Cafe Papillion, 530 Lincoln Road—I arrived late on Tuesday evening and this place looked reasonable for pasta and a glass of wine. The gnocci was fairly tender, just okay, but the four cheese sauce was delicious. I wound up with a larger glass of wine than I was supposed to get because the waitress made a mistake, but at these prices, it was the only mistake in my favor the whole trip.
Carnavale, 607 Lincoln Road—The pizza was okay, I liked the sweet sauce, but things went downhill when my waiter never came back to give me my bill. I had to get back to the conference for the afternoon session and my waiter was chatting up a table of five for almost 10 minutes. The manager finally brought it over with his apologies, thankfully the tip wasn’t included because it certainly wasn’t earned.
Aura, 613 Lincoln Road—This place is next door to Carnavale and another conference attendee mentioned he liked his lunch, so another attendee and I went here for dinner. I wasn’t very hungry after the filling/heavy pizza for lunch, so I just had a seared ahi tuna salad. The first fish was cooked completely through, but the second try was perfectly seared. The salad could have used more dressing, but the fish was tasty. Also worth noting was the complimentary mojito. Yum.
Pasha’s, 900 Lincoln Road—I knew Jess and I were going to go out tonight, so at this point I was loooking for something a little more affordable. Pasha’s has a counter in the back where you can order food to eat-in, so I was able to chill off in their nice setting and forgo the tip. The gyro was good, but even after I removed a small mountain of onions from my sandwich, I still tasted onion for the rest of the day. Not particularly good for networking. Oh, be sure to check out the disco ball in the ladies restroom.
Nobu, 1901 Collins Avenue—Jessica heard about this sushi place from her hairdresser. It’s located inside The Shore Club… you have to walk through the lobby, past a raised pond, through an outdoor bar/seating area and then look for another indoor bar to the left. There are no signs anywhere. This place is expensive, but the food was delicious. My favorite was the yellowtail sashimi with a spicy sauce and thinly sliced jalepenos. It went well with my lychee martini.
Bond Street Lounge, 150 20th Street—After Nobu, we tried another sushi place right next door in the basement of the Townhouse. We split a yellowtail ceviche and a lobster roll. Both above average, but not as good as the previous place.
Spy Lounge, 1732 Collins Avenue—We wanted coffee and dessert at this point, so we stopped at the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club for tiramisu and espresso (both very good). Our waiter, Tal, was from Israel, in town helping his friend for the high season. We sat outside on an antique couch and relaxed.
Cafe Nuvo, 412 Espanola Way—My last dinner in Miami was down in the Spanish district. The entire menu looked appetizing, but we had overdone things the night before and my appetite still wasn’t quite back to normal. I ordered the goat cheese salad and the presentation and flavor was perfect. Warm crusted goat cheese on mixed greens with candied walnuts and raisins. Mmm.
Overall, I had mostly good experiences with food in South Beach. I’m glad I read up on the automatic tipping practice, although it was usually obvious when applied. About half of the restaurants I visited added an automatic gratuity, anywhere from 15-18%. Some places had a marked line for an additional tip or printed the 15% on your final receipt. Only one place, Cafe Nuvo, added the tip and then didn’t give me back the original receipt. It would be pretty easy to tip twice if you weren’t paying attention. I found the service to be satisfactory, it’s pretty laid back here, so you’ll have to choose wisely if you want a fast lunch/dinner.