Miami is about to learn why Michelin stars matter.
The Michelin Guide, the world’s best-known international restaurant rating guide, will announce on June 9 which Florida restaurants will be designated one, two or three rare stars. In the meantime, I’m going to guess which Miami restaurants Michelin will name, given their previous selections.
Why this matters has everything to do with advertising. Florida, a national and international tourist destination, will now be mentioned along with New York, California, Chicago and Washington DC as the only other US places highlighted by the Michelin Guide, which began as a restaurant rating system Europeans. Their goal is to tell diners from abroad that these restaurants have been judged by a standardized set of guidelines.
Ultimately, it’s about promotion.
The state tourism and marketing agency, Visit Florida, and the combined local tourism agencies in Miami, Orlando and Tampa will pay the Michelin Guide an estimated $1.5 million over the next three years to rate Florida restaurants. It puts these restaurants in a printed guide that Michelin sells and puts online.
So Michelin and Florida have an interest in making sure this premier guide to Florida is full of tasty and tempting possibilities.
Beyond one, two and three stars, the Michelin Guide also denotes restaurants that are a great investment under the title of Bib Gourmand. And it lists some sort of honorable mention under the Plate name, such as “restaurants where inspectors have discovered quality food.” Very wide.
In practice, the Guide has tended to focus its attention on white-linen-tablecloth restaurants with Japanese and European, French and French-inspired cuisine at the top of the list.
The Guide says it “does not take into account interior decor, table setting, or quality of service when awarding stars,” but its US selections say otherwise. Only 13 restaurants in the United States have received three stars: six in California, five in New York, and one in Washington DC and one in Chicago.
With the Guide’s history in mind, here are the Miami restaurants I think will be among the first set of Michelin Guide picks, not necessarily which ones it would honor in each category:
3 star candidates
Think European-focused, white-linen-tablecloth restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Per Se. These still dominate with Michelin so I think they are in the running.
The Fires by Francis Mallmann at Faena Miami Beach: Mallmann has an international name and a meal at Los Fuegos is full of sparkles.
The Workshop or The Gardener: The late chef Joël Robuchon’s restaurants had a combined 31 stars at last count.
Noah: With no door sign, exclusive products and prices, it was recently named best sushi restaurant in Florida and received five stars in the 2022 Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards.
Thomas Keller’s Surf Club restaurant: Keller already has three stars at Per Se and French Laundry.
2 star candidates
Many of the two- and one-star options feel interchangeable, but given their overall excellence, here are the ones I think can earn the two-star honor:
Amara and paradise: Michael Schwartz’s best food, with a Latin twist, in his most exclusive beachfront setting.
Aries: Creativity is key at Michael Beltran’s 6-year-old Coconut Grove restaurant, elevating the flavors of Miami.
Buoy of: Fresh pastas, French techniques, and just its mall setting could hurt it in the eyes of Michelin.
Fold: The original New York restaurant already has one star, and Miami’s ritzy setting could push it a notch higher.
Car: Brothers Michael and Jacqueline Pirolo have been making this place an Italian home run for almost a decade in Miami Beach.
Or not: Niven Patel does his widest food but in his most exclusive setting. As expected if its tropical themed mamey make this list instead or as well.
La Trova Coffee: James Beard winner Michelle Bernstein puts a twist on classic Cuban food.
Carbon: The New York location has one star, though its Miami Beach location has received mixed reviews.
Jar: Again, if previous stars count, your Washington DC star could play a role here.
Ghee Indian Cuisine: Patel’s Original Place has the best of menus from his three restaurants in the most casual setting.
Itamae: The outdoor-only location is something that could move it down the list. It could easily be a two star place.
Luca Osteria: If in fact the food is what counts most, Luca, with his simple atmosphere, could take a star or two.
Makoto: A new and luxurious space of Bal Harbor Shops to enjoy the most luxurious Japanese cuisine in Miami.
Genuine Michael: A classic is a classic. Its redesigned interior could also move it further up the list.
Ship: Beltrán’s fresh seafood and pasta restaurant is a hidden gem.
Osteria Morini: The restaurant group that owns the Miami Beach affiliate has Michelin-starred restaurants elsewhere.
Sweetie: Their original Austin has been lauded for years, but it’s not in a Michelin town, so this Wynwood spot could be the first to get a star.
Zitz sum: The creative and inventive introduction of Latin flavors in an Asian-inspired menu could also earn a two-star venue.
Zume: The downtown Japanese restaurant that has launched the careers of many of Miami’s chefs remains a lesson in elegant sushi.
Call this category the best bang for your buck, where the total bill could be around $40 before taxes and tips. Five places that I think could catch the eye of Michelin:
Flooded: Miami-Dade’s only Ethiopian restaurant is also one of its best restaurants, served in a casual Miami Gardens strip mall.
Blue necklace: This place defined elevated comfort food, using quality ingredients.
Estate: This place in the western suburbs deserves a mention for combining Cuban, Korean and Peruvian flavors.
Lorna’s Caribbean and American Grill: Braised chicken, fried Jamaican meatballs, conch stew, and whatever.
Smoke and mass: My pick for the best Miami BBQ served in a full service restaurant.