Anyone who has been paying close attention to the culinary trends of right now is very much aware that the next “it” cuisine is that of Peru, a cuisine that has been slowly and quietly trying to break into the American palate for at least a decade. A handful of chefs and food writers had heralded the advent of Peruvian cuisine in this country years ago, but it had been premature, and many food enthusiasts were left waiting for a wave of Peruvian restaurants - both haute and humble - that never seemed to arrive. This country wasn’t ready yet. Not only did we lack the food culture that we have today with all its foodie bloggers and gourmet food trucks, it was almost as if gringos had yet to resolve their issues with Latin American cuisine. Although many Latin Americans were already fans of the varied and sophisticated cuisine of Peru, the general American population still thought that Latino cuisines were either confined inside a tortilla or served with a heap of rice, beans, and plantains. Peruvian cuisine did not fit neatly into any of those compartments. With the rise in Latino chefs and the spread of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Americans began to understand that Latin American cuisines could be elegant and sophisticated and complex. We began enjoying spicier, bolder flavors. We started to become huge fans of ceviche to the point that almost every menu now features it. We were also about to be introduced to a chef who was steadily building momentum in Peru and who would introduce the rest of the world to Peruvian cuisine.
Latin cuisine is all the rage these days and there's no better place to enjoy it than at Pampano Botaneria. The small downstairs brother to Richard Sandoval's Pampano, this smaller, more casual half of the restaurant is the way to go. This dimly lit, romantic setting makes anyone want to hunker down for a feast. The best part of this place is that all menu items are served tapas-style...which means you don't have to pick and choose what you want, you can try everything!
Asia de Cuba, a well-known South Beach restaurant located in the Mondrian hotel overlooking the Downtown Miami skyline, hosted an exclusive preview of this location’s latest addition: the new Ceviche and Raw Bar! Upon entering, we were greeted with our choice of cocktails. I opted for the Triple Berry Mojito. This drink included white rum, muddled mint and lime, fresh raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry, with cane syrup and a splash of soda. This refreshing beverage perfectly balanced the sweetness of the berries with the tang of the lime. My palate was satisfied. They also offered a choice between a mango mojito, chili passion capirinha, and a raspberry cloud caipirinha. I was given the opportunity to taste all of them, and each offered unique flavors to satisfy all palates.
One of the things I can always count on when returning to my native Miami is dirt-cheap authentic Cuban food - the sustenance of my heritage. But now, with Miami's booming culinary scene congregating in the resurgent Downtown and the newly created Midtown, that good quality at affordable prices is true for other cuisines as well. Miamians are broadening while fine-tuning their culinary palates, and Peruvian Chef Juan Chipoco knows it.In September 2008, Chipoco opened a brilliant restaurant centered around the cuisine of his homeland in the heart of downtown - a risky move (that paid off) in an area that is known to transform into a ghost-town at the close of office hours. The playfully named CVI.CHE 105 (pronounced ce-vi-che) was the word on the street upon my recent visit back to South Florida, and the packed, boisterous sleekly-clad space proved it. On a random downtown street, lined with empty storefronts advertising the "coming soons," CVI.CHE 105 had guests pouring out the door on an early Sunday evening. I squeezed my way through the disproportionately cramped waiting area to find a grand gray and white concrete expanse flecked with bright Caribbean colors and numerous occupied tables. First turn-off: the noise level is almost too much to bear, bouncing off the lofty walls and floor. First turn on: mounds of fresh fish ceviche were piled high on pretty white plates being doled out one after another from the ceviche bar at the front of the house. My stomach was rumbling. Next thing I see: Chef Chipoco standing solidly, arms crossed observing what I was observing but with a different eye. Mine, longing. His, scrutinizing. Talk about pressure in the kitchen. He almost made me nervous. But his overbearing attentiveness gets the job done; his food is spectacular. His hands-on approach wafts from the kitchen to the house as well, personally greeting guests at each table with pointed eye contact, a firm handshake, and an immaculately white smile. To assume he is meticulous man would be more than fair. And it radiates through his menu.
South Florida is a melting pot of many cultures and cuisines. But one thing’s for sure, in Miami you can find the comfort of Cuban food at almost every corner. You also have the ultra innovative restaurants which always set out to offer you something new which you’ve never tried before. But what if you could find the best of both worlds right here on Ocean Drive? Then De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean is just what you’re looking for. Tucked away from the been-there/done-that tourist traps, this restaurant is set poolside and oceanfront at the 5-Star Diamond Award Winning Hilton Bentley Beach Club. Executive Chef Douglas Rodriguez offers you with each dish an authentic, yet inspired, menu which takes you on a culinary adventure past the ocean’s horizon. Joonbug had the opportunity for a one-on-one with the Godfather of Nuevo Latino Cuisine himself, Chef Douglas Rodriguez.
This past Sunday, Heart of a Chef, along with the Florida Heart and Research Institute and Miami Science Museum hosted a family festival with an emphasis on the prevention of childhood obesity and healthy living. Not only was the museum open for guests to loathe in everything science, but also different food stations offered tasty treats. Vendors such as Smoothie King, Fit2Go, Nespresso, EVOS, I Heart Olive Oil and Pollo Tropical were some of the many stations offering healthy and delicious bites. There was everything from ceviche, fresh crepes to delicious smoothies and wine tastings. There were several different rooms filled with samples of delicious foods.
So I get invited to go try out this new local Peruvian restaurant and I’m thinking “Greaaat! Another pollo-a-la-brasa-type spot, where you order your food up at the counter, sit yourself and drink your canned Peruvian soda while you wait for your greasy chicken to come.” Dead wrong! As I walked in to the swank corner spot of Pardo's Peruvian Cuisine on Ponce de Leon Blvd in Coral Gables, I stop and think, “This restaurant definitely belongs in Coral Gables!”
It's as easy as clicking your heels together three times and chanting "There's no place like Mexico, there's no place like Mexico, there's no place like Mexico". The hot new restaurant Tacontento, tucked away on Lincoln Lane, will make you feel as though you have stepped through a porthole into another country.
The decor and atmoshphere at Tacontento is authentic, charming, fun, comfortable and so aesthetically engulfing that you will forget to look at your menu to select your meal. To top it off, the service is warm, friendly, upbeat and professional. My gayte and I were graciously seated by a sweet hostess at a community table and were then swiftly greeted within seconds by our server with an offer for something to drink. We already felt as though we weren't in Kansas, or on South Beach anymore.