Sra. Martinez


We decided to have another in our continuing 'foodies with cameras' quest with our good friend Kevin and man, we weren't disappointed. Some of the pictures I took turned out like crap, but the food didn't and that is what counts.

Let me preface this review by saying I try really hard not to be a complete chef fangirl. I strive to be as objective and balanced as possible when writing my reviews, if anything I try to be over-objective when it's for a restaurant of a chef I admire or have heard rave things about. I don't want to join the ranks of the self-serving glad-handing food bloggers. Ass kissing is not why I blog. I blog not only for you, the reader, but for me. I like having a record of where I've been and what I've had so I know if a restaurant is worth re-visiting. I love having readers as well, don't get me wrong, and not a few of the places I've been is with my readership in mind. I like being able to give people an unbiased review of the places they should (or shouldn't) spend their hard-earned money.

Having said that, I fear I sound like a gushing fangirl in this review, and though it pains me to admit it, I think it's true. I might just have a Chef crush on Michelle Bernstein. There, I said it. It's out there in the universe, in indelible type. I, Foodie In Miami, have a crush. I don't think it colored my objectivity since I've only just 3 minutes ago discovered said crush after finishing the rest of the writeup, but it's there.

Sra. Martinez is Chef Michelle Bernstein's Spanish-influenced tapas restaurant located in the heart of the Design District and embodies what I have come to expect from this Chef from watching her on Top Chef, Check Please and when she kicked Flay's butt on Iron Chef America. In her TV appearances, Bernstein appears to be nothing short of gracious, elegant and playful and a thoughtful, talented chef. Through her restaurants you can tell that this assessment is true. She really takes the time to think about what she is doing and presenting to the diner. It's rare to see a Chef at that level that is so approachable and so non-ego driven--someone you can root for with no hesitation, someone that loves where she comes from and works hard to improve it. What other James Beard Award winning chef would have a local restaurant review show on PBS and her flagship restaurant in a still up-and-coming district (Michy's is located in MiMo/The Upper East Side)?

What We Had

Egg Yolk Carpaccio with Sweet Shrimp and Crispy Potatoes

This dish had me at egg yolk. I'm in an admitted lifelong torrid love affair with eggs, but this dish is good even if you are not.

What looks simple (almost like Mee Krob at first glance) turns into a rich, velvety sweet/salty/soft/crunchy flavor riot after gently scooping the egg yolk up from the bottom of the dish and ladling it over the mound of crispy potato and soft sweet shrimp. The salty sweetness of the shrimp balances perfectly with the crunch of the potatoes and the deeply satisfying richness of the yolks. A winner in our book.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Schwarma Spice, Sumac Pickled Onions, Apple Butter and Toast

This dish elicited more than a few spontaneous exclamations of "holy shit!" it was so good. If you haven't had the wonder that is bone marrow, the nearest thing I can liken it to would be cow butter. I've stayed far away from bone marrow until now, slightly frightened by the consistency I imagined and horrified by the fat content. No more. This was fabulous. I didn't get much of the spice, but I think that was the point. The onions lent a nice texture change, and combined with a light schmear of the apple butter… forget about it. This is not Amish country apple butter. It's velvety, has a hint of apple freshness and gives a nice little counterpoint to the richness of the marrow.

Croquetas with Jamon, Manchego and Fig Marmalade

This is perhaps the best representation of a perennial Miami favorite--the croquetta. Tender nuggets of soft potato protect salty Jamon and creamy Manchego cheese. What really did it for us with this dish was the fig marmalade. The sweet, slightly sour tang gave the ham a nice punch.

Cauliflower Steak with Marcona Almonds and Golden Raisins

The chef had even my sweet-with-savory-hating husband singing this dish's praises. The nuttiness of the cauliflower really balanced the plump sweetness of the raisins, and the simply treated almonds gave their all for a really nice, well-balanced (and very needed) vegetable component to our feast.

Garbanzo Stew with Chorizo, Kale, Tetilla Cheese and Quail Egg

The picture looks like crap, but the dish was awesome. Possibly my favorite of the night, this dish's dead simple looks hide it's complex flavors and wholly satisfying comfort. This is Spanish comfort food at its finest, with the best chorizo I've had in town. This isn't the under-seasoned or mealy stuff--this is the good stuff. All richness, complex flavors and nice meaty texture--what all chorizo aspires to be. I need to learn how to make a passable version of this dish, and pronto.

