Some time after Natural Chicken Grill cofounder Cesar sold off a number of his own grilled-chicken restaurants, he discovered a reignited passion for chicken while hashing out new, exciting recipes with friend and fellow grill founder, Said. Having grown up along the shores of the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the duo combined the culinary styles of their homelands and developed a medley of ingredients that would become Natural Chicken Grill’s signature flavor. With a background in architecture and city planning, Said used his natural gift for creating and organizing to propel the business’s success, and Cesar’s restaurateur background helped open the doors to their first chicken-centric eatery in the early 1990s. From those early ambitions for a chicken eatery focused on fresh, healthier eats, the team still serves poultry that is never frozen and is always marinated onsite before it hits the sizzle of the grill. Behind the scenes, restaurant chefs whip up a new batch of the duo’s signature sauces hourly, and everything from the menu is prepared fresh without the use of microwaves or Easy-Bake ovens.
Inspired by Brazilian gaucho—or cowboy—style of cooking meats, the owners and chefs of Brazaviva Churrascaria opened their restaurant and devoted its menu of endless dishes to the Old-World grilling method. As the restaurant describes it, the wayfaring gauchos roamed the expansive grasslands of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul, skewering their meat dinners and roasting them over a fiery pit, before carving off thin slices to be shared around the fire.
Holding true to that tradition, the eatery's expert carvers bring skewers of fire-roasted beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and sausage tableside to pile plates high. Guests eat as much as they like, using a card that is green on one side and red on the other to indicate to the friendly staff carvers to keep the feast flowing, or to take a moment's savoring pause. Whatever belly room is left over after all cards go red calls for filling up with one of the eatery's unique desserts that swirl South American flavors such as passion fruit and papaya into rich smoothies and mousses. A collection of fine wines selected specially to compliment the charred flavors of the meats is available to complete the experience.
Swaths of saffron- and terra-cotta-colored fabrics hang from the ceiling, ornate rugs sprawl across the tiled floors, and elegant lanterns cast a gentle glow across the stout wooden tables. Collectively, these touches give the impression that diners have walked into a ceremonial Middle Eastern tent as soon as they enter Layali Miami's dining room. This transformation is completed by the appearance of professional belly dancers, who appear on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, and entertain crowds with their gracefully undulating moves and shadow puppets.
To help evoke even more of a Middle Eastern spirit, Layali Miami features a hearty menu of Lebanese cuisine. Chefs flavor appetizers of housemade yogurt with a dose of olive oil and mint and sizzle racks of lamb, as well as skewers of shrimp kebab, over a charcoal grill. They also stuff pita sandwiches with everything from falafel and tahini sauce to spicy sausage, pickles, and tomato.
Beneath the colorful toques on their heads, hibachi chefs flip and sauté meat and vegetables on their tabletop grills, smiling as they conjure the occasional bursts of flame during lively cooking routines. That’s just one scene at SooWoo Japanese Steakhouse—across the restaurant, sushi chefs slice ribbons of fish and vegetables and roll them into California and spicy tuna rolls. Basketball fans can celebrate the city’s 2012 NBA championship with the specialty Miami Heat roll, which includes slices of shrimp tempura, crab, and cream cheese. SooWoo also whips up Korean dishes, such as bulgogi and pork belly.
Maison Gourmet's culinary artists channel French cooking techniques to craft cuisine cataloged on an extensive menu. Saturday and Sunday brunch rewards early-rising appetites with delectables such as Maison's omelet stuffed with ham, mushrooms, and swiss cheese ($7). Limber chomping muscles with sweet and savory crêpes, or munch on meal-prefacing portions of ham and cheese croissants ($3.95). A glass of Cotes de Rhone red wine from France pairs well with escargots en persillade ($10.95)—snails under a blanket of garlic-parsley sauce—and hearty helpings of beef bourguignon ($15.95) erase hunger pangs faster than the speed of light: 28 mph. Postmeal cool downs begin with crème brûlée, rich custard cream cloaked in a layer of crispy, warm caramel that sneaks into mouths to goose unsuspecting sweet teeth ($6.95).
Oh! Sushi lets fish fans curate their meals from a highly navigable à la carte menu in an eatery wrapped in bold graphic patterns and praised by the Miami New Times' Caitlin Granfield as "a hip retro place of funky fusion." Spicy salmon salad ($7.99) ushers tender, piquant bites onto chopsticks or into pockets. Individual morsels of sushi dive into batter, emerging as crispy, gold-plated tempura futomaki such as the Bomb, a nugget of fried shrimp decked in chives and curry sauce ($0.99). Inside-out sushi rolls keep their nori close to their hearts, guarding proteins such as ox sirloin with a crust of sesame seeds ($0.99), and seasonal fruit joins tuna, roe, and eel sauce in the tropy futomaki ($0.99). A cone of seaweed takes a break from adorning mer dunces to carry avocado, rice, and a choice of fish as a hand roll ($4.59).