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Dining guide

SOUTH BEACH

Blue Door 1685 Collins Avenue. 305-674-6400. This fabulous restaurant in the ultra-chic Delano Hotel on South Beach just gets better and better. Opt for Blue Sea's spanking-fresh sushi or Baby Blue's inventive prix fixe menu. And Sunday brunch is simply marvelous. Open daily, 7 a.m.-Midnight. $$$$

China Grill 404 Washington Avenue. 305-534-2211. Flashy and frequently packed, the meant-for-sharing Pan Asian cuisine is always good and highly innovative. Duck with scallion pancakes is especially tasty. Flash-fried crispy spinach is a must-try, as is the wasabi-glazed grouper with chipotle mashed potatoes. Great bar scene, cool interior. Open Sun.-Thurs., Noon-Midnight; Fri.-Sat., Noon-1 a.m. $$$$

Electric Blue (in the Roney Palace) 2301 Collins Avenue. 305-604-1000. Sushi lovers will certainly appreciate Electric Blue, the new dining spot in the Roney Palace Beach Resort. Don't miss the dancing-eel roll and kani su--crab-avocado-cucumber rolls. The chic restaurant provides an intimate dining experience for couples and larger groups too--in an elegant, lively space. Open 7 days, Noon-Midnight. $$$

Joe's Stone Crab 11 Washington Avenue. 305-673-0365. As widely known for the long wait as for its fresh stone crabs, Joe's is a worthy landmark regardless. Don't pass on any of a dozen types of fresh fish offered alongside the restaurant's namesake. Famous key lime pie makes for a tangy finish. Seasonal. Open for lunch Tues.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; dinner, Sun.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$

Mark's South Beach 1120 Collins Avenue. 305-604-9050. Mark Militello's eatery in the Nash Hotel is outfitted in gorgeous mahogany and linen wallpaper, but you can get an equally pretty plate of food. Case in point: cornmeal-dusted black grouper wrapped in Serrano ham and zucchini ribbons. Or try the yellowtail snapper with lemon couscous. Open 7 days, Noon-3 p.m., 7 p.m.-11:30 p.m. $$$$

Nemo 100 Collins Avenue. 305-532-4550. Nestled at the southern tip of the Beach, Nemo has been going strong since opening in 1995. Great raw bar selection as well as meat and poultry, but leg of lamb over apricot-cardamom sauce shines. Don't skip a great dessert by pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith. Lovely courtyard dining area. Open Mon.-Fri., Noon-3 p.m., 7 p.m.-Midnight; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 6 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$$

Nobu 1901 Collins Avenue. 305-695-3100. Chef Nobuyuki Matushisa brings one of NYC's most popular sushi restaurants to the Beach, and it's predictably popular. Signature black cod with miso, as well as "new-style sashimi" (hot olive oil poured over the raw fish) are not to be missed. Arctic char is especially tasty. Open Mon.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-Midnight; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$$

Pacific Time 915 Lincoln Road. 305-534-5979. Attractive, soothing modern interior and open kitchen make Pacific Time an elegant place to dine. Always packed, the restaurant's Asian-American dishes certainly hold their own. The Florida pompano entree is stunning, as is the cuttlefish appetizer. Cinnamon-grilled squab is also excellent. Open Sun.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-Midnight. $$$$

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Sushi Samba Dromo 600 Lincoln Road. 305-673-5337. The decor is richly accented in magenta and red, and the saketinis pack an appropriate wallop. But fantastic ceviches and Peruvian-style tiraditos are the real standouts on this comprehensive fusion menu. Kobe beef also shines, as does an excellent lobster tempura roll. Open Mon.-Tues., 5:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; Wed.-Sun., Noon-2 a.m. $$$$

Tuscan Steak 433 Washington Avenue. 305-534-2233. Typical steakhouse decor doesn't mean typical steakhouse fare at this Beach staple. Filet mignon with a Gorgonzola crust is appropriately rich, as is Florentine T-bone. Expect pastas imbued with earthy truffles and cream, risotto redolent of white truffle oil. Meat platters are served family style. Open Sun.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-1 a.m. $$$$

Twelve Twenty 1220 Collins Avenue. 305-531-8800. Serving progressive French-American cuisine in the ultra-chic Tides hotel, Twelve Twenty offers fabulously rich food to a ritzy crowd. Squab in port wine sauce as well as steamed sea bass with blanched lemons and fried shallots are delectable. Thin apple tart is a delicious dessert. Open 7 days, 7 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$$