Lamb Pinchos with Romesco and Grilled Scallions

Perfectly cooked lamb lollipops with just enough sear to be interesting, and a velvety romesco sauce. Although I almost missed the deeply seared fat cap I only barely trim off when I cook lamb, this was a great rendition, and a little better for you as well. Romesco if you haven't tried it, is one of my favorite sauces--with a little attention, simple red peppers and almonds (among other ingredients) turn into a rich, delicious sauce that is perfect on everything from meats and seafood to potatoes and pasta. The next time you're in the mood for a new all-purpose sauce, whip some up. You won't be sorry.

Bacon Wrapped Rabbit with Carrot Risotto, Glazed Carrot Pearls and Pork Jus

Oh yeah, you heard me right. Carrot pearls and pork jus. A lot of love went into this dish. What is a carrot pearl, you might ask? It's a tiny perfect sphere of crunchy carrot scooped out by hand by a poor sous chef. Love.

You can certainly taste the love in this dish. The rabbit is most, if a bit on the overwhelmed side by the bacon, the risotto with pork jus is so good I wanted a huge bowl of it, and the pearls? They give just the right amount of crunch to give you something to ponder.

Pastelito de Membrillo y Queso with Quince, .....

I didn't get the whole name of the dessert, but it was nothing short of amazing. Vanilla and possibly rum? ice cream topped with a flag of salty, crispy Jamon ham and deeply toasted nuts on one side with a fried pastry hiding a surprising pocket of soft cheese and sweet quince at the other. This dish walks the line between sweet and savory beautifully, serving as a great reminder that cheese can make one hell of a dessert dish.

Churro with Chipotle Chocolate

Also not the proper name of the dessert, but was it ever good. I had no idea churros were supposed to taste like that. Nothing like the hard greasy things you get at event stands or the mall. These churros were light and flaky crispy on the outside and warm and soft in the middle. Dusted with enough sugar to give sweetness to the dark, slightly bitter chocolate with nice spice, each composed bite made you want to come back for more.


Sra. Martinez is located in a 1920s old Post Office, and is decked out in rich black wood and gorgeous patterned tile with hits of reds, yellows and citrus. The decor supports the playful colors of the dishes perfectly and serves to give a sense of lightness and air. I have seen complaints about the size of the restaurant online before, but we had no such qualms. Sure, it's small, but food of this caliber wouldn't work in a 200-seater restaurant. Intimate is nice, and even the chairs are comfy. I mean, c'mon people, Michy's is small too. It's obvious (at least to me) that that is what the chef is going for. An intimate setting where you can have great food and conversation with friends, and not have to worry about 200 other diners ratcheting the decibel level up to 11. If she wanted to be Paula Deen with a warehouse and cattle call for seating, I'm sure Chef Bernstein could be. But that's just not her style.


Hands down the best service I have had to date in Miami; possibly ever. Everyone we spoke to was knowledgeable and gracious, attentive without being overbearing, and more than willing to talk about dishes you could tell they were very proud of. We left feeling not only well taken care of, but like we had a better picture of what the Chef had intended. That's rare and something very worthwhile indeed. Food is a topic I never tire of, and it's nice to get background on something I spend so much of my time thinking (and writing) about.

Overall Impressions

I'm looking for something less than stellar to say about Sra. Martinez. A little qualm; something I would change about the dishes we had, and I can't. The only things I can say even remotely negative are nitpicky. And you know what? I'm no where near this level of chef, so that is ok. I'm great at home, but for an audience? I think not. I've been trying for a day now to see if my amazement will dim with time, and so far it's not happening. This place is amazing.

I think I enjoyed it more than Michy's and even though it really, really pains me to say it… more even than Michael's Genuine. Granted, they're two different kinds of food (both tapas style, but from two different cultural backgrounds), so there is definitely room for both in the pantheon of kickass food in Miami. I still think Michael's is where I will take out of town not necessarily foodie friends, but those foodie visitors? watch out, you're in for a treat.

With Sra. Martinez, you can tell each dish has been thought about and thought about and tested and loved long before it gets to your plate. Think of it as a love letter from Chef Bernstein to Miami. She is at the top of her game with this place, and I can't wait to go back for brunch. Not to detract from Michy's, which is also stellar, but at Sra. Martinez you can relax more--maybe it's the dark woods and high ceilings, maybe not. I guess this will just give me a good excuse to go back soon so I can tell for sure :)



To view more pictures of this dinner, visit Gastography or view the photo set on Flickr.


5+ out of 5 Salamanders

Pei Wei

Fast casual Asian bistro by P.F. Changs.

