El Rey De Las Fritas serves up an extensive menu of authentic Cuban cuisine. Start your flavorful survey of Caribbean flavors with one of the restaurant's famous fritas, a seasoned-beef patty on cuban bread topped with sizzling shoestring potatoes ($3.25, $3.50 with cheese). Or submerge your mouth in the submarine-like pan con tortilla calljera, a heaping omelette sandwich guaranteed to wake up taste buds with its fresh flavors and impression of Gloria Estefan ($4.25). Sandwich-averse diners can dive into the tamal preparado, a cornhusk-wrapped tamale accompanied with a side of seasoned pork ($5.25) or sip on the sopa de pallo, a traditional Cuban chicken soup ($3.25).
Catharsis is as vibrant as its Calle Ocho neighborhood: whitewashed walls surround tables adorned with wild orchids and flickering candles, framing an inventive fusion of Latin and Italian cuisines. Grilled corvina and creative risotto dishes rank among the menu's star attractions, but the chefs might just as easily tickle palates with guava emulsions, cognac reductions, crunchy plantains, or tomato-mango pico de gallo. The dulcet sounds of Spanish musicians echo throughout Catharsis?s cavernous space, letting diners know when it's a good time to change into their Zorro costume.
As couples and groups gather for dinner around Caribbean lobster, steaks, and tapas, the wine flows freely, and eventually, the stillness of early evening gives way to the revelry of nighttime. Flamenco dancers climb onto tabletops, music begins to play, and diners set down their forks to clink glasses, deliver celebratory champagne baths to their loved ones, and do some dancing of their own.
This is the scene at Casa Panza, where dinner transforms into an all-night party. Set amongst Little Havana's sparkling nightlife, the Spanish cafe wraps festive visits in an equally festive experience. Outside, a bastion façade mimics that of a fortress, and inside, Spanish tiles, bodega-style wine racks, and hanging ceramics further immerse guests into the exotic decor. On Friday and Saturday nights, flamenco dancers flock to La Cueva, a party area where 50 to 70 guests can take in the show while noshing on tapas and paella. Even more live music can be found at Salon Rojo, a ballroom and nightclub that books performers from around the world and hosts private receptions for up to 250 guests.
Situated in Miami’s Little Havana district, where you typically would find Latin restaurants, is the pleasant surprise of contemporary sushi bar Mr. Yum. With its stark white tables, concrete floor and vermilion-colored wall accent, this restaurant is hip, funky and a bit loud. Owner Bond Trisransri is going for a bit of the South Beach flair, and each plate that is presented to you furthers the notion of food as performance art piece. Its signature dish is the Havana roll, a concoction of tempura white fish, avocado, cucumbers, masago and spicy mayo, while the unique menu offers both Thai and Japanese specialties, including Y-shaped Thai doughnuts for dessert. Although parking is typically difficult on Calle Ocho, the adjacent parking lot makes it that much easier to enjoy Mr. Yum.
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.
At 2B Asian Bistro, it's actually possible to begin your dinner with a bag of gold. That's because the Bag of Gold appetizer uncannily resembles its namesake—its tiny fried pouches contain shrimp, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. The appetizer paves the way for the menu's larger dishes, which present diners with a choice: Japanese or Thai? The former category covers teriyaki entrees as well as sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. Specialty rolls include the Golden Dragon—spicy tuna and mango topped with plantain slices—and the Pink Snow Roll, smoked salmon and avocado wrapped in soy paper. As for the Thai plates, they range from curry to Bangkok duck paired with cinnamon-plum sauce. You can even order your pad thai accompanied by an entire lobster, rather than just its tail and signature top hat.