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New global restaurant brands make their way into Florida

Florida is already active in the culinary foreign exchange: Outback is in 20 countries, Tony Roma’s is in 30, Melting Pot plans to open in a half-dozen countries from the Middle East to Indonesia.

There’s a new trend, however. A new class of global culinary labels — “chains” may be too crass a label — is moving into Florida, most particularly to Miami. The first imported chain may have been BICE of Milan, which now has five Florida locations and outposts in South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

This newer group of restaurants is decidedly upper crust, with youthful accents of Asian spice and craft cocktails. The design is eye-popping glam. Menus are luxurious, with old school Dover sole and new-era Kobe beef, served in small-plate tapas and sushi or big sharing portions. Service is meticulous, yet the formats are informal, from bar snacks to breakfast and brunch. Those who need to ask the price may want to dine elsewhere.

Most started in Europe and spread to the modern circuit of the super rich, Dubai to Moscow and Hong Kong. In the U.S., Miami has become a mandatory stop, often the first and only U.S. location.

Hakkasan

Beverly Hills, Miami, New York, San Francisco; Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, London, Mumbai

The spirit is elegant Chinese, but it didn’t become Hakkasan until chef Tong Chee Hwee came to London in 2001 and won a Michelin star. His first serving in America was in the Fontainebleau. The extravagance is evident in appetizers of tea-smoked short ribs and braised Japanese abalone. Main courses are just as uptown: Silver cod is dressed with champagne and Chinese honey. The beef in the stir fry is Wagyu.

Hakkasan steamed windmill prawn dumplings

Zuma

Miami; Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London

The idea — combining high-class sushi bar and stylish grazing and watering hole — started in London with a German-born chef who spent years in Tokyo and Sydney and wanted to outdo London’s Nobu.

Zuma opened its only U.S. location in 2010 in a dramatic intimate space in the Miami’s Kimpton Epic. A network of lively rooms, framed with rice paper, feature bamboo walls, earthy granite and views of the Miami River (with yacht dockage). The menu ranges from bites as small as black cod gyoza and grilled baby artichokes to cedarroasted chicken. Steak and lobster are trimmed japonaise with sesame wafu sauce and shiso-ponzu butter.

Zuma’s bar stocks a long list of sakes, including an exclusive bottle made in house and stronger spirit shochu.

Cecconi’s

Hollywood, Miami; London

Cecconi’s, on the ground floor of the Soho Beach House, was started by Enzo Cecconi, a former manager of Cipriani’s in Venice. The Miami location includes 50 bedrooms for rent, the Cowshed spa, lounges and a “screening snug” for movie and video for members and hotel guests. The breakfast menu includes French toast made from Italian panettone and a full English breakfast. The Allday menu ranges from veal tonnato and shrimp with radish and pistachio to linguine with squid and broccolini.

Baoli

Miami; Cannes

If it’s good enough for A-list celebs on the Riviera, it has the glam and cred for South Beach partiers. Ask Leonardo DiCaprio, Timbaland, Axl Rose, Adrian Grenier and others who have been spotted among the red leather, pink neon and glittering trees of the only American Baoli. The Collins Avenue space can be reserved for cocktail parties of up to 600. Food mixes Europe, Asia and South America with an accent on luxury. You can nibble soba noodles, roasted beets or sushi. Big spenders love lobster cavatelli, bouillabaisse and what the menu calls tresors — Kobe Wagyu filet, Dover sole, Sevruga caviar and a $235 seafood tower.

Baoli roasted yellow and red beets with orange miso sauce and feta cheese

Cipriani

Los Angeles, Miami, New York; Abu Dhabi, Bodrum (Turkey), Dubai, Hong Kong, Ibiza, Istanbul, Monte Carlo, Moscow, Porto Cervo (Sardinia, Italy), Venice

Giuseppe Cipriani may have wanted only a small success when he opened in Venice in 1931, but Harry’s Bar led to the biggest name in luxury hospitality at dozens of restaurants, hotels and clubs around the world, and, as of 2013, downtown Miami. Cipriani in Miami is a two-floor waterfront space in gleaming blue velvet and white leather, filled with waiters in bowties and white jackets under Venetian glass lights. While scampi is spiced with wasabi, the bulk of the menu is classic Cipriani and mostly Italian: Carpaccio, paccheri and tagliolini, veal chop and sage leaves, Venetian calves liver and crepes flambé.

Toro Toro

Miami; Dubai

Mexican-born chef Richard Sandoval has more than a dozen restaurants across the Southwest, the South, New York and the Persian Gulf. His newest venture, pan-Latin Toro Toro, started offering ceviche and churrasco to diners in Dubai, and this year opened its only U.S. outpost in the InterContinental Miami. The menu runs from coca flatbread or arepas with short ribs to grouper, steaks and lamb anticuchos and a “cortadito” of chocolate coffee with pistachio ice cream.

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