What we had:

I had the Japanese Chile Ramen with shrimp. This was a pretty decent dish--sweet, spicy, and mostly well-balanced. The sauce was good overall, but got a bit oppressive toward the end.

My DH had the Pei Wei Spicy dish with chicken and brown rice. Also a perfectly good dish with the addition of vinegar.

On a subsequent visit we had the Thai basil chicken (a little far on the sweet side for my liking), Kung Pao chicken (a great balanced dish), and the crab rangoons (also great).

My main gripe with The dishes so far is the lack of vegetables--I like a good 2 to 1 vegetable to meat ratio, these dishes have so far been barely 1:1 and the leaning toward sweet. Next tome I think I'll look for a non-sauces dish.

The iced tea options are exciting: both chai black and mandarin orange green tea. Both were pretty good.


Modern Asian bistro style with opulent reds and clean black woods.


Order at the front with table runners.

Overall impressions:

Not a bad place and for the price ($22.03 for the two of us), I really can't complain. I like the open kitchen and galley-style wait staff runner area. During our second visit, the crisp dark jeaned floor manager was impressively attentive and engaged with his staff and customers alike.


3.25 out of 5 salamanders

**upon further review and subsequent visits, I revised the rating down to a 2.75. Why? Everything else I have had at Pei Wei is sickly sweet and covered in goop, even the salad. The crab rangoons however, are excellent.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone



Local, sustainable food darling located in Midtown.

What we had:

I had the Cobia with sautéed eggplant and potato wafers and a caramelized onion/carrot/cardamom sauce. A very nice piece of perfectly cooked firm fleshed white fish with a delicate sauce and really good side. Cobia is a firm white fish around the dame firmness as Sea Bass, minus the butteriness.

My DH had the pork loin with applewood smoked bacon and peas. The pork had a great taste and the dish was well balanced.

We also split a side of really complex and deeply satisfying Mac & cheese.

To drink, I had The Flapper--an interesting and complex pink cocktail with hints of lemon, cardamom and blueberry.

My DH had a Monk In The Trunk--one of his favorite brews. From a small brewery in Jupiter.


The decor is beautiful and... You guessed it, sustainable, with large ribs of smooth curved wood lining the walls--it's almost like eating in the belly of a whale. The almost-wicker silver globules hanging from the ceiling almost look like bubbles, reinforcing the land to sea theme.


Attentive and knowledgable.

Overall impressions:

Sometimes the buzz surrounding new restaurants, here at a fever-pitch because of the zeitgeist-is warranted, sometimes not. I'm happy to say that in this case it certainly is and this was the first trip of many.


4.5 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

The Chocolate Lounge by Mad Mac

French-influenced dessert bar that happens to serve food in Aventura.

What we had:

I had the Souvenir From The Islands square foccacia with chicken, pineapple, roasted tomato & curry. An interesting mix, it was light, non-greasy and felt mildly healthy.

My DH ordered the Croque Monsieur, but was brought the Croque Salmon instead. Both are open faced on fresh white bread, smoked salmon or ham, gruyere and very light béchamel. Since he couldn't really tell the difference (other than the color) for the first three bites, he stuck with it. A pretty decent sandwich.

Both came with mixed green salads with a house caesar, which was nice.

The food was very slow in coming out.


Very French, very girly without being too frou frou. Lots of clean-lined chocolate and pink.


Fairly non-existent, but not bad for being French. We were the only customers during our visit, and both people working the front--one in a suit and a black uniformed server drifted by at different times during the meal to check on us, and one right after the other to inquire about my DH's soda level. It was kind of bizarre. Maybe the server didn't understand that he didn't want a second can of Coke? Who knows.

Overall impressions:

This place is somewhat confused. It's all about dessert, as opposed to lunch or dinner, with fondues, macarons, ice cream, pastries, waffles & tea. It's like they spent weeks on the dessert menu and later decided that by offering lunch items, people would stay longer.

A little on the pricey side for what we got, but not terrible.


3 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Kon Chau

Duck Ramen

Duck Ramen, all gone

Shu Mai

BBQ Pork

Chinese Broccoli

Pork Dumplings

Duck Ramen half gone

Little hole in the wall place serving authentic Chinese food & dim sum near Tropical Park.

We visited on a Sunday afternoon for a dim sum feast with a friend.

What we had:

Shrimp in rice noodles--soft, pillowy, everything you want in shrimp noodles.

Duck ramen--fatty, with crispy skin and flavorful broth.

