Thursday, October 11, 2012

De Rodriguez Cuba

Miami's dining scene has been evolving in recent years into a mecca of sophisticated cultural explosions. South Beach is at the heart of this evolution, although the flavors and culinary creativity extend well beyond the waterfront. There's a place in the trendy area known as South of Fifth in SoBe that I had been dying to check out for a while. Known for its "Nuevo Latino Cuisine" and its modern take on Cuban favorites, I was curious and eager to see what the buzz was about. So when I received an invitation for a wine pairing dinner at this very same place, I was excited. My adventure at De Rodriguez Cuba, located in the award-winning Hilton Bentley at 101 Ocean Drive, was about to begin.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez
De Rodriguez Cuba is named after its talented and acclaimed Chef and Owner Douglas Rodriguez. Chef Rodriguez, also known as the "Godfather" of Nuevo Latino Cuisine, developed his flair for putting a spin on traditional Cuban cuisine at an early age. Born of Cuban parents, and raised in Miami's culinary melting pot, Rodriguez's influence began leaving its mark early on in his career when he first opened the original Yuca in Coral Gables in 1989. At age 24, Chef Rodriguez received the "Chef of the Year Award, Miami" from the Chefs of America, and his first and second "Rising Chef of the Year" nominations by the James Beard Foundation. He went on to receive additional nominations by the Foundation in 2008 and in 2009, and was on the First Season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo. Besides his restaurant ventures in Miami, Chef Rodriguez has been co-owner and chef of other popular restaurants in New York City, including Patria, Chicama, a Peruvian Ceviche Bar, and Pipa, a tapas bar. He has published four cookbooks, all showcasing his pan-Latin cuisine. I could literally go on and on since Chef Rodriguez's numerous awards and accolades are endless; but I know you're dying to read all about the food.

The Wine Cabinet added character to the room

Outdoor seating area by the pool
Eye-catching artwork
I loved the restaurant's chic decor from the moment I walked in. The large surrealist paintings on the wall, and the larger than life wine cabinet contributed to the upscale, yet trendy ambiance. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, with tables and a bar right by the pool. Since this was a special wine pairing dinner in conjunction with Australian wine company Yellow Tail, we were set up in a private room with beautiful table settings. I was looking forward to trying the wines since I was intrigued by their large portfolio at very affordable prices.
Beautiful set-up

Selection of Yellow Tail Wines
I'll just take the whole
pitcher! The best
The evening started for me with the absolute best Sangria ever! I wish I could recreate the recipe at home, but let's face it, that would be the day. It was made with Yellow Tail Moscato, Pomegranate, Blood Orange and Plums - all the sweet juices that make my eyes roll back. We were also treated to Bubbles and Sparkling Rose with the Passed Hors D'oeuvres.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez making his creations

Arepa de Huevo
Chorros a la Chalaca

Chef Rodriguez prepared the first scrumptious hors d'oeuvre right before our eyes and it was divine: Arepa de Huevo with Sour Cream and Salmon Roe Caviar. As the yolk of the fried egg placed in the center of the arepa oozed into the salmon caviar, it exhalted a pulsating explosion of flavors and textures. Then I got a taste of the Chorros a la Chalaca; Mediterranean Mussels with onions, giant corn, and lime tomato cilantro. When I grabbed the first one, Chef Rodriguez told me to make sure I shucked it all in one bite. I did and my senses reeled with all the exhilarating tastes my tongue experienced in that specific moment in time.

Up close and personal

Smoked Marlin Tacos
I can taste why it's such a popular
The hors d'oeuvres kept coming, and I kept eating. Next up were the Smoked Marlin Tacos, a Rodriguez staple deliciously prepared with fresh rum marinated marlin, a rare treat, and shredded lettuce; nestled inside a crispy malanga shell and topped with pickled jalapenos for a spicy kick. I could taste  the fresh, delectable combination of ingredients mixed with the rich, full flavor of the fish in each bite.

Sage Wrapped Sardines
Pumpkin Goat Cheese Croquettes
Continuing the fun, the next savory treat passed around was the Sage Wrapped Sardines with pickled white grapes. It was an amuse-bouche of giant proportions when I closed my eyes and tasted the sweet and salty union of the sardines, sage and grapes. Excellent! The final bite-sized prelude to the spectacular dinner awaiting us was the Pumpkin Goat Cheese Croquettes, with herbed garlic aioli. I was really digging this Nuevo Latino Cuisine Chef Rodriguez was cooking up! This interesting take on traditional Cuban croquettes by adding the creamy consistency of the pumpkin and goat-cheese, gave a new perspective to my grandmother's cooking.

Florida Lobster Burrata Cheese
Yellow Tail's
Sparking Rose
We sat down for the First Course and its wine pairing: Florida Lobster Burrata Cheese, with eggplant salad, mint and balsamic parmesan sauce. Truly a work of art for the palate, each unique ingredient could be tasted as it blended with the others. The Sparkling Rose enhanced the flavors with its crisp acidity and sweet supple finish. The Second Course was a Lemon Crab Empanada with Heirloom Tomato Salad. Chef Rodriguez uses local, sustainable ingredients to entice our taste buds and the minute I tasted the freshness and saw the color of the tomatoes, I knew they came from Paradise Farms in Homestead; about 60 miles from the SoBe area. The lemon zest and sherry vinegar the Chef drizzled on the dish brought all the flavors together. This course was paired with a delicate Chardonnay with a creamy finish.

Lemon Crab Empanada

Sugar Cane Tuna
The wines were meticulously paired
to bring out the flavor of each dish
The Third Course consisted of Sugar Cane Tuna. A slice of tuna pierced with a stick of sugar cane sat on a deliciously braised short rib ragu, with creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes all around it. Riquