The hearty Italian dishes and seafood of Cafe Volare earned praise from the Miami Herald this year for its “wonderful” desserts and dishes such as the “light and elegant” spinach and Parmesan ravioli. Chef Manolo Guerra often prepares whatever dishes customers request, and customizes dishes such as raviole penne and grilled salmon. Desserts range from succulent apple tart to a tiramisu made with Colombian coffee, amaretto, and Sambuca.
Native Mexican and owner Juan Rodriguez serves a bevy of authentic stomach-stuffers to Floridian feasters with the help of an attentive service staff. Savvy snackers bombard embedded taste buds and online Scrabble nemeses with first-course forkfuls of tostadas de ceviche, shrimp, pico de gallo, and avocado seasoned with fresh lime juice on a flat, fried tortilla ($7.95). Hungry diners gladly muscle through main courses such as the hot and spicy burrito, topped with beef tips and Orale sauce ($10.95), or sizzling trios of marinated pork-filled tacos de carnitas ($9.59). The pollo de poncho features fiery chorizo sausage plucked directly from Florida’s finest encased-meat groves and spread across a grilled chicken breast with rice, beans, and three tortillas ($11.95). Finish off satiation symphonies with a cooling crescendo of fried ice cream ($3.99) or an order of fried churros ($3.50).
After stints at Miami Beach's Smith & Wollensky and The Post House in Manhattan, chef Bob Mignola recently took over the helm of Lola's on Harrison. While he stays busy crafting specials that showcase his talents, he also knows that some staples need no improvement. Take, for instance, the Coca-Cola barbecue beef ribs, just as zesty, smoky, sticky, and sweet as when they debuted in 2007. Or take the crab cakes, still made from jumbo lump-crab meat and served with herbed tartar sauce.
Under Mignola, the rest of Lola's menu ranges from pan-seared rainbow trout with roasted marcona almonds to herb-roasted free-range chicken doused in chicken jus to add an unexpected note of chicken flavor. Bartenders supply a generous selection of cocktails, craft beers, and boutique wines. The New York Times called Lola's on Harrison an ideal pick "if you want to dine in sophisticated style"—that is, amidst art deco flourishes, amethyst walls, exposed brick, and windows framing an outdoor seating area.
A native of La Mure, France, Chef Laurent Tasic's culinary passion began in his grandmother's farm kitchen, where the young Laurent helped her put together homemade country dishes. After honing his cooking and restaurateur skills in Europe, the French Antilles, and the Cayman Islands, Chef Laurent relocated to Fort Lauderdale, where he draws on his homeland's flavors at two Sage Oyster Bar & Restaurant locations. At his Fort Lauderdale eatery, he expands upon the traditional French countryside dishes of his youth by stuffing onions with veal and provolone, coating roasted duck with honey-raspberry sauce, and filling crepes with wilted spinach and goat cheese. Meals take place on a covered outdoor sidewalk or inside a dining area modeled after a romantic European bistro, where tastings of the restaurant's extensive wine collection and flavored floorboards occur every first and third Tuesday of the month. At his Hollywood location, meanwhile, Chef Laurent focuses on French-seafood preparation, serving oysters baked with roquefort cheese and pizza topped with Maine lobster from the kitchen's brick oven. The ambiance draws upon a similarly romantic aura, with soothing, dramatic lighting that illuminates the artfully arranged plates emerging from the kitchen.
At La Barraca Bar, guests bond over shareable small plates of authentic, artfully presented Spanish and Basque fare. Hot and cold tapas plates adorn the menu, which sings sea shanties of grilled mediterranean octopus dusted with spanish smoked paprika ($9.75), queso manchego imported from La Mancha ($7.75), and cuts of Angus filet mignon with mushrooms ($9.75). For heartier appetites, couples can share heaping bowlfuls of freshly made paellas, including the paella del monte, a traditional Valencia recipe that stirs chicken, rabbit, and snails into rice infused with saffron broth ($17.95/person). Selections from the dessert menu provide a sweet finish akin to running through the licorice ribbon at the end of the Candy Land marathon. Sweet-tooth satiators can sample a traditional serving of old-style crème caramel flan ($5), or seal meals with a slice of homemade Galician-style chocolate cake ($6).
The owners of Heat Restaurant and Lounge set out to add even more character to the already colorful canvas that is the Hollywood district. Heat does just that with its Southern-inspired spread of Cajun eats inside a chic, modish lounge. Chefs whip up seafood specialties, bourbon baby back ribs, and stuffed burgers that, much like piñatas made in Wisconsin, burst with various types of melting cheese. A wide spectrum of music— from hip-hop to reggae to jazz—helps the lounge transform into a club scene later in the evening, complete with hookah and plenty of dancing.