BBQ pork--tender slices of pork with the appropriate amount of sticky and sweet.

Chinese broccoli--not on the regular menu, but great. Broccolini cooked almost al dente with a nice garlic bath.

Fried taro--interesting pillowy fried balls coated with very thin bird's nest looking bits. Interesting texture; nice taste.

Pork shu mai--unexpectedly flavorful. Shu mai is usually dense and vaguely flavorless; these were bursting with Ginger and scallion.

Fried pork dumplings--always a favorite, these did not disappoint.

Fried pork and sticky rice dumplings--these came as a surprise, and were really good, albeit prone to becoming airborne. None of us were sure what they were at first (we had ordered the non-fried version but canceled the order because they were out), so I gamely took the first bite. Upon turning the dumpling around to show the table what it was, somehow my dumpling became airborne and landed with a thwack! on the table. Always good for comic relief, I am.


Like I said, it's a hole in the wall, with minimal decor and a paneled ceiling.


Not bad. We never felt ignored, and got our food as it was prepared. You can tell that dim sum is what these guys do on the weekends and their typical clientele isn't going to put up with any crap.

Overall impressions:

This place was great, slightly better even than Tropical Chinese. We ate with a friend and the entire bill was under $40.

Also of note, though the main bulk of the clientele was Chinese with representations of other Asian cultures, we were not the only round eyes in attendance. We also didn't feel bullied or like the service was intentionally shoddy, like a few other caters-to-Asians-only dim sum houses I have been to (most notably, a little hole in the wall in New York City's China Town). Though I doubt they want to hold your hand through the menu, everyone is welcome.


4 out of 5 salamanders

Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar


Rollicking 'you're going to have fun and you're going to like it' American-style Mexican restaurant with 50 bigillion varieties of tequila.

What we had:

Great spiced table chips.

My DH had a combo platter with a Pork taco, a steak taco, refried beans & rice. Great tender pork with a hint of cinnamon. Decent steak. Really good rice & fresh refried beans.

I had the Baja Combo with a grilled mahi taco, rock shrimp taco & spinach quesadilla. The fish was a bit dry, but overall the tastes were good. The qeusadilla was only lightly cheesed and was surprisingly tasty.

The food tasted like it had been prepared by someone who had visited Mexico, had a great time, and decided to recreate the dishes back home.


Really cool best of contemporary Mexican style decor with lots of hammered silver, iron, weathered wood and stone.

I loved the iron Moravian star chandeliers and Dio de las Muertes skeletons.

Rocco's bar also opens to the street, which could be interesting for a leisurely drink.


The food took awhile, and our server was all about offering a round of comped drinks. I got the white Zinfandel, which was better than the reisling I had just choked down; my DH got another Stella.

Although the place was a madhouse, our server and server-in-training were both attentive and friendly.

Overall impressions:

It was pan-de-frickin-moneum on the Saturday afternoon we went. Granted, Spring Break was on, it was raining, and the Las Olas Art Festival was blocks away. It took us 45 minutes to be seated at a high top table right next to the bar and I wanted a muzzle for the gaggle of tequila swilling half clothed desparately single girls near us at the bar.

The thumping music was also fairly oppressive, but not so bad once the drunken shrieking harpies were seated far, far away from us.

All in all, it wasn't a bad place. The food was decent, the service was good, and I'd go back for lunch or dinner; hopefully when less crowded.


3.5 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Brick House Tap & Tavern

A beer drinker's Shangra-la man cave in Fort Lauderdale with sizes ranging from the 16 oz. "sissy" to 100 oz. Beer bong and 169 ounce micro keg.

What we had:

My DH had the Big Boy Prime Rib Sandwich. Although the sandwich wasn't as good as Yard House, it wasn't bad at all. The jus, however, was a watery embarrassment.

I had the Fondue & Mushroom Burger, which came out cooked to shit & dry, but still edible. A subsequent visit made me realize that you can order your burger cooked to taste. Had that been mentioned, I might not have gotten a hockey puck. Duly noted. The side of broccoli I got instead of fries was great.

On said subsequent visit, we had: the fresh pretzel appetizer, which was awesome and is not to be missed; the bacon Mac & Cheese, also great; and a big chicken salad, which even though topped with a smattering of bacon & egg may be the healthiest thing on the menu and was pretty good.


This place knows its primary demographic (the 20-30 something testosterone fueled beer drinking set) and isn't afraid to cater to it heavily. Think Tucker Max from "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell"... over the top & larger than life but somehow still working well.

