“Magic City”, the Starz network’s answer to “Mad Men”, may not be rating high with viewers here in New York City, but the city where it takes place still lures Manhattanites to its beaches, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. South Beach, the neighborhood in the city of Miami Beach, Florida, that lies between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is the yin to Manhattan’s yang, only more concentrated. Where “Mad Men” is unique to Manhattan, with its sophisticated professionals sitting in sleek office aeries, “Magic City” captures the high key colors of Miami’s epic hotels and sun kissed denizens. “Mad Men” and “Magic City” are period shows, set in the late 50’s and early 60’s, but both are identified closely with all that eternally defines the city where each is set.
Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive, two main promenades of South Beach, offer up a tropical kaleidoscope of luxury and decadence that New Yorkers have long since become inured to. These two arteries that run parallel to the ocean are dense with elegant hotels, trendy boutiques, and the endless parade of barely clothed models, European jet-setters and wet and wild tourists that make it all come alive. If you took the neighborhoods of Soho, Tribeca, and that part of Madison Avenue that runs from 57th Street to 86th Street, and set them on a palm lined beach, you would have South Beach. That, and the fact that Miami International Airport is a mere 2 1/2 hour plane ride from any major NYC airport, and you have the perfect get away for New Yorkers.
A New Yorker in any city is going to be concerned about the quality of food on offer, and in the last ten years South Beach has seen its stock rise significantly in this area, drawing brand name chefs from all over the world. A town once famed for its variety of the Cuban sandwich and the perfect stone crab claw now boasts a haute dining scene that delivers satisfaction to the most demanding palate. One of these restaurants is The Dining Room, situated one block over from Collins on Washington Avenue. This is a family affair, and that is one of the things that makes eating here so special. Owners Maria, Zack, and Brian Lieberman’s roots go way back in Miami. The family photos on the walls of this elegant and intimate space are a testament to their status of true native, much like the hotel owner, Ike Evans, of “Magic City.”
Executive Chef, Horacio Rivadero, was mentored by Douglas Rodriguez, a South Florida culinary celebrity, and star of The Dining Room’s sister restaurant, Ola, in South Beach’s Sanctuary Hotel. Rodriguez is acclaimed worldwide as the Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, so the pedigree is profound. One of the highlights of eating at The Dining Room is the opportunity to observe Rivadero and Chef de Cuisine, Cristian Alvarez, cooking just feet from the front door. Imagine eating out on a reality tv show, without the petulant drama, and this is the vibe of the place. You can watch Alvarez prepping the Filet Mignon Churrasco or pouring the Fish and Seafood soup into deep bowls right near your table. A mini cast iron skillet is set on the counter, which holds a crispy confit of pork belly. This tender and succulent piece of meat sits in a carrot cardomono puree, surrounded by cauliflower and brussel sprouts in a soy demi glaze. And this is an appetizer!
On a recent night at The Dining Room, Deborah and Vic Van Cleve were feasting on Striped Bass with pistachio pesto with grilled white asparagus, Serrano ham, baby arugula, and fava beans. The Van Cleves live in South Beach and are regulars, dropping into The Dining Room on average of three nights a week. Their daughter, Jennifer, a psychologist visiting from Washington D.C., was with them. A good rule of thumb for any tourist looking for the best spot to eat in an unfamiliar city is to go where the locals hang. The Dining Room is a treasure to the locals of South Beach, which they probably would rather keep to themselves. But considering its top spot on Trip Advisor for restaurants in Miami, the secret is out.
The Dining Room
413 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
305 397 8444