Poised for Greatness

Josh Tyson |
Food And Dining

What do the world’s best restaurants all have in common? Balance. Spots that draw checklist eaters from around the globe, as well as regular love from discerning neighborhood diners, have reputations forged by a careful blend of cuisine, ambience, and service—all working seamlessly in tandem.

For Lippi, Brickell’s new crown jewel, balance begins with giving diners the choice elements of elegant fine dining alongside the best parts of casual cosmopolitan cool. Balance is tough when you’re young, but Lippi has steady captains at the helm: successful international investor Tunu Puri and legendary Miami Chef Philippe Ruiz.

For over a decade, Ruiz worked as executive chef at the venerable Palme d’Or in Miami’s Biltmore Hotel, earning two James Beard nominations and two “exceptional” ratings from The Miami Herald. At Lippi, the chef is branching out from his classical French training, bringing Mediterranean flavors into the mix to create an alluring New American pastiche.

 “Loaded with wild mushrooms and bits of black truffle, the glossy, just-scrambled eggs arrive in a pretty glass globe cocked on a wooden board.” —Victoria Pesce Elliott

Beyond balancing flavors from many regions, Ruiz has created a diverse menu of small plates that give Lippi a streak of communal ease, making it a great place to share food and cocktails with friends. “People can come to Lippi, choose a variety of dishes, and enjoy the taste and conviviality,” he says.

Indeed, the menu at Lippi was created for sharing, and each plate is presented in a way that encourages conversation and enhances the overall experience. “Sharing is becoming more popular in the States,” says Puri. “People enjoy tasting and discussing multiple dishes together.”

Lippi's small plates are already becoming fodder for discussion, as longtime local food critic Victoria Pesce Elliott recently mused, lusting after the Truffled Scrambled Eggs: “Loaded with wild mushrooms and bits of black truffle, the glossy, just-scrambled eggs arrive in a pretty glass globe cocked on a wooden board. The buttery richness and fresh earthy flavors are an indulgence everyone ought to experience.”

The eggs—along with other mouthwatering delights like the Octopus Carpaccio with potato confit and smoked paprika, and the Mediterranean Sea Bream served with eggplant caviar and roasted tomato—are not just plates for passing, they are catalysts for conversation and camaraderie. Or, to put it another way, they are reminders of what makes enjoying food this good in a magical city setting so inspiring.

In that sense, Brickell is the perfect place for a restaurant like Lippi. Miami’s densely packed financial district has the excitement of the shoulder-to-shoulder bustle of New York City, calmed by the balmy levity of South Florida.

“Brickell is unique because of the high density of commercial offices and residential buildings,” Puri says. With the addition of the City Center (slated to be completed in 2015), Brickell is sure to attract even more fine-dining connoisseurs.

“Brickell is the Southeast’s mecca for international business and the gateway to South America,” Ruiz adds. “It reflects the diversity and sophistication that come to mind when people think of Miami, and it's now becoming a dining and entertainment destination as well. We’re fortunate to be in the center of all that is happening.”

That privileged spotlight is taken seriously by Ruiz and Puri, who lean not only on the Mediterranean menu to draw crowds, but a restaurant design rooted in ease and elegance, warmth and welcome. Embracing its sun-soaked, relaxed setting, Lippi offers guests a homey respite from the craze of life. The unparalleled terrace is ideal for enjoying legendary Miami weather, with marble-work tables that call on the character of the Old World while being decidedly fresh and new. Inside, the open kitchen puts the talent of Ruiz's kitchen on show: a choreographed magic that marries flavor and texture, sight and sound.

Fine entrées like the Roasted Duck Breast with cranberry marmalade and roasted apple have already made believers out of locals.

So while hanging out in the bar during the daily happy hour can feel decidedly cosmo—sipping Masala Punch (a kicky blend of Monkey Shoulder whiskey, citrus, and Masala chai tea)—there’s an easiness to it that’s clearly different. This might be due, in part, to the openness of the room and the influx of light flooding through towering floor-to-ceiling windows, but it might also come back to that notion of balance.

“In many ways, Miami has scrambled to live up to its potential,” General Manager Paul Radu says. “With Lippi's exquisite décor, oustanding service, and lively experience, this is a concept that we’d like to take to other cities. Right now, Miami is the perfect market for us.” With all that Lippi has achieved, a Michelin star for the city may not be out of reach.

Fine entrées like the Roasted Duck Breast with cranberry marmalade and roasted apple have already made believers out of locals, and it’s just as tempting to spend a long evening celebrating over a parade of courses as it is to enjoy a lighter night of small plates and glasses of wine.

“It’s all about the quality of food, attractive presentations, service, ambience, and energy,” Ruiz says, reminding us of the many elements that promote balance. “Lippi will excite your taste buds as well as your other senses.”

Finally: a restaurant in Miami that is as much about enjoying food as it is about enjoying the experience of dining. To gourmets the world over, this is the very definition of balance.