The long, wooden bar is lit by ornate stained-glass lamps illuminating hand-painted scenes of Cuba inlaid on its sides. It's a fitting display for the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center, where social interaction and art are the main draws. At its heart, the center is a cultural hub for artists, actors, yodelers, and musicians to display their talents. But that doesn't mean history takes a back seat, either. Many artists' from 1850 to 1958 are on display as well, and the center regularly sponsors art auctions and fairs with a focus on promoting Cuban artists.
On Friday and Saturday nights, live bands fill the air with sultry and energetic music from a variety of local groups such as Orquesta Seleccion Latina, Fiera Mia, and Main Street. A light tapas menu entices diners to taste a variety of the kitchen's small plates that might feature marinated olives, mango salsa, mixed cheeses, or cured meats.
As far as cocktails go, the Fruity Flower martini feels like a pretty good representation of MOVA Lounge Brickell: it's elegant, mixed with raspberry vodka and St. Germain liqueur, and it's colorful, adorned with fresh slices of apple, cucumber, and strawberry. MOVA, too, is elegant and colorful, as it's an LGBT-friendly lounge outfitted with a sleek red bar, high-backed white banquettes, and, on the patio, minimalist outdoor seating. Beyond the chic decor, the bar often switches up its appearance each night with various themed events, at which guests can sip one of the 11 other specialty cocktails, or take advantage of bottle service with nearly 30 options of liquor and wine. Those reserving the bar for a private event can enjoy modern features such as colorful lighting, wall projection, computer and sound systems, and running water.
Owners Horacio Oliveria and Jennifer Porciello painstakingly plan every detail of their restaurant's decor, including the frescoes and dramatic arches, and their menu to give guests the impression that they've stumbled into a little corner of Italy. As musicians tap their feet on the hand-cut mosaic floors, servers float from table to table, delivering authentic Italian meals and housemade desserts.
Taking shots at the bar is already a performance: the dramatic tossing back of the head, the struggle not to make a puckered, that-was-rough face. Shots MIAMI’s bartenders embrace that theatricality by creating a show around each of their handcrafted shots, outfitting drinkers with silly props like oversized sombreros and sunglasses. The goofy costumes complement more than 150 cheekily named libations, such as Fruit Punch to the Face, a watermelon-flavored vodka shot. SHOTS Miami’s crew mobilizes its liquor, props, and glassware for private and corporate events, where they happily adapt their concept and drinks around each soiree’s specific theme.
The bistro brings the charming atmosphere and cuisine of the United Nations to southern Florida with the flair of a glitter-doused hot air balloon. Set in a convenient locale, Urbanite wraps patrons in an inviting cocoon of décor featuring lustrous cherry-wood furniture, earthy tones, and vibrantly colorful artwork. Assembled by chef and operator Frank Imbarlina and his palate-pleasing culinary talent, Urbanite Bistro’s menu melds international flavors with eclectic European fare. Sample smaller bites, such as the alligator egg roll with mango-roasted jalapeno creme ($9) or wild mushroom empanadas with vegan gravy and chervil ($9). Heartier dinner entrees feature plenty of game, such as the natural magret duck with cinnamon persimmons, Israeli couscous, and baby spinach with duck lardon ($21), or shoyu-glazed boar chops with a pecan crust, purple sticky rice, and grilled baby bok choy ($25). Cocktails, beer, and a varied wine list help wash tasty tidbits down like a boozy slip-n-slide.
Despite the English translation of its name, "the black cat," crossing paths with Le Chat Noir is anything but bad luck. That's especially true if you're searching for the perfect combination of wine, cheese, and jazz. A few tables dot the patio outside the entrance, but most visitors venture inside and down to the cellar, where musicians improvise several nights a week.
Le Chat Noir's setting complements its live entertainment. Strings of lights illuminate tables for two near the bar, where patrons sip a variety of red and white wines. Gourmet cheeses rest inside a glass display case, and a large chalkboard sits next to it, announcing the day's specials. To its left hangs a recreation of the original 19th-century poster for Le Chat Noir, a Parisian cabaret that was secretly run by the world's smartest house cat.