Despite a name that implies a focus on Vietnamese food, Indochine (638 S. Miami Ave., 305/379-1525, 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m. daily, main courses from $11) serves Japanese and Thai dishes as well. The menu sticks to staples—curries, stir-fries, pho, simple sushi rolls—and the pretense-free atmosphere is preferred by young hipsters and downtown regulars.
Pacific Time (35 NE 40th St., 305/722-7639, 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–midnight Fri., 5:30–11 p.m. Sun., main courses from $9) is located in the Design District and has a comfortable and quiet courtyard that’s perfect for enjoying their tasteful inventive fusions of Japanese, Chinese, and Thai flavors. Daring eaters will want to tuck into Pacific Time’s softshell crab tempura or the ginger-stuffed whole snapper, while the grilled lamb chops or Szechuan-style mahimahi are perfect for the less adventurous.
As the casual dining option inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Cafe Sambal (500 Brickell Key Dr., 305/913-8358, 7 a.m.–11 p.m. daily, breakfast and lunch from $8, dinner from $14) probably won’t be too high on many foodies’ short list of destinations. However, the food is actually quite remarkable, blending the flavors of Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia) with Japanese touches and fresh South Florida seafood; pizzas and burgers are also available. The outdoor seating area provides fantastic views, while the dining room is tasteful without being overly stylish.
You will wait for a table at Hy Vong (3458 SW 8th Ave., 305/446-3674, 6–11 p.m. daily, main courses from $6), which may seem unusual considering you’re attempting to dine at a Vietnamese restaurant in Little Havana. Nonetheless, Hy Vong’s food has justifiably earned a stellar reputation among Miami food lovers, with Vietnamese standards mixed with a few pan-Asian plates and some fantastic French dishes. While the dining experience can be somewhat challenging—long waits, slow service, grumpy waiters—the food is well worth it, and portions are so enormous that you can take a doggie bag and serve yourself later.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition