I am always asked what my top restaurants of the year are in Miami. My top two choices this year couldn’t be more different but are both excellent in their own way. One, I’ve already covered on my blog, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, an upscale, glitzy, Michelin worthy new spot in the Design District. The other, the polar opposite. A tiny, cozy space in a modest strip mall in the Upper Buena Vista area of Miami at 5205 NE 2nd Avenue. Boia De is located between a coin laundry and a medical clinic, but it is generating a lot of buzz among locals, tourists and other notable chefs working in Miami. And rightfully so, as Chefs Alex Meyer and Luciana Giangrandi, both partners in work and life, are cooking up some exquisite and mouthwatering dishes that are ripe with flavours.
There are only 27 seats in total in this narrow 700 square foot room. The exterior is punctuated with a pink neon exclamation mark, and the interior features concrete floors, white oak tables and chairs, and hunter green and orange accents, making for an authentic and charming feel. There is an open kitchen which is basically an extension of the bar, with a tiny workspace in the back. It is here that these two chefs are executing their stellar menu, where everything sounds so appealing and is – each dish having a depth and complexity to it. It is no wonder why when you find out the background of these two young chefs. They previously trained and worked at some outstanding establishments like Scarpetta, Carbone, The Nomad and the number one restaurant in the world just a few years back, Eleven Madison Park. They went on to have a food truck serving tacos in Miami and have now opened their own brick and mortar spot. It is earning rave reviews, and most items are priced around the $20 mark or under. Every item I have tried is luscious and delicious.
The crispy polenta with a marinated pickled eggplant, basil and ricotta salata is delightful and priced at only $8. The baked clams à la parmesana is an unlikely but yummy combination, and the raw hamachi with yuzu salsa verde and fried capers is definitely worth ordering. We also had to get our greens in, so we ordered a perfectly cooked grilled broccolini in ranch dressing with bottarga. The crispy potato skins with stracciatella, caviar, and hard-boiled egg is a standout dish, as is the tagliolini al nero, served cold, and topped with king crab, vin jeaune and truffles. The ricotta gnocchi with winter squash, spiced pepitas in a sage brown butter is also very satisfying. We found the pappardelle with generous shreds of rabbit, rosemary and tomatoes equally exemplary. These people know how to make great pasta dishes! The tortellini in brodo with foie gras, duck prosciutto, and a rich intense duck consommé was a touch salty but otherwise still beloved. My neighbour ordered the bone marrow with roasted garlic, tomatillo and cilantro and declared it first-rate. On my next visit, I will add some protein, like the lamb ribs and the seared grouper with crispy artichokes in a Meyer lemon beurre.
There is a small selection of craft cocktails and I enjoyed the Media Naranja, made with blood orange, vermouth and white wine. There are a number of wines, by the glass or bottle, from Germany, Austria, Loire, Valley, Alsace, or California, including contact wines fermented with the stems on, natural, and orange wines, plus beers, cider, aperitifs, and digestives. The people working the bar are very helpful, and you can BYOB at a $25 corkage fee.
The handful of desserts they serve are also very good. The menu includes sorbets, carrot cake, a freshly made-to-order deconstructed crispy tiramisu, a rich, dark chocolate budino (similar to a pot de creme) with candied hazelnuts, a layer of caramel and fresh cream, and ice creams by Frice Cream, with flavours like vin santo with biscotti, young ginger and Sicilian pistachio, all wonderfully rich and creamy.
Beautiful presentations, an excellent ingredient-driven menu, and warm friendly service make for a most successful debut at Boia De. The place might be tiny but they are working at a higher level than most.