Despite its seaside location, Miami has long been known for its steak, with excellently prepared cuts peppering menus across town. Recently, however, a greater attention to sustainability has seen expensive meats from faraway farms replaced by a bounty of seafood on menus across the city in Greek, Japanese, and New American restaurants. Whether you want to slurp raw oysters or tuck into a whole grilled fish from Florida's shores, there are now better chefs in more charming restaurants than ever before, in South Beach and beyond. Here are five Miami restaurants where you can find great seafood.
One restaurant elevating local cooking is the aptly named Florida Cookery, an al fresco restaurant tucked into the back of the The James Royal Palm. Executive chef Billy Boyle cooks to celebrate regional Florida fare (he's also working with Slow Food Miami to source sustainable purveyors). The food here is fresh and unpretentious, an ideal complement to the salty air and strong drinks. Start with the charred baby octopus, enlivened by a romesco sauce, before moving on to the Miami paella, full of ingredients from regional farms and fisheries such as Cedar Key clams, Gulf shrimp, octopus, and local fish.
Insider Tip: Another substantial option is grilled cobia, a meaty filet served with garlic yucca, charred corn, and roasted tomatillo sauce.
Make a reservation in advance for Mandolin—this Aegean bistro in Miami's Design District is so beloved by locals that there are lines out the door every night of the week— and request an outdoor table beneath the blooming bougainvillea. Here the cuisines of the Greek Islands and the Turkish Coast come together in the form of simple dishes sometimes called “peasant food” by the owners. The plating isn't fancy, but the marinated grilled octopus is so tender, you won't care. Made with herbs from their own organic garden, the dishes here are bright with flavor.
Insider Tip: Rustic food is the specialty, especially simply grilled local fish, finished with olive oil, lemon, and oregano.
Some bites are worth traveling for: Makoto is located in Bal Harbour, a 20-minute cab ride from South Beach. This elegant Japanese restaurant serves up seafood at its best in the raw. Start with a couple of cold appetizers, such as fire and ice oysters with yamamomo granita and serrano chili, or watermelon ceviche with tuna, white fish, octopus, squid, cucumber, and serrano lime ice. For entrees, the miso sea bass and tempura grouper are both tempting, but some seafood fanatics might head straight for the sushi and sashimi menu.
Insider Tip: Put yourself in the chef's hands with a combination sushi sampler.
Brunch at Bianca in the Delano Hotel is a particularly leisurely affair on a breezy patio. Those with big appetites (and little patience for individually priced oysters) will love the chilled seafood table, piled high with Jonah snap-and-eat crab claws, Alaskan king crab, American caviar, smoked salmon, and smoked sturgeon.
Insider Tip: For $75 per person, this all-you-can-eat-brunch also includes grilled oysters and a selection of handmade sushi rolls, as well as a glass of sangria.
Khong River House
If you like your seafood with a little zing, snag a table at Khong River House, a Southeast Asian restaurant just steps from Lincoln Road. With high ceilings, reclaimed wood, and a striking bar, this restaurant is a cozy place to tuck into Vietnamese-style crispy prawns, sautéed with fresh Thai chili, garlic, shallots, spring onion, and cilantro.
Insider Tip: To sample the local catch, order fish in a banana leaf—fresh catch with homemade curry paste, fish sauce, scallions, and dill, served with nam jim ta laey (a classic hot, sour, tangy Thai dressing) and Thai jasmine rice.
Freelance writer Jessica Colley covers cuisine, culture, the arts, and experiential travel. She is currently based in New York City and called Dublin, Ireland home for several years. You can follow her on Twitter @jessicacolley or on her blog, Travel Bites Deep.