Chef Zé Carlos Jiménez's whole career is a balancing act. As a child growing up in Cuautia Morelos, Mexico, he spent his afternoons in a de facto apprenticeship in his grandmother's kitchen. He watched her roll handmade tortillas and tinker with spices before finding just the right blend to balance out her homespun dinners. As an adult, Chef Zé Carlos treats his own kitchen as a playground, paying homage to his grandmother's family recipes while fusing traditional Mexican street food and fine dining—a style he calls New Mexican Gourmet Cuisine.
The menu—complete with a touching epigraph to Meche, his grandmother—is a compendium of his attempts to blend the two worlds. On the haute end of the spectrum are dishes like the Nopales salad, brimming with pickled cactus and his own housemade vinagrette. Fish-and-shrimp tacos sprinkled with fresh cilantro hold down the street-food side of the culinary fort. Where the menu shines, though, is somewhere in the middle, with dishes such as the molcajetes—Spanish for "stone mortar." The upscale take on Mexican comfort food blends beef or shrimp in the eponymous stone dish along with the tastebud-tingling flavors of nopales, chorizo, and roasted tomato-tomatillo sauce.
The chefs at Empire Lounge & Pizzeria toss dough into thin, circular canvases before slathering them in red or white sauce, topping them with handfuls of mozzarella cheese, and crowning them with vegetables and meats. Red and white sauces also make an appearance on pasta dishes such as spaghetti and lasagna. Along with classic Italian eats, Empire Lounge also serves up a selection of Mediterranean items including fried lamb and marinated chicken kebabs.
Old Lisbon brings the cuisine of Portugal to Miami, saving diners a 3,400-plus-mile trans-Atlantic swim and complicated lessons on how Portuguese grammar uses mesoclisis. The estrela of Old Lisbon's menu is the classic Portuguese dish of bacalhau, or codfish, and the restaurant features several variations on it—including grilled bacalhau with steamed potatoes, olive oil, garlic, and onions ($19.95) and deep-fried bacalhau flanked by shrimp, mashed potatoes, and a creamy garlic sauce ($20.95). For diners who love seafood but hate fish for stealing their boyfriend, Old Lisbon offers other oceanic entrees, such as a fresh seafood and fish stew served with steamed potatoes ($22.95) and a seafood rice for two with lobster, New Zealand clams, New Zealand mussels, squid, and shrimp ($44.95). Old Lisbon draws from the lay of the land as well, with meat dishes and vegetarian dishes. The Delicia de Fatima dessert tops egg-yolk custard with cookie crumbles and cream to create a sweet treat with the untested ability to distort the space-time continuum, while Old Lisbon's extensive selection of wines offers definitive proof that, despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary, grapes aren't inherently evil.
Pastazzi's culinary crackerjacks curate a menu replete with homemade twists on traditional Italian cuisine for noshers on the go. Diners design their own edible masterpieces from many possible combinations of handcrafted pastas and fresh sauces such as penne with bolognesa, cheese ravioli with pomodoro, and gnocchi with creamy alfredo ($7.85–$10.50). Flex jaw muscles like a contestant in the world’s-strongest-jaw competition before decimating the roasted eggplant lasagna ($8.95), or the salami and manchego-cheese panini ($8.25). Mollify insurgent sweet teeth with sugary selections such as the berry tartlet ($4.95) and tiramisu, the traditional italian cake made from lady fingers and espresso whose name translates as "tiramisu" ($4.50).
Sushi may be synonymous with Japan, but Chef Adrian Rojas draws on international influences when creating Miyako Japanese Restaurant's menu. In addition to working in modern sushi bars, Chef Rojas has cooked his way through Europe and South America. The flavors he picked up along the way add tasty flair to each plate, whether he's rolling up sushi or cooking a noodle dish.
Chef Rojas and his team infuse unexpected notes into hot entrees such as breaded, deep-fried pork, or spicy chicken saut?ed with onions and carrots. But it's the sushi rolls that best represent the kitchen's culinary fusion. The red kryptonite roll, for instance, combines spicy tuna with jalape?os, while the coconut shrimp roll holds tropical ingredients including guava and mango. Equal detail is lavished on presentation?rolls and sashimi can be strapped into tiny life vests and loaded into sushi boats, or served atop live models during body sushi events.