusion fare, including excellent ceviches and tiraditos, along with an array of carefully crafted pisco sours.
We love the Sunday brunch, which features bottomless champagne and DJs.
With indoor and outdoor dining rooms, as well as three bars, the space is quite large.
Inside you'll find a teal and copper color scheme, along with a rich mix of woods, while the outside dining patio features white tables and pillow-backed chairs under umbrellas.
As for food, the made-to-order flash-marinated fish ceviches should not be skipped, and the tiraditos (Peruvian style sashimi) are also stellar. Order a sampler featuring three typical flavors.
Beyond raw fish, the menu also features Nikkei fusion dishes and traditional classics such as causas (potatoes whipped with avocado, seafood, tobiko, egg and tomato).
You'll also find grilled, skewered meats and plenty of seafood choices. However, we recommend sticking with seafood, as meat entrees can be hit or miss.
The picarones, a spiced pumpkin and sweet potato donut, is perfect for dessert.
La Mar boasts a compact, thoughtfully curated wine list dominated by Latin bottles, but we highly recommend the signature drink: pisco sour.
These come in a variety of flavors, many accented by tropical fresh fruit.
With sweeping views across Brickell Bay and the Miami skyline behind it, the outdoor patio is where to sit. Inside, the tables just can't compete with this view. Outdoor tables are covered by sun umbrellas
The most sophisticated Japanese/Asian restaurant in Miami, Zuma serves modern Japanese cuisine to a cosmopolitan crowd.
With contemporary house music playing in the background this cavernous and buzzing restaurant is popular with every age group. It's also one of the few Miami restaurants accessible by boat, with its very own private jetty.
The inside is minimalist chic, with natural earth tones (Zuma's worldwide style,) granite floors and walls and rice paper panels hanging from the triple-height ceiling.
Tempura, robata, sushi and sashimi are all featured on the menu, each with their own stations and chefs.
The fish and seafood dishes are particularly top notch, with most items designed for sharing and presented, in no particular order, directly from each station.
Signature dishes include miso marinated cod, beef tenderloin with sesame and chilli, rice hotpot with wild mushrooms and rock shrimp tempura with lime and chilli mayonnaise.
The restaurant's inviting bar and lounge offers more than 80 varieties of sake (including Biwa No Choju, which is brewed exclusively for Zuma). Try the Zuma handcrafted shochu infusions.
Outside, you should request a table on the rail, overlooking the water and Miami skyline. Inside, pick any of the tables for two beside the windows.
Zuma, 270 Biscayne Blvd Way, Miami, FL 33131; +1 305 577 0277
Forte dei Marmi
This upscale restaurant is also part arts club, and serves modern Italian from the Tuscan coastal region.
Under the direction of Antonio Mellino, a two Michelin-starred chef, and his son Raffaele, local organic ingredients are used to create fresh and tasty dishes.
LTI loves the Chad Oppenheim-designed space inside a 1930s Mediterranean-revival building in South Beach, with its showy archways, neutral colors and marble accents.
The light and airy salon style dining room is adorned with natural colors, imported, handmade Italian furnishings and sand-hued fabrics.
There are also marble accents, light wood and hints of gold. This design continues out onto the patio, where there are more tables.
Two Michelin-starred chef Mellino's menu draws inspiration from the Amalfi Coast, where he has had a restaurant since 1983.
There are lots of classic Italian choices, but instead of importing all ingredients, Mellino has opted to use organic local produce when possible.
When in season, we love the local stone crabs tossed with Sicilian tomatoes and chili oil served over homemade tagliolini.
We also like the charred octopus with celeriac puree; red snapper with squash blossoms; and delicate strips of calamari flavored with mint and olive oil and topped with caviar.
The meat options are less appealing. Note: the veal chop with vegetables is very average.
There's also a lengthy all-Italian wine list with about 20 different offerings by the glass, including a number of sparkling choices and one rosé.
By the bottle, there are multiple champagnes, including a well-rounded vintage selection, and white and reds split by Italian region. Try the pinot grigio from Livio Felluga.
When the weather allows, we like the tables on the patio. Some of the indoor tables can feel a little cramped, so request one by a window.
