Ladies and gents, there are officially two more weeks left of Miami Spice Months, and that means run, don’t walk, to get $45 to $60 three-course meals at some of Miami’s most coveted dining destinations before it’s too late. Helmed by renowned chefs and hubs for eclectic international cuisine, Miami hotspots Toro Toro and Chotto Matte are two top eateries offering Miami Spice menus bursting with flavor.
Head Chef Armando Febles of Toro Toro, previously at Papi Steak, is excited to bring his passion for cooking and sourcing high-quality ingredients to Richard Sandoval’s Pan-Latin steakhouse Toro Toro, where he has already received a warm welcome. Having learned how to cook from his grandparents, the young chef quickly caught on to the recipe for success in the kitchen—“if you’re in a good mood, you’re going to cook good food.” Chef Febles wears his heart on his sleeve, hoping to replicate the warmth of the home dining experience at Toro Toro by preparing each meal with love, because, as he says, guests do feel the difference when the chef’s soul is in the cooking.
His chef’s trick for bouncing out of a less than favorable mood? “Go into the freezer and take a huge, deep breath. Realize this is only temporary, and those little bad moments in our lives are actually what helps us be better chefs.”
Chotto Matte Global Chef Jordan Sclare got his start at the Savoy in London, where he completed a four-year apprenticeship while studying part-time at Thames Valley University, achieving NVQ Level 4 and an advanced diploma in international culinary arts. He first realized he wanted to be a chef after being tasked with cooking breakfast for his family as part of a school project. At the age of seven, Chef Sclare whipped up some scrambled eggs and garnered an impressive reaction from his family, which inspired him to pursue his creativity for food as a lifelong passion.
After working at Gordon Ramsay’s first restaurant and the only restaurant in London to have three Michelin stars at the time, Chef Sclare knew he wanted to explore Asian cuisine, for which he had a “hunger in his heart” to learn. At Nobu London, his love for Japanese cooking further intensified and reached the pinnacle upon meeting Chotto Matte founder Kurt Zdesar. However, it would only be years later that the two joined forces and developed the grand launch of Nikkei-inspired restaurant Chotto Matte in London, spending months perfecting the menus and traveling the world together in search of the best foods.
“We ate at sometimes six restaurants a day, and saw the real Nikkei cuisine from the heart of Peru,” Chef Sclare says.
In exclusive, in-depth interviews, we sit down with the chefs to talk Miami Spice, must-order dishes on their Miami Spice menus, and what we can expect from their respective restaurants as a whole.
100 Chopin Plaza / Website
Favorite aspect of Miami Spice:
"It has multi purposes. Miami is a seasonal city. I mean, despite the pandemic, Miami hasn’t really seen a dip in business, but prior to that, the intention of Miami Spice was to actually bring more business to the restaurants in the slower months. This kind of gives chefs the chance to really showcase what the restaurant is all about, and not necessarily have to push old menu items, but really get creative with it and show people that we can still have fun and offer them an affordable menu with delicious food. And who’s not going to be cool with that? Not everybody has the money to go out to eat to nice restaurants and that’s something that I understand because I came from a humble family. It wasn’t until later in life that I was able to go to high-end restaurants, and even then, I still choose mom-and-pop places over high-end restaurants. But Miami Spice really gives an opportunity for locals and tourists to come to Miami and get a taste of what Miami nightlife is about with our cuisine."
Toro Toro table view
Go-to Miami Spice order:
"Definitely recommend the chipotle citrus ribs. We just recently changed one of the components from a corn souffle to a corn crumble, to not make it so heavy as an appetizer. I think that appetizers should be light and a quick couple of bites just to get your tastebuds flowing and your stomach riled up and ready for the entrée. We have a homemade chipotle citrus barbecue sauce.i It’s got a little sweet, a little tangy, a little spice, you know, all that good stuff you want on ribs. And then the nice corn crumble to kind of give you a different texture; since the ribs are soft, you want to have something that’s a little crunchy. It’s like a streusel. And then a pickled pepper relish. For entrees, I’m definitely big on seafood, but I do highly recommend the flat iron with our carrot puree, our charred broccolini, and our Huaincana foam. For dessert, I would do the blueberry pavlova with toasted corn husks, lemon pudding, and spiced blueberry confit. Of course, it’s got the meringue on top like traditional pavlova—very tasty."
