Lee Brian Schrager, founder and director of the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, dishes on the best new spots to dine during Art Basel.
Como Como | 919 Collins Court
Tucked inside the Moxy South Beach, this moody Mesoamerican take on a traditional marisquería (seafood restaurant) features a zesty menu by Scott Linquist that channels the flavors of Mexico’s postcard-perfect seaside destinations. Standouts include a fresh, locally caught whole branzino, flavored with bitter orange, Habanero chiles and achiote, then grilled over the ’s showstopping fire station. Mezcal and tequila aficionados will also enjoy the ’s “tequila tree,” an eye-catching sculpture that funnels the spirit through metal branches before decanting it into one of Como Como’s zingy signature cocktails.
La Cañita | 401 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami’s melting pot of flavors is on mouthwatering display at this Caribbean and pan-Latin restaurant, which offers a menu of crave-able bites devised by Michelle Bernstein, with waterfront views to match. La Cañita’s cocktail list offers nearly every tropical drink imaginable, which — coupled with the space’s industrial Caribbean-distillery décor (its name is Spanish for “little sugarcane”) — evokes the charm of a sun-soaked island getaway. Don’t dare skip the 305 rum cake, a triumphant celebration of rum culture in and of itself.
A collaboration between Pubbelly chef-impresario José Mendín and Brooklyn-born chef Santo Agnello, this Sunset Harbour haven — “casa isola” is Italian for “island house” — beautifully marries Mendín’s modern flavors with Agnello’s coveted Sicilian family recipes. The beachy, blue and white accented space (formerly occupied by Mendín’s long-running Pubbelly Noodle Bar) boasts a made-from-scratch menu of antipasti and handmade pastas, although the pièce de résistance might very well be Agnello’s eight-hour Sunday sauce, anointed with deeply savory short rib meatballs, pork rib and Italian sausage.
Ch’i | 701 S. Miami Ave.
A combination restaurant, mercado, garden and lounge inside Brickell City Centre, Ch’i is a marvel both in its funky, stylized design and its punchy “Chino-Latino” menu. The eclectic, more-is-more approach pays off here, especially when it comes to chef Rafael Perez Cambana’s fusion cuisine, ranging from shrimp enchilada dumplings to Peking duck tacos. Creative cocktails and lively music complete the vibe, making it the kind of high-energy hangout that, just like a great outfit, seamlessly transitions from day to night.
If you’re searching for a jolt of energy, head straight to David Grutman and Pharrell Williams’ hideaway inside their new Goodtime Hotel. Conceived by renowned designer Ken Fulk as a pastel-tinted, Beverly Hills Hotel-style paradise, the expansive space sports a swanky swim club-cum-restaurant vibe. This proves to be the ideal canvas for chefs Roel Alcudia and Ian Fleischmann’s Mediterranean menu of dips, Turkish-style pizzas and spiced kebabs. If brunch is more your speed, don’t miss out on the breakfast pide, their crazy-delicious riff on a traditional Turkish flatbread.
Of all the New York City restaurant transplants to migrate to Miami, Cote easily ranks as one of the best. The chic Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-nominated Korean steakhouse, helmed by Simon Kim and chef David Shim, features a menu that stays true to its original concept, while infusing each dish with a Latin and South American edge. The smokeless state-of-the-art tabletop grills create a vibrant theatrical dining experience, where dry-aged meats of the highest quality all but steal the show.
The sister restaurant to Richard Caring’s London sensation is now making waves in Miami. The Brickell outpost spotlights many of the dishes made famous by the original Sexy Fish and its gifted chef, Bjoern Weissgerber — including his succulent duck salad — along with a few additional, seasonally inspired flavors. But art is also on the menu here: A whopping 10 works by Damien Hirst as well as an installation by Frank Gehry are displayed throughout the opulent Martin Brudnizki-designed eatery, which also boasts an elegant destination bar.
Casa Mariano | 8200 NW 27th St.; Doral
You’ll feel right at home at chef Mariano Araya’s warm and welcoming restaurant, which skillfully blends bold Mediterranean ingredients with the flavors of his native Argentina. Featuring inventive spins on time-honored classics, Araya’s menu strikes just the right notes to complement the living room-like setting. (The Roman-style cacio e pepe flatbread is particularly excellent, as is the sumptuous black-ink seafood risotto.) General manager and sommelier Victor Tapia rounds out the menu with a satisfying selection of wine-based cocktails, including a fizzy rosé-peach sangria.
Adrianne Calvo — the formidable chef behind Redfish and Cracked — tips her toque toher Sicilian heritage with this rustic concept, showcasing a mix of refined Italian comfort foods. The restaurant, which pays homage to her mother’s maiden name, brims with trattoria-style charm, offering up a hard-to-resist selection of burrata (three ways) that dovetails nicely with her more decadent dishes, including a luxurious carbonara and a hearty Niman Ranch Denver steak served with guanciale and scallion salsa verde. Skip the nightcap and order Calvo’s luscious tableside tiramisu instead.