After much soul-searching and stomach-stretching, here are the 2009 winners for Miami’s best dish:
Winner: Tuna Tartare, Buena Vista Bistro
Tuna tartare is a ubiquitous dish, residing on pretty much every menu in America. But when done right, it is crave-worthy. And the tuna tartare at Buena Vista Bistro, in between the Design District and Buena Vista neighborhoods, takes the dish to a whole new level. It begins with large chunks of raw tuna, which appear to be cooked in the citric acid of limes, ceviche-style, and then topped with seaweed salad. Definitely not your French mother’s tuna tartare (with a raw egg yolk on top). But this dish has another distinction: it is the only dish I’ve asked for a “double order” of at a restaurant. That means I really like it because I have to set aside any pride I might have in order to do so. It’s like taking up two seats on an airplane. It is just an embarrassing request, extremely shameful. But I’d do it again. So there you have it, the best dish of 2009.
Runner-up: Foie Gras and Starfruit Jam Grilled Cheese, Red Light
Red Light’s stellar grilled cheese offering is “seasonal,” which is a Latin term meaning that they never have it when I’m really craving it. So points off for scarcity, but that is likely due to the starfruit jam. If you stumble upon this fancy sandwich, grab a Dale’s Pale Ale from the bar and enjoy. Life doesn’t get much better than foie gras and starfruit.
Honorable Mention: Lobster and Sea Urchin Risotto, Eos
Eos is one of those restaurants you hate to love. When the then-chef Jason Hall first got to Miami, he shat all over the town. His quote was: “I don’t really like Miami that much. It’s OK to visit for SOBE but I want to get back to New York.” (Good news: He got his wish). But, as other food bloggers have admitted, the Lobster and Sea Urchin Risotto is really, really good. The waiter first brings out a dish with an egg yolk and the uni (sea urchin) chilling out. Then he spoons lobster risotto on top, breaking up the egg yolk as he goes. The result is a rich, opulent dish.