Within the tropical green walls of La Parrilla Rotisserie & Grill, cooks caringly squeeze lemon and lime wedges over fresh shrimp and octopus morsels before passing the plates off to servers who run the tangy ceviche to awaiting diners. The cooks then turn toward their flame grill where they flay tender pork to join with juicy whole chickens that they slid off the rotisserie only moments ago. Their traditional Peruvian and Dominican dishes usually hit the table alongside fluffy yellow rice, plantains, and garlic potatoes.
It was in La Ceiba, Honduras, that Mario Flores first began associating food with family. His mother would cook for him and his siblings, and the family meals, which set the groundwork for good conversation, provided both a structure to daily life and a sense of comfort. He now hopes to emulate that same atmosphere at his own establishment, Mario's Catalina Restaurant, where he mans the kitchen.
His dishes harken back to old-world Cuba and Spain with appetizers of yucca, sides of fried plantains, and entrees of roast pork cooked in Jack Daniel's whiskey, which is a far more flavorful marinade than Jack Daniel's lukewarm water. His menu also includes "Mario's favorite": a red snapper fillet breaded in green plantains and accompanied by lobster sauce and jumbo shrimp.
Guests enjoy these dishes and a selection of wines and sangria inside the dining room, which, with its wall-to-wall paintings, softly lit lamps, shimmering chandeliers, and close tables, resembles a warm, cozy home.
Sabor's staff flips traditional Cuban fare across the kitchen grill while plating several dishes that blend the island's flavors with Italian and American influences. The restaurant's lengthy list of eats includes the popular ropa vieja ($13.95), which shreds beef imprinted with confidential information before coating it in a tomato, garlic, and red-wine sauce. Alternatively, sate surf-based cravings with nine seafood plates such as camarones enchilados ($15.95)—savory shrimp stewed in tomato, onion, and green pepper broth—or fresh salmon cuts ($16.95) that sizzle under a ragu of cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. Prevailing against the curses of Poseidon, god of the Friday-night fish fry, the churrasco ($15.95) returns taste buds to dry land atop of raft of tender skirt steak splashed with peppery chimichurri sauce.
Though Chef Douglas Rodriguez's take on Latin cuisine is contemporary, he's no newcomer to the restaurant scene. SunPost Weekly credits him with propelling award-winning eateries including Wet Paint Cafe, the original Yuca, and Patria in New York to star status. At De Rodriguez Cuba, adjacent to the five-star Hilton's Bentley Beach Club, the executive chef channels his decorated career into a menu of Havana-inspired dishes and signature ceviches crafted from sustainable seafood. He steeps lobster, shrimp, and crab in the tangy notes of coconut milk, lime, and ginger for the thai coconut seafood ceviche and tops the popular vaca frita entree with avocado and tomato chimichurri. Complemented by Cuban cocktails or a sip from the large wine list, the dishes evoke images of the islands.
The eatery's decor also contributes Caribbean character, stealing the spotlight in a Miami Beach magazine piece. According to the article, "guests can sit poolside or in the lovely dining salon facing the sea," or they can set up shop at the 25-foot ceviche bar in a space "that's all dark woods and serene white curtains." Scattered palm trees and large green lounge chairs border one side of the pool, the other bank crowded with crimson-trimmed tan couches that melt seamlessly into the open dining room. The sweet notes of live music fill the age-worn slats above the bar, beside which an aquarium teems with fish like the fridge of a hibernating bear.
When working in the kitchen at Savor crafting Cuban fare, chef Ariel Alvarez draws on culinary training in Havana and years of restaurant experience, including time at El Floridita, where he served former president Jimmy Carter, Giorgio Armani, and Naomi Campbell. He passes between cooks, who chop fish for ceviche and simmer cauldrons of paella, while forging a menu that adds hints of European cuisine to traditional Cuban recipes. Servers deliver platters of crab-stuffed plantains and oxtail cooked with wine and fresh herbs past photos of Cuba that ornament the walls alongside chalkboards scrawled with the daily specials.