Azul (inside Mandarin Oriental, Miami)
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By marrying modern American and Asian cuisine, Chef Benjamin Murray has created a lovely 120-seat waterfront dining experience that serves haute cuisine with a foreign flair. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a larger-than-life wine wall, which holds over 600 bottles. Since it’s open for dinner only, your view of Brickell Bay is one of twinkling lights. The menu opens with an “Small Bites" section featuring chilled oysters, tartare and other seafood delights. Try a star starter dish like the Warm King Crab with Asian pear, mango, cucumber, umeboshi butter, and Thai basil. When I dined there, the restaurant was packed, so book ahead especially if you’re arriving on the weekend. Also expect to be surprised by the details of the everyday items (like the butter with black lava salt), and the service, which is—in true Mandarin Oriental fashion—exceptional. The roving sommelier helped demystify the wine choices, which range from a non-alcoholic Navarro “Verjus” grown in Mendocino County to a “Terra Felice” Syrah grown in the Russian River Valley. But the choices don’t stop there: a fine selection of Samaroli rums, aged in Scotland, is available for sipping as well. Azul is one of those gems where you can sit back, enjoy everything, and then wish you could do it all over again the following evening. Image courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Miami.
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