From my perspective as a tourist, Miami Beach has everything you need for a long weekend vacation: white sand beaches, delicious (and trendy) restaurants on every corner, and of course, an endless supply of mojitos. On a recent four-day getaway, we made our best attempt to squeeze in as much South Beach flavor as we possibly could.First on the list was the highly recommended Ola Miami, located inside the Sanctuary Hotel. The restaurant screamed South Beach – it was swanky and chic, to match the chef’s modern and refined take on “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.
We arrived around 8:30 pm on a Saturday night. For Miami standards, this apparently warrants the early-bird special because the restaurant was practically empty. The place was jam-packed when we left around 10 pm.
Ola’s menu has an entire page devoted to ceviche, which as it turns out, is one of their specialties. The ceviches ranged from traditional (fish, shrimp, etc.) to some more interesting-sounding selections, like the tuna & foie-gras. Per our server’s recommendation, we ordered the lobster ceviche. The dish was light, delicate, and flavorful – the perfect summer bite (literally only a bite, the portion size was on the extra small side).The lobster was marinated in lime juice, served with chili-spice cucumbers and red onions, and topped with a miniature-scoop of heirloom tomato sorbet. I was skeptical about the sorbet at first, but it added so much to the dish texturally and flavor-wise. The combination of the chilled lobster with the ice-cold sorbet was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. I probably would have eaten that sorbet for dessert had they offered it.
The smoked marlin tacos were another hit. The portion size of the dish was also much more appropriate for sharing. The fish was marinated in vanilla rum, smoked, and served with pickled jalapeños in an extra-crispy Malanga taco shell. The extra jalapeño slices on top provided just the right amount of kick.The red snapper was the evening special, and it sounded too mouthwatering to pass up. It was. The fish was pan-seared in a white wine lemon-butter sauce. A handful of shrimp, clams, and mussels were thrown in as an added bonus. The lemon-butter-wine sauce was the perfect complement to the sweet, slightly nutty flavor of the snapper. I’m not normally a fan of sautéed spinach, but even vegetables taste good when they’re soaked in butter & wine. Everything we tried at Ola was wonderful, down to the cheesy Colombian bread that we sampled before the meal. The service was good, but almost too good, in a way (I know, I know, be careful what you wish for). The meal felt slightly rushed, to the extent that I barely even had time to blink between courses, let alone put down my fork. Had we not stuck around for an after-dinner drink, we would have been in and out of there in 30 minutes, tops. The quality of the food made this tiny flaw worth overlooking. I would absolutely recommend Ola to anyone who is in the market for some upscale, creative, and delicious Latin cuisine (and in a hurry to eat it).
Other notable (and not so notable) Cuban/Latin American spots in Miami Beach:
We were lured into Yuca by the “$5 mojito happy hour 1-4pm” sign outside the door. As luck had it, their $5 mojitos turned out to be among the best I’ve ever tasted…as evidenced by the fact that I consumed three of them in an hour’s time. When in Miami…The mint was blended rather than muddled, so you never had to deal with the unpleasant sensation of accidentally catching a mint leaf in your straw (that would ultimately end up in your teeth). Also, I can’t stand a mojito (or any drink for that matter) that is overly-sugary and sweet. Yuca’s mojitos were perfectly balanced and brilliantly refreshing.
We also shared the Yuca Media Noche and an order of the tostones. The tostones were phenomenal – and I’m somewhat of a tostone fanatic. It’s difficult to mess up fried plantains, but these were extra crispy and served with a tangy sweet & sour sauce. I probably consumed more tostones on this trip than one should eat in a month, but these were irresistable.The Media Noche was Yuca’s take on a Cuban sandwich, served on freshly pressed potato bread. I’m not a huge Cuban sandwich fan, but this one was quite tasty. Or perhaps it was all the mojitos. Either way, this meal hit the spot. I left Yuca with only one concern – who ever decided it was a good idea to make happy hour illegal in Atlanta??