Israel "Izzy" Valdes opened his namesake restaurant to help groups of diners avoid the age-old frustrations of settling for just one type of cuisine. By offering two popular fares in one location, Izzy's acts like a giant dove puffing on a peace pipe, healing the food-fueled rifts between bickering families and nagging couples. The ever-evolving menu is clearly demarcated according to cuisine, and two different chefs man the kitchen to ensure each half of the menu is expertly executed. The menu's Cuban region includes such delicacies as grilled chicken breast draped in equally grilled onions ($8.95) and the cubano sandwich, made with ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, and pickles, all nestled on a Cuban-style roll ($7.95). The Thai portion features well-spiced staples such as pad thai, myriad vegetarian options, and curries of every color ($4–$13). Most of Izzy's sensational dinner entrees and specials fall within the $10–$20 range.
From the moment you walk in, it's clear that Moonchine Asian Bistro is up to far more than pan-Asian eats. High-backed banquettes, jet-black walls, and soft red lighting all give rise to a clubby vibe; after 9 p.m., Moonchine turns into a full-on lounge with the help of dance DJs, bottle service, and even the occasional poetry performance or high-stakes geography bee. Miami New Times hailed Moonchine as "the gem of the Mimo District," advising guests to "arrive around 6 p.m., have a few rolls, and then head to the music lounge to warm up the dancing shoes."
Indoors and in the huge garden area, bartenders keep spirits high by mixing specialty cocktails and recommending bottles of sake from an extensive list. Which isn't to say that food's an afterthought?indeed, chefs have a lot on their plates, so to speak, juggling Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean culinary traditions. House-made kimchi mingles with creative sushi rolls, classic Thai and Indochinese dishes anchor one large corner of the menu, and there's even an almost-traditional bistro section: mussels, duck, and a "thai burger," each given light Asian accents of their own.
At 2B Asian Bistro, it's actually possible to begin your dinner with a bag of gold. That's because the Bag of Gold appetizer uncannily resembles its namesake—its tiny fried pouches contain shrimp, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. The appetizer paves the way for the menu's larger dishes, which present diners with a choice: Japanese or Thai? The former category covers teriyaki entrees as well as sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. Specialty rolls include the Golden Dragon—spicy tuna and mango topped with plantain slices—and the Pink Snow Roll, smoked salmon and avocado wrapped in soy paper. As for the Thai plates, they range from curry to Bangkok duck paired with cinnamon-plum sauce. You can even order your pad thai accompanied by an entire lobster, rather than just its tail and signature top hat.
In the traditional Thai style, the chefs at Bangkok Bangkok Restaurant use fresh herbs, lemongrass, kaffir lime, and spicy chilies to tickle all five taste regions of the tongue—sweet, sour, hot, salty, and neutral. Fiery curries are tempered with coconut shipped in from the homeland, and cashew nuts add rich crunch to the sautéed Earth, Wind, and Fire chicken. The Little Big Man presents diners with a whole fish fried until the outside is crisp and the inside is flaky and tender, slathered from nose to fin in hot chili sauce. The decor is welcoming and casual, with wood-paneled walls and vintage art framed on the walls. Guests have the choice of two different seating areas, one with tableclothed tables and chairs, and the other with low platform tables and cushions for sitting on the floor.
Situated in Miami’s Little Havana district, where you typically would find Latin restaurants, is the pleasant surprise of contemporary sushi bar Mr. Yum. With its stark white tables, concrete floor and vermilion-colored wall accent, this restaurant is hip, funky and a bit loud. Owner Bond Trisransri is going for a bit of the South Beach flair, and each plate that is presented to you furthers the notion of food as performance art piece. Its signature dish is the Havana roll, a concoction of tempura white fish, avocado, cucumbers, masago and spicy mayo, while the unique menu offers both Thai and Japanese specialties, including Y-shaped Thai doughnuts for dessert. Although parking is typically difficult on Calle Ocho, the adjacent parking lot makes it that much easier to enjoy Mr. Yum.
Siam Palace Restaurant is consistently voted as one of Miami’s favorite locales. Its homey décor emphasizes the authentic Thai food held within, and its dishes have a tendency to turn up the heat. The house specials include Siam Duck, a pad si ew, fried rice, spring rolls and fried wontons with homemade plum dipping sauce. In 2013, Siam put in a sushi bar and has become known for its specialty dishes, including the popular lobster rolls, while still retaining its original Thai flair. The restaurant may be small, but it has a very loyal local following and its menu is extensive. Customers should try to save room for the Thai doughnuts, which have garnered a fan base of their own.