Miami’s Most Overrated Restaurants
There's a Sucker Born Every Minute; And Here's Where They're All Eating
In Miami, where style reigns supreme over substance, we have more than our share of restaurants that are the culinary equivalent of a sucker bet. Luring you in with “world renowned chefs” you’re supposed to feel uncultured for never having heard of, then serving up food that’s indistinguishable from the happy hour specials at your local T.G.I. Friday’s.
Remember folks, just like smoking cigarettes in High School, just because the cool people say it’s cool doesn’t mean it is. Miami Beach 411 sees straight through the bullshit, and gives you 4 well-known restaurants where you should not waste your money.
If there was one thing that was severely lacking in Miami, it was trendy restaurants from New York who came to South Beach and assumed they’d take it by storm. Thank GOD Juvia came along to fill that gap. I’d say Juvia is the best restaurant you’d ever find in a parking garage, but then I’d remember they share that building with a Shake Shack.
The food is yet another Miami offering of “Asian Fusion.” Which basically means they took traditionally non-Asian food like lamb chops and veal, threw in some shitake mushrooms, and decided it should cost $48 a plate.
Juvia also features a selection of Sushi that can be found at roughly 475 other restaurants in South Beach, despite their claims of having flown it over on a private jet from Japan next to Justin Bieber and PSY.
But don’t take my word for it, people who write about Sushi for a living didn’t even have it in the Top 5.
The one thing they might have imported from New York that could have been useful was good service. But sadly, the waiters at Juvia are that same breed of South Beach server who honestly believes they are doing you a favor by taking 20 minutes to get to your table then tacking 18% onto your bill.
The view from Juvia IS quite incredible, on the top floor of the 1111 Lincoln Parking Garage looking out over all of South Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. But if you want to have a drink and enjoy the view, you’re better off grabbing a bottle of Absolute Miami from Gulf Liquors then shelling out the $4 an hour for a parking space.
Some things in life are worth the wait. True love, for instance. Retirement, if such a thing still exists. You know what’s NOT worth the wait? A table at Zuma.
Zuma offers up the only thing more ubiquitous in Miami than condos: An Asian Fusion Sharing Menu (in English, “You will leave hungry”). When I attempted to question manager William Cristanelli about what made this food special, his curt response was “People wait two months to get in here. I believe it speaks for itself.”
Well, Billy, it does and it doesn’t. Yes, the food is quite good. No, it is not worth waiting longer for than an assault rifle.
Zuma specializes in a what’s called a Robata grill, using a special white charcoal from Japan called Binchotan. It claims to be superior because it burns longer, at hotter temperatures, without adding a charred, chemical flavor to the food. Or, you know, the same shpiel you’ve heard 100 times on “King of the Hill.”
In addition to pushing Binchotan and Binchotan-related accessories, Zuma takes great pride in its open- active kitchens; one for sushi and the other for the Robata Grill. So does Tropical Chinese in Westchester, home to un-fuzed – and therefore 90% cheaper – Asian food that Miamians have been devouring for decades. Which, I guess, also speaks for itself.
The view at Zuma Miami, which theoretically looks out on the Miami River is nice enough. Except when someone has decided to take his yacht to Zuma and tie up outside. Leaving diners with a breathtaking view of, you guessed it, his yacht.
For Robata that’s priced like barbecued food should be, check out Sugarcane in midtown. Or for Sushi, again, NAOE or Makoto are generally considered superior. Zuma Miami also failed to crack the Top 5.
Bianca at The Delano Hotel has managed to combine the two most overpriced trendy cuisines – Italian and Sushi – into one bloodbath of a dining experience right down to the $55 pastas and $32 sushi rolls. Kinda like that Chinese-Mexican buffet your grandma used to drag you to, except instead of paying $12 for all you can eat, you pay $35 to say “that’s it?”
Just like any self-respecting restaurant that passes itself as “fine,” Bianca puts truffles in everything but its ice water. Which sounds delicious until your food actually comes out……
You know those metallic-colored marking pens that you used to have to shake like a can of spray paint? Have you ever, past the age of five, thought about tasting one? If the answer is “no,” then make sure you avoid Bianca. Because for whatever reason their truffles taste, alarmingly, like the inside of one of those pens.
Had the owners of Bianca decided to focus on one cuisine, they may have created something edible. But in their efforts to create food as art, they have inadvertently created food as first grade arts and crafts. And at least then you weren’t being charged $58 to eat a tub of paste.
Close your eyes when you’re at Mr. Chow and you can be magically transported to a nondescript shopping mall in middle America for some of the most generic, inauthentic Chinese cuisine around. Ignore the well-dressed customers trying to convince themselves what they’re eating tastes different than something they reheated out of a plastic bag, and the name of the restaurant may as well be Mr. Chang’s.
I’m not saying the food at Mr. Chow tastes kinda like it does at the famous Chinese chain restaurant. I’m saying I’m surprised P.F. Chang’s hasn’t sued. On nights where my food has taken particularly long, I’ve often wondered if it was because they had to go pick my entrée up at The Falls.
The $17 Mr. Chow Noodles are almost an insult to anyone who’s ever killed 60-90 minutes at Build-a-Bear waiting for a table. The $28 Oyster Sauce beef has every Jewish grandmother in Boca rolling over in her grave. Take out the creative names that Mr. Chow gives its food, like Drunken Fish and Gambler’s Duck, and the menu is actually slightly LESS comprehensive than P.F.’s. Which is a shame as I did so enjoy their overpriced rip-off of Dan Dan Noodles.
The next time someone tells me they’re going to Mr. Chow, I’m going to suggest they try a great new Southern Fusion restaurant I found: Mr. Sanders. The “Colonel’s Favorite Chicken” has, like ELEVEN herbs and spices and is AMAZING. Definitely worth the $44 an order.
AND THE LOCALS AGREE…...
I’m sure when people from these restaurants read this, they will try and write me off as some sort of tragically American philistine, who wouldn’t know fine dining if it were hurled across the room and into his face. And while I never claimed to be a “foodie” (and, please, shoot me if I ever do) I’m far from alone in being completely unimpressed.
Not one of them cracked the Top 20 Miami Restaurant Power Ranking, a sort of local barometer of the best places in town. And I haven’t seen any of them on that list in recent memory.
Or they might say “You don’t get it. You’re paying for the experience.”
No. Skydiving is an experience. A Grateful Dead concert . Sex with a porn star. THAT’S an experience.
Dinner is a pleasant time at best, a great meal when it does what it should. But unless it’s dinner at the White House or on top of the Great Wall of China, it’s definitely not an “experience.”
So save your money and avoid Mr. Chow, Zuma, Juvia, and Bianca when you come to Miami. In a city that is fast becoming a culinary destination, there are so many better options. And among those who know where to eat in this town, they have all become somewhat of a joke. Of course, Miami is also destination for people with more money than sense, who would rather appear wealthy than enjoy a good dinner. But if you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume you’re not one of them, and have the sense to leave them alone.
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