Saturday, August 18, 2012

Larios on the Beach - Miami Spice 2012

Miami Spice 2012

It's here! It's here! It's finally here! Miami Spice is back and it's hotter than ever. Running this year from August 1-September 30, 2012, there are more mouth-watering menus than I have seen in a while. For those of you that don't know what Miami Spice is, let me tell you so you can run and start reserving. During the months of August and September, a number of top-notch restaurants offer three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. We're talking world renowned chefs and signature dishes, all at a discounted price! For 2012, it's a little different than in years past. Restaurants are divided into two sections: Fine Dining: with Lunch prices at $19 and Dinner at $33, and Luxury Dining: with Lunch prices at $23 and Dinner at $39. Here's a link to a list of participating restaurants as well as the menus they are offering: Miami Spice 2012 Participating Restaurants. Since some restaurants offer the promotion for either lunch or dinner, or on certain days of the week, you should check out the information on the link above before making your reservations. You will find the list is divided into regions, making it easier to find those restaurants you've been dying to try!

The "Gloria Room"
With Chef Gaston Sanchez
My first Miami Spice experience this year (and the beginning of many more to come) was at Larios on the Beach, located at 820 Ocean Drive, in Miami Beach. Larios on the Beach, a Bongos Cuban Cafe Restaurant,  first opened in 1992 and is owned and operated by Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Walking into the restaurant, you are reminded of an Old Havana era, where Guayabera-laden gentlemen smoked cigars in an island nation flourishing in its tropical ambiance. The decor is reminiscent of 1950's Cuba; a beautiful giant mural in the back portraying an image of Our Lady of Charity. You can't help but feel nostalgic for the essence and vibe of days gone by.

Guava Mojito

Passion Fruit Mojito
Watermelon Mojito

We started off with drinks in the front area of the restaurant. Larios on the Beach is known for its delicious flavored Mojitos. I can tell you they are amazing because I tried three. I had the Passion Fruit Mojito, the Watermelon Mojito and at the recommendation of one of our dedicated and cheerful waitstaff, the Guava Mojito. When I looked at their Miami Spice menu, I noticed that theirs includes a drink along with their three courses. That's a nice touch.  You can choose either a Mojito or a Red Sangria.

Platter of Miami Spice Appetizer Samples
Next, we were served a platter with a combination of some of the appetizers available during Miami Spice. We tried each one starting with the Flight of Ceviches, a selection of seasonal fresh seafood ceviches, made with shrimp, scallops and corvina, and creatively prepared with an original twist. The Tostones Rellenos were a piece of island paradise in the form of a trio of plantain cups stuffed with shredded beef, Cuban criolla minced beef and shrimp creole. The Papas Rellenas, or stuffed potatoes, had a creamy mashed potato filling mixed with delectably seasoned minced beef,  and the Mariquitas, plantain chips served with Cuban mojo, were crispy, fresh and insanely good.

Zarzuela de Mariscos

At this point, we moved to what they affectionately refer to as the "Gloria Room" to continue with the feast. It is a quaint, charming room that also serves as a great place for private events. Out came the entrees and our mouths began to water. The first one I tried was the Zarzuela de Mariscos. While I found the flavor and seasoning in all the dishes superb, this was my favorite. It was probably the best Zarzuela I have had. Not only was it filled with a generous amount of seafood including lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, fish, baby clams and mussels, but the homemade creole sauce was perfect. From the moment I inhaled the aroma, to the time I put the first bite into my mouth, it reminded me of my mother's cooking.  I could easily just take a jar of the sauce and dip bread in it all day, and that was pretty much the consensus around the table. This entree comes served with a side of Fried Sweet Plantains.

Where do I begin?

Vaca Frita de Pollo
Lechon Asado
Up next, we were treated to their Tour of Cuba, and we didn't even have to board a plane. This dish consisted of a trio of their signature dishes: the Vaca Frita de Pollo, Lechon Asado and Ropa Vieja. Legitimate cuban cuisine at its finest! Vaca Frita, a traditional Cuban staple, loosely translated means "Fried Cow". Traditionally, it is made with a shredded Beef Flank Steak following a two step process: first marinading and cooking the meat and then frying it with a good amount of onions. Their take, however, involved chicken instead of beef and it was amazing. The meat was crispy and juicy, all at the same time, and the spices gave it a unique kick. The Lechon Asado, or Roasted Pig was also very flavorful. Once again I have to commend the chef because the pork was succulent and tender, and seasoned exceptionally to retain a juicy texture.

Ropa Vieja
Tostones y Maduros
Finally, the Ropa Vieja, a close cousin of the Vaca Frita, caught our attention. If you're using a translator- don't panic. Ropa Vieja means "Old Clothes" but you won't be ingesting any garments. It is actually Beef Flank Steak that is also shredded and stewed in a breathtaking sauce, soaking up all the juices. However, it is not fried like the Vaca Frita. I was floored. I had a struggle between my brain saying I was full and my taste buds wanting more of this delight - Needless to say, my taste buds won! This dish is served with your choice of two sides: White Rice (Arroz Blanco) Mixed Black Beans and Rice, (Moros) Sweet Plantains (Maduros) or Crispy Green Plantains (Tostones).

Slices of Heaven! From Left: Pudin de Pan, Tres Leches, Flan de Queso & Flan de Leche

Close-up of Pudin de Pan
Close-up of Flan de Queso
Finally came time for dessert. I know, I know how could I eat more? I'm the Foodaholic so the question is, how can I not?  A parade of sweet heaven unfolded - there were plates with Flan de Leche (Traditional Cuban Style Custard Topped with Caramel, Flan de Queso (Same Custard but with Cream Cheese added), Arroz Con Leche (Cuban Style Rice Pudding), Pudin de Pan (Bread Pudding- but this one was original - Chef Gaston referred to it as a "hybrid"), Tres Leches (A type of sponge cake made with three types of milk) and Natilla (Cuban Style Sweetened Vanilla Pudding). Wow! Some of these are available in the Lunch menu and some in the Dinner menu, but you can't wrong with any. If I had to choose, I'd have a hard time but I can tell you that the Tres Leches, Flan de Queso and Arroz con Leche rocked my world.

Arroz con Leche
A visit to Larios on the Beach is a culinary trip to the heart of Cuba. It offers an authentic experience in a happening environment. In addition to the inside dining area, you can also dine outside and enjoy some people-watching on Ocean Drive. In the evenings, there is music, dancing and a lively crowd as well. Take advantage of Miami Spice and "feel the rhythm". For more information you can contact them at 305-532-9577 or visit them online at

Larios on the Beach on Urbanspoon


  1. We always enjoy our visits to Lario's and am glad to hear they are on the SPICE list this year. Looking forward to going back again soon already. It was the locale for my first date with my better half 18 years ago. Something to be said about consistency in food and love :)
    Thank you.

    1. Awww...that's beautiful! You have to go back now for some reminiscing. ;) I also love Larios on the Beach and found the Miami Spice menu incredible for the food and the value it offers. By the way, I'm a wine lover myself! Cheers!