Dining in Miami

Located in downtown Miami, away from the hubbub of South Beach, Azul offers luxe bay views nestled...

Located in downtown Miami, away from the hubbub of South Beach, Azul offers luxe bay views nestled in a quiet corner of the pristine Mandarin Oriental. (Courtesy Azul)

MARK DANIELL, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

When most people think of Miami, sun-kissed hard bodies are the first thing that comes to mind. But savvy travellers know that for foodies, Miami blends a rich tapestry of fascinating cultures into one of North America's most unique restaurant scenes. Backed by its own natural beauty, Miami offers visitors a plethora of dining choices. Here we break down four must-tries.

Azul

Located in downtown Miami, away from the hubbub of South Beach, Azul offers luxe bay views nestled in a quiet corner of the pristine Mandarin Oriental. In typical Miami fashion, Chef Joel Huff offers meals that will have diners licking their plates. Cookie cutter cuisine, it ain't.

The menu is carefully prepared and plays to the hotel's mix of American, European and Asian influences. There's always a great selection of seafood on ice, but our favourite dishes were the ones that combined meat and seafood, particularly the Beef Tenderloin Oscar.

Desserts are chocolate-heavy so if you are a chocoholic leave room.

Azul, 500 Brickell Key Dr., 724-410-3983, mandarinoriental.com/miami/dining/azul/.

SushiSamba

Usually I shy away from places where the menu weighs about as much as a Stephen King book. But the eclectic, orange-hued decor proved too irresistible to pass up. And I'm glad we didn't.

Drawing on Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, it seems SushiSamba is the place most Miamians come for a Saturday night out and I can't blame them. Located on the always-happening Lincoln Rd., there is something for everyone on this menu.

Their "Samba Rolls" are wildly inventive and offer a variety of combinations -- salmon and melted mozzarella anyone? We recommend the BoBo Brazil, which pairs kobe beef with avocado and chimichurri ponzu.

They also have a wide assortment of cocktails, which may or may not be a good thing. One sip of Samba Juice and you might be closing the place down.

SushiSamba, 600 Lincoln Rd., 305-673-5337, sushisamba.com.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

Located in midtown, this is a bit off the beaten tourist path, but its lively atmosphere makes Sugarcane well worth a visit. Another experiment in Latin-Asian- American fare, the menu offers everything from goat cheese croquettes to an absolutely mouth-watering whole roasted chicken.

It has a casual, after-work vibe, so if you aren't set on devouring a whole chicken the raw bar provides many options with fragrant flavours that will have you asking your waiter, "What was that I just ate?"

The Sugarcane roll -- lobster, endive, tomato salsa -- touches your palette in a way that says, "Look at me." And you most certainly do.

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, 3252 Northeast 1st Avenue, 786-369-0353, sugarcanerawbargrill.com/.

Asia de Cuba

If you eat here, three things are guaranteed. First, you're going to have a front row seat for the best sunset view in all of Miami. Second, you're going to be eating in one of the most visually dazzling restaurants in the city. And third, thanks to generous "sharing" plates, you're going to experience food in a way you've never quite done before.

Located inside the ultra hip Mondrian Hotel, the menu innovatively fuses Latin and Asian cuisine. Ensconced in designer Marcel Wanders' "Sleeping Beauty's Castle," it does have a slightly clubby feel. But one bite into my lemongrass skewered chicken appetizer and I felt immediately cool enough for this school.

Cocktails are a must, especially the passion fruit capirinha or the champagne-infused mojito. Decadent, inventive and very Miami.

Asia de Cuba, 1100 West Ave., 305-514-1940, mondrian-miami.com


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