Wish 801 Collins Avenue. 305-531-2222. One of South Beach's prettiest and most cutting-edge restaurants, Wish serves fabulous food in a chic-yet-serene atmosphere. Try the cachaca-marinated tuna; plump veal chops over coconut-milk risotto is also especially tasty. A must-have dessert is the ritzy(!) s'mores with chocolate-ginger ice cream. Great service too. Open Sun.-Thurs., 6 p.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 6 p.m.-Midnight. $$$$

NORTH MIAMI/AVENTURA

Chef Allen's 19088 NE 29th Avenue. 305-935-2900. Diners flock to Aventura to taste Chef Allen Susser's contemporary American masterpieces centered on local flavors. Five-pepper-charred yellowtail with grilled chayote is stunning, as is the appetizer of Bahamian lobster and crab cakes with tropical fruit chutney. Kirsch souffle for dessert. Menu changes often. Open 7 days, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. $$$$

Hanna's Gourmet Diner 13951 Biscayne Boulevard. 305-947-2255. Aptly named, this dining-car features excellent French-inspired food in an informal setting. Herb-crusted lamb and chicken chasseur are faves, as is the steamed artichoke with homemade pink vinaigrette. Don't miss a flaky, perfect custard fruit tart--it's heaven on a fork. Open 7 days, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. $$

Hiro 3007 NE 163rd Street. 305-948-3687. This North Miami mainstay is packed nightly, with diners flocking to get artfully prepared sushi, sashimi and yakitori. The extensive menu offers some decent stir-fries, noodle dishes and teriyakis. The salmon tempura roll--with cream cheese and asparagus--is so good it's scary. Open 7 days, Noon-Midnight. $$

La Paloma 10999 Biscayne Boulevard. 305-891-0505. This 20-year-old restaurant is still wonderful. It's pretty much an Old World steakhouse, and that's the way we like it: teriffic chops, steaks and great oysters Rockefeller. Trout almondine is a standard not to be missed. Open for lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-Midnight; Fri.-Sun., 4 p.m.-Midnight. $$$

The Prime Grill 3599 NE 207 Street. 305-692-9392. This upscale kosher eatery in Aventura offers delicious options for meat-lovers, yet also aims to please with sparkling fresh fish such as salmon with baby bok choy, grilled tuna and a fine Chilean sea bass. Open for lunch, Mon.-Thurs., Noon-2:30 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Sat. night, 1 1/2 hours after sundown-12:30 a.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.-10 p.m. $$$

CORAL GABLES

Bangkok Bangkok 157 Giralda Avenue. Curries rule at this Thai eatery, which has an intimate, romantic atmosphere to boot. Fresh whole fried mackerel is a signature dish. Reliable Thai favorites such as pad thai and perfectly executed satays add to the restaurant's draw. The service is equally delicious. Traditional seating available, authentic decor. Open Sun.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. $$

Brasserie Les Halles 2145 Ponce de Leon Boulevard. 305-461-1099. Rich onion soup is a must-have for theater-goers who stop by for a pre- or post-show bite. Homemade charcuterie is nice, as is the cheese plate. Cote de bouef is tradition on a plate, but meaty steak frites are french-fry heaven. Excellent for executive luncheons. Open 7 days 11:30 a.m. to Midnight. $$

Christy's 3101 Ponce de Leon Boulevard. 305-446-1400. Long-standing Gables power lunch establishment. Great steaks, best prime rib in town and renowned Caesar salads. Open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. $$$$

Da Capo 60 Merrick Way. 305-774-1943. This new restaurant in Coral Gables serves up inventive Euro fare covering a wide range of cuisines and styles. Yummy lobster strudel is a nice treat. Open for lunch, Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner, Mon.-Sat., 5 p.m.-11 p.m. $$$

La Dorada 177 Giralda Avenue. 305-446-2002. Fine Spanish cuisine begins and ends at La Dorada, which flies fresh fish in daily from the Bay of Biscay. Whole fish baked in rock salt is satisfyingly moist and tender, and the gazpacho is a cool treat in hot South Florida. Traditional Spanish desserts are a must. Open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 am-3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Sun.; Noon-8 p.m. $$$$

Maroosh 223 Valencia Avenue. 305-476-9800. Delicious Mederiterranean food rules here. Kebabs are moist, flavorful and tender, while the baba ghanouj is simply teriffic. Rack of lamb with pepper sauce makes for a hearty entree, but ordering a slew of appetizers is also a great option. Open Tues.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri., Noon-11 p.m.; Sat., Noon-Midnight; Sun., Noon-10 p.m. $$

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