For anyone wondering which sit-down restaurants are currently hot in Miami right this second, you have arrived at the right figurative Internet place. What does “hot” mean, you ask? Well it’s safe to say that we put on relatively cute outfits to dine at each restaurant below (possibly even eye makeup and our “good deodorant”). A night out at one of these places - whether it’s for a casual catch-up with a friend or an impressive date night - feels overwhelmingly of the current moment. Many of them are brand spanking new, but there are also old favorites who’ve been exciting from day one.
And, as always, we wouldn’t be recommending any of these restaurants simply for having a memorable scene. We’ve been to each and every spot and loved the food they serve - so you can plan your dinner confidently.
Jaguar Sun has reinvented itself more times in the past year with its pandemic pivots than Martha Stewart has in her entire career. But now, like Martha quietly making a quiche in one of her twelve kitchens, Jaguar Sun has returned to its roots. The excellent Downtown restaurant has finally moved back into its original space in the lobby of an apartment building, where it’s serving the same cocktails and food that made us fall in love with this restaurant in the first place. Their outstanding pastas, raw bar, and Parker House rolls are all back on the menu, and dinner here feels like reuniting with a friend who fled on an eight month road trip to “go find themselves” - only that friend actually got cooler instead of insufferably into crystals. The restaurant (in case you forgot) is tiny, so a reservation isn’t a bad idea.
We love a good speakeasy, and we’ll go anywhere that involves walking past a dining room full of people to another smaller dining room that those people aren’t aware of. This is the set up at Kojin, a small counter that seats about eight in the back of Little River’s Hachidori Ramen Bar. But the novelty of feeling like a secret agent is only a small part of what makes Kojin exciting. They also serve a very good rotating menu of Japanese small plates, including a tartare featuring tuna that’s been tied into little bows, savory tomatoes in a bowl of dashi, and a great chawanmushi with a jiggly egg in the center. And even though this might sound like a super fancy meal, the husband/wife team who run Kojin make it feel more like a dinner party where no one will judge you for pounding the table in delight, or having 30% more sake than you should have. You will, however, need a reservation.
Ariete has been around for a minute now, and even if you’ve been before, dinner here can feel like an entirely new experience. Especially if you decide to go for their duck press dinner for two, which has been on their menu for a little over a year now. It’s hands-down the best tableside presentation in town. Essentially, they cook a duck for two, but the show really starts when they wheel this medieval-looking machine to the table. The gold contraption is used to compress various parts of the duck into a deep, rich sauce, which they use to smother the absolute best duck you’ll ever taste in your life. The meal, which costs $125 and serves two, also comes with flaky duck pastelitos, pistachio dukkah duck tamale, and a salad. But if you’re not a huge duck fan and looking for another exciting option to try here, go with the seven-course $125 tasting menu.
Cote is one of the few big, buzzy New York restaurants that recently came to Miami and is actually worth the hype. And dinner at this Korean steakhouse (which feels like a futuristic steak nightclub) is basically a performance, except all the actors are beef and you get to eat them when the show is over. The meal works like this: you order meat (because this is a steakhouse) and servers spend the next few minutes overseeing the cuts sizzling away on the grill located in the center of the table. Once done, they remove them, you eat, and everyone is happy. One of the best ways to do Cote is with the Butcher’s Feast, a $58 per person tasting menu that comes with more than enough steak and banchan. And even though you should be focused on steak here, it’s worth getting the ceviche and some cocktails too, which are both excellent.
A formal omakase dinner that serves incredible sushi is always exciting. It can also be prohibitively expensive and a major pain in the butt to reserve. But at $69-$119 per person, Mr. Omakase is not only one of Miami’s more reasonably priced omakases, it’s also one of Miami’s best. Plus, it’s not booked until 2029 so you can probably find a table within a couple days. But, while the convenience of Mr. Omakase is nice, it’s not what makes this place exciting. That’s thanks to the sushi. Each piece of nigiri and sashimi will make you feel like a cat getting its favorite treat, and you’ll appreciate every single grain of rice. At the end of your meal, you’ll have the opportunity to order a piece of sushi a la carte. Get the A5 wagyu (or the A5 wagyu uni if you really want to go for it). Just make sure there’s enough room behind you for a backflip.
At Luca Osteria, at least one dish will make you want to climb onto the table and recreate Uma Thurman’s dance scene in Pulp Fiction - but probably more like three dishes. This Gables Italian restaurant is one of those places to come hungry, order too much food, and not regret a single bite. Luca is also home to one of our favorite dishes in Miami, the bowl of fried potato balls, parmigiano fonduta, black truffle, and an egg yolk known as the patate fritte. But this place also makes outstanding pasta, including a perfect cacio e pepe, as well as great cocktails. The restaurant is simple, but still lively enough for a big night out or an impressive date. Their outdoor seating is quite lovely too, in case it ever stops raining.
Mergers and acquisitions don’t always go smoothly. For example, America Online and Time Warner, which was the first thing that came up when we Googled “bad mergers and acquisitions examples.” However, sometimes things work out beautifully, which is what happened when one of our favorite restaurants in Miami, NIU Kitchen, moved in with its sister restaurant, Arson. Now we’ve got a best-of-both-worlds scenario in Downtown. Many of our favorite NIU dishes, like the cold tomato soup with mustard ice cream, are now mingling with Arson classics like the charbroiled oysters, which are singed with a hot coal tableside. There is also, of course, lots of wine still flowing here. And this place remains our go-to spot for convincing people that we’re much cooler than we actually are.
Uchi is another restaurant from out-of-town we’re glad to have in Miami, mostly because there is not a bad bite of food coming out of the Japanese spot. But also because it’s fun and stylish enough for those fancy clothes that’ve been sitting in your closet for so long they’ve forgotten what the outside world looks like. Expect a series of outstanding bites, ranging from simple nigiri to complex plates of sashimi and outstanding karaage chicken. And Uchi won’t leave you too full to bar hop around Wynwood afterward.
We’ve loved Boia De since the second they opened, back when it was possible to make a reservation within a few days. Getting a table at the little Italian restaurant is a lot harder now, but it’s still not an impossible seat to snag as long as you plan a few weeks in advance. Plus, this is one of those dinners you can look forward to for weeks, counting down the days until you’re sitting in their beautiful, microscopic dining room and eating beef tartare, sweet corn agnolotti, and bone marrow while sipping on a wine you’ll inevitably describe to your friends as “funky.”
Cafe La Trova still doesn’t feel a whole lot different than when it opened at the beginning of 2019. And that’s a good thing. Because this restaurant has always been one of the most fun dinner spots in Miami, and we’re so thankful it survived 2020 and remains a perfect distillation of everything that makes Little Havana great. If you love a perfect daiquiri, live Cuban music, and old school bartenders who’ll randomly start playing instruments in the middle of mixing your drinks, come here. And then after you’ve picked the crispy whole snapper clean, head to their ’80s bar in the back of the restaurant for a few more drinks inside a mirrored space that feels like a place Crockett and Tubbs would thoroughly enjoy.
Generally, the most exciting part of a dinner in Brickell is finding a parking spot. Unless you are going to River Oyster Bar. The classic Brickell seafood spot recently moved into a bigger, shinier space with more plentiful seating (including some outdoor tables). Now the atmosphere is a little more electric - great for an oyster-heavy date or celebratory business meal. But the food remains as delicious as it’s ever been. They have one of the best raw bars in town (get the scallop crudo), beautifully grilled fish, and plenty of champagne to toast the fact you actually found a parking spot.