Toro Toro Mexican Chipotle BBQ Pork Ribs
Toro Toro Flat Iron
Toro Toro Blueberry Pavlova
How Toro Toro stands out:
"First and foremost, we have a beautiful grill at the front of the restaurant. That grill pretty much showcases what we’re all about. You don’t really see that nowadays. Usually, if you go to a steakhouse everything is kept behind closed doors. If you go to high-end restaurants, some of them have an open kitchen, but you don’t really get to see that. Over here you have the opportunity to see the grill chef cooking your steaks, and that’s a pretty cool aspect if you ask me. Something that I want to work on is more tableside presentations; that’s the day and age that we’ve come to. Everybody now is all about Instagram, TikTok, what you put on social media. For instance, when I was at Papi Steak, I was part of the team that put out the briefcase with the wagyu tomahawk—stuff like that blows up. I want to bring more exciting tableside shows because that’s what people like; especially here in Miami, we’re all about the image and about what we see."
Toro Toro interior
1666 Lenox Ave. / Website
Favorite aspect of Miami Spice:
"We’ve been doing Miami Spice for a few years now and we’re a big fan of taking part in it and supporting it. Mainly, we like to give a chance for the locals in this season. A lot of the normal customers are away and then it gives an opportunity for people who have not been to the restaurant before to now have an affordable option. This year we chose the full tasting menu for the first time ever, because normally we just do the three-course option. This year we really wanted people to get a look at all the dishes. We entered Miami Spice with our full sharing menu for the first time, which is nine courses per person—we did the vegan one and the regular one."
Chotto Matte Tuna Takati
Go-to Miami Spice order:
"We created this vegetarian menu where almost every dish is actually vegan, so that non-vegetarian and non-vegan people will love every single one of these dishes. The same rules, passion, and tradition follows through to all of our dishes, whether they’re vegan or not. You have to go and try the lychee ceviche. The lychee, the white flesh fruit, is thinly sliced like white fish sashimi and is presented in exactly the same way as our sea bass and branzino ceviche, but it’s vegan and no one believes it when they receive it. My favorite dish changes every month at Chotto Motto because we have so many dishes and I eat here all the time. This month it's the King Mushroom Oyster Tostada. We made a vegan version of pulled pork; so we took king oyster mushrooms, which is one of the best Asian mushrooms you can get, really thinly shredded them, and instead of boiling, steaming, or roasting them, we created this cooking technique where we have open-pit fire barbeques. We actually remove the grill and put baskets on the coal directly, and then throw the shredded mushrooms directly into the basket and the heat and intensity of grilling them over the basket like a wok turns into something like pulled pork. We toss it through a smoked acupuncture chili dressing and then put it on a corn tostada with guacamole and lime, cilantro, onions. The Pollo Picante is also an absolute masterpiece."
Chotto Matte Lychee Ceviche
Chotto Matte Sea Bass Ceviche
Chotto Matte open-pit cooking technique
How Chotto Matte stands out:
"I wanted to kick the lid off the box and really get 70% Peruvian and 30% Japanese, and it would match with the colors, the music, the brand, and the flavors. Once you start adding all the chili and lime and onion, with the techniques of Japan, amazing things happen. I had to travel to Japan and try the real Nikkei cuisine there, and I then just fell in love even more with this street style culture of spices and lemon, lime, and coriander. I really, really fell in love with Japan, how humble they are when you get off the train, letting the elderly through. The foundation and heart of Chotto Matte is Japanese. We always get really fresh fish for our sushi bar and train up all our chefs and teach them how to filet the fish the old classical Japanese way. It’s more our toppings and sauces that make it become Nikkei. My interpretation is more the fourth or fifth generation of the original Nikkei people. The modern way. We are like the younger, trendier brother leading the way of Nikkei cuisine. I think we attract the children of the older, older parents and grandparents who still go to those sorts of traditional Japanese restaurants…the ones who want to eat in the cool place with graffiti, colors, DJs, and palm trees."
Chotto Matte interior
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Chotto Matte Miami; Courtesy of Toro Toro Miami