3.5 stars for fine dining at Tuyo in Downtown Miami

Tuyo, “yours” in Spanish, is a smart addition to the Miami dining scene. Set atop Miami Dade College’s new Miami Culinary Institute, the eighth-floor restaurant is surprising in its quirky elegance and breathtaking in its panoramic views. Though located in a school, the staff is all-pro, headed by Norman Van Aken, a culinary force in South Florida for more than three decades who has recruited some of his finest protégés including Jeffrey Brana and pastry chef Max Santiago. Still in his first semester (Tuyo opened in November and changes its menu monthly), Van Aken is combining nostalgic plates from his early days such as Curaçao and foie gras-topped brioche French toast with Asian-inspired simplicity such as local cobia ceviche with papaya and pickled cucumbers.

Ambience: With only 80 seats arranged around floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass-enclosed fireplace, Tuyo feels very modern with its wavy molded ceilings and recycled wood floors.

What Worked

  • The five-course-tasting menu ($95, $155 with wine pairings)
  • Perfectly crusty, gently chewy and slightly oily ciabatta squares powdered with flour and served with irresistible fruity young olive oil and a pat of salty butter
  • A hearty amuse bouche of a Brazilian fritter stuffed with crabmeat
  • A pristinely assembled amuse bouche of crouton balanced atop a half sungold tomato the size of a marble with a thimbleful of minced ham salad
  • A Joel Robuchon tuna tartare mixed with bits of tomato diced so small they might have been pepper flakes, topped with a gently coddled egg and served alongside a scattering of cruncht, salty matchstick-fried potatoes
  • Enticing conch chowder – a sunny concoction of saffron-touched cream with a puff of coconut foam, bits of orange and nuggets of cracked conch
  • “Rhum” and pepper-painted tilefish served on mango habanero mojo with a slightly sweet plantain mash given a gently kick from roasted poblano chiles
  • Perfectly pan-seared yellowtail snapper fillet on a rich and buttery bed of mashed potatoes kissed by grapefruity beurre blanc and plated with meaty, sautéed malabar spinach
  • Precisely cooked beef duo of strip steak and short rib
  • A well stored & poured wine list encompassing fine Old and New World choices
  • Insanely good hot donuts stuffed with not-too-sweet dulce de leche and served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce and macadamia brittle ice cream
  • Tangy yogurt panna cotta is like spring in a cereal bowl
  • A piña colada of tissue-thin pineapple and crunchy coconut meat with a chilled soup and a pouf of coconut sorbet
  • A cheese cart with more than a dozen well-stored and displayed specimens served with and lovely accompaniments


What Didn’t Work

  • Sauces that didn’t make the grade – ají amarillo and a clunky olive vinaigrette
  • An uninspiring, overworked pompano
  • A waiter who lacked a grasp of both English and the menu
  • A kitchen that can delay dishes (kitchen is one floor below dining room)
  • Disappointing, one-dimensional deconstructed chocolate “soufflé”


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