The Forge has been part of Miami Beach culture since the 1920s, when it was a blacksmith's forge.
It was transformed into a club and casino in the 1930s, and frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason.
After extensive renovations, the new Forge restaurant/wine bar opened to great acclaim in March 2010.
Still a Miami institution, this 41st Street mansion has been brought into the 21st century, with well-heeled locals and visitors on the hunt for a classic Miami Beach experience heading here to enjoy the champagne happy hour.
Opulent, decadent and classic in a contemporary sort of way, the main dining room is bright, sophisticated and almost cathedral-like, with archways and high-vaulted ceilings, an impressive crystal chandelier and low-slung couches.
Its large island bar has comfortable high-backed stools as well as an excellent cocktail list, with several culinary-inspired choices to complement food (lemongrass, basil and rosemary).
The theme of the Forge's extensive menu is American steakhouse/bistro with a farm-to-table approach, and it includes steak, fish, seafood, pasta and risotto.
We recommend the pan-seared crab cake or any of the steak options (although we suggest going for the bone-in filet).
For dessert, try one of the soufflés (pre-order with entrées) or one of the dessert shots.
The restaurant has four wine cellars with more than 20,000 bottles and 700 selections. Seek out sommelier Gino Santangelo for expert guidance.
Also, an Enomatic system gives you the option of serving yourself from a selection of more than 80 wines.
The main room is a see-and-be-seen kind of place -- everybody has to pass through here. If this appeals, request one of the tables with couches against the wall on the left hand side as you enter.
The library, on the other hand, is more intimate and romantic.
The Forge, 432 Forty First Street, Miami Beach, Florida 33140; +1 305 538 8533
Miami's Estefan Kitchen is a celebrity favorite.
Music royalty Gloria and Emilio Estefan have added to their Florida restaurant emporium with this upscale restaurant, serving traditional Cuban family recipes with the odd twist.
Chef Odell Torres turns out everything from braised short ribs to seafood paella against a buzzing backdrop with plenty of musical flair.
There's a live pianist performance each lunchtime, and musicians take center stage towards the end of dinner.
With an emphasis on fresh produce, everything is handmade on site. We suggest you order the award-winning croquetas.
Estefan Kitchen also has two large horse shoe shaped bars, one inside and one outside, so diners can arrive early and enjoy a pre-dinner mojito.
The wine menu has a nice global offering and highlights a varied list of interesting wines, while the Estefan house wine is a comfortably affordable entry level wine as well.
All of the tables enjoy a good buzz, but on a balmy evening ask for one outside, on the borders looking in.
Italian restaurant Casa Tua has a definite Mediterranean feel.
When the South Beach scene becomes a little overbearing, retreat to the European charm and sophistication of Casa Tua.
This vine-covered mansion, with its dolce vita feel is a long standing LTI favorite.
Think small modern Italian palazzo.
The menu involves Italian antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti and dolci served in the traditional way.
Longstanding LTI favorites include burrata with organic tomato salad, grilled octopus with barlotti beans, white truffle risotto (try this if the truffles are in season), pappardelle lamb ragu, seared branzino with black olives, veal tenderloin, tiramisu and panna cotta.
The wine menu here is all-encompassing, with more than 95 percent from Italy and the sommelier is excellent, which is a rarity on South Beach.
Indoors is quite compact and only offers 12 tables, with corner table 7 the best option for two. For convivial social dining, a good communal table is also available, which seats up to 16 people and overlooks the open kitchen.
Outside tables offer a romantic and intimate setting, as they are lit by lanterns and candles, with torches for viewing the menu.
Casa Tua, 1700 James Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139; +1 305 673 1010
LTI's top choices in South Beach continue to be Casa Tua and The Forge, and our two new favorites just North of South Beach are both at the Faena hotel, Los Fuegos and Pao.
Our top lunch venues are Cecconi's (the only part of Soho Beach House open to non-members) and the waterside terrace at Smith & Wollensky.
Downtown Miami also offers some excellent dining options, even if you are residing on South Beach -- Zuma and Seaspice are particularly worth the trip.