The menu is loaded with attitude and "man food" callouts, and the walls are lined with alcohol-related sayings like the one bridging the fireplace to the kitchen door: "We're not here for a long time...we're here for a good time. Booyah!"

I would be utterly amiss if i didn't mention the plethora of attractive (long-haired, mainly well endowed and tattooed) waitresses in tiny shorts and tight tops.

Seating is ample and varied with 6 separate styles: outdoor patio that opens to a large wraparound bar, high top tables, a "rec room" area with big screen and couches, really comfy couch booths, and regular booths & tables in the back.

During both of our visits to Brick House over the weekend--once for lunch and once with a beer afficianado for dinner--we saw families and older people eating here as well. The target demographic was heavily represented, but the families were an interesting touch.


Friendly and helpful with menu suggestions.

Overall impressions:

The atmosphere is more fun than the other beer-centric joint I can think of, Yard House, and the service is way better ( at least it's better than Yard House's Gulfstream Village location, which is always fairly terrible), but the food isn't nearly as good. More than just a place to grab a beer & a bite, they're selling a lifestyle here. Something along the lines of "Eat here, and become more than you are. Be that hard charging Type A guy you see in the movies & on TV, instead of the suburban Fort Lauderdalian you are." this should be obnoxious, but for some reason it wasn't. Maybe it was the lack of Affliction tees & trucker hats.

I would rather drink with friends and eat appetizers at Brick House, but eat a dinner of slightly-elevated American sports bar comfort food at Yard House.

A note of warning for the fat and calorie conscious: this place may not be for you. I had a real hard time choosing between the lesser of 2 evils both times I ate here, even with a salad.


3.5 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Catch Of The Day

New seafood restaurant at Dolphin Mall with reasonably priced all you can eat stone, snow or king crab and cheap happy hour beer.

The menu is huge and the menu planner knows the market. Lots of dishes like Churrasco, plantains, and paella are offered.

What we had:

I had the "Paella." It was "paella", but wasn't bad. The rice wasn't quite paella rice, hence the quotes on the menu, but it was flavorful and had the price of the dish's worth of seafood (large shrimp, clams, mussels, fish, baby octopus, squid rings and possibly scallops).

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo--my DH had no complaints. It was exactly what he wanted that day, and he wasn't disappointed.


New-style not-too-tacky seafood style decor. Lots of blues; very limited nautical kitsch.


Decent. It was cold the day we went, and the doors remained open, but other than that no big complaints for a mall restaurant.

Overall impressions:

Not a bad place if you're dying for seafood at the Dolphin Mall. I wouldn't make a special trip to eat there, but will certainly keep it in mind next time I'm shopping and need crab.


3.5 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Pelican Landing At Pier 66


Open patio dining spot upstairs at the Pier 66 Marina behind the Hyatt in Fort Lauderdale. I visited on a Saturday afternoon with a couple of girlfriends for a leisurely tipsy lunch.

What we had:

Mahi Burrito--flavorful and juicy, with a really nice mango sauce.

Mediterreanean Appetizer--great hummus, though it came with tortillas instead of the menu-listed pita chips.

Conch Fritters--managed to be light, even though they were larger than golf ball-sized.

Skirt Steak--cooked properly and well seasoned.

Chicken Gyro--this dish I don't remember tasting, but it looked perfectly fine and I didn't hear any complaints.

Sweet Potato Fries--always delicious and a generous helping.

Chocolate Mousse Cup--beautiful to look at and just as tasty rich, velvety chocolate mousse in a lightly-fruited chocolate tulip cup.

Liquor Drinks--I don't remember what all we had, and I think I mainly stuck to some sort of pink lemonade. Drinks are great and priced around $10, so keep that in mind if leisurely lunching with the ladies. We ended up racking up quite the drinks bill.


We ate outside, with a view of the marina, sun and wind, and it was pleasant.


We lunched through a shift change, and both servers we had were very attentive and personable. They adjusted our table umbrella so we weren't baking in the sun, ran to get one of our party cigarettes, and were all around attentive guys.

Overall impressions:

Maybe it was the booze, but we had a great time and I would recommend. The locale was beautiful, as was the day, and the company couldn't be beat. A word of caution: this place is kind of hard to find. Enter the Hyatt property and look closely for the signs--the restaurant is to the far left, behind the main building, down the pier, turn right, at the end of the next pier and up a steep flight of stairs on the side of the building.


3.5 out of 5 salamanders

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone