Just returned from a business trip to Miami and wanted to share a few things:
1) Not a restaurant....an EXPERIENCE! The Fruit and Spice Park south of Miami in Redlands (just north of Homestead) is a 35-acre county park planted with hundreds of tropical fruit trees from all over the world. The best part of this park, other than the measly $4 entrance/guided tour fee, is that they encourage you to EAT everything that's ripe! Before setting out on the tour, one is treated to a smorgasbord of whatever exotic fruit is ripe at the time. Before our tour we tasted at least 10 different kinds, most of which I had never heard of before. (Sadly, all of their 150 varieties of mango were done for the season, but I'll be back in June!!!!) The tour takes you through this veritable Garden of Eatin', and the guide plucks and forages extra goodies along the way! It's a real don't-miss expereince, IMHO.
2) Quinn's on Ocean Drive. Ate dinner there the first night. Entrees... they were pretty good, nothing real specal, but among the appetizers, the shrimp bisque was a standout... creamy, shrimpy, with a mesmerizing depth of flavor and good enough to make a meal of. The BamBam shrimp were a knockout. These are marinated in lime and cilantro then rolled in palm sugar, grilled over a wood fire and served with a mint yogurt sauce. The caramelized crunchy-chewy sugar and toasty wood, the sweet shrimp and tangy sauce.... YUM!!
4) Red Fish Grill wins my vote for the best restaurant ambience ever. In Matheson Hammock State Park about 1/2 hour south of Miami. You might as well be a million miles south, as you sit under palm trees strung with twinkly white lights, gazing at the lagoon and the sea beyond, and hearing nothing but soft jazz and singing cicadas. When night falls, the lights of miami float on the water like a mirage. Georgeous. The food? It's pretty good.... the seared tuna crusted with balck and white sesame seeds was outstanding. Don't order anything with shrimp: they're the little curled-up frozen ones and they're overcooked to boot.
5) Baleen: Stunning location, impeccable service, food a huge disappointment. Maybe I just ordered everything wrong. This exquisite resaurant is on the gated community of Grove Isle and sits right on the water. The place really is breathtaking in its graceful southeast -Asian simplicity. The servers are gracious and knowledgable. I ordered a crab ball appetizer with avacado salad. I got two golf-ball sized fried crabcakes made with the machine-picked claw meat (little shreds) and lots of gummy filler. The salad was some OK guacamole. The entree, a special of dolpin over braised fennel and carrots, was truly awful The fish had an off taste (a hint of ammonia) and the braised vegetables were a mush consisting of at least half butter... way too rich for human consumption. The trio of creme brulee was quite good, in flavors of mango, guava and passionfruit, and went down well with an excellent cappucino. I had a wonderful glass of white wine ($10), cant recall the name. But the bill for 1 was over $100. I won't be back.
6) Versailles. Lunch there was WAY too much fun. The best entree, I thought, was the Cuban pork braised with onions. Great coffee, great desserts, and a Cuban band singing their heads off. What a wonderfully varied clientele, from geezers to kids and everyone in between. And just TRY to figure out which of the dozen or so really expensive cars (BMWs, Ferarris, Jags, Mercedes, Lincolns) in the parking lot is the MOST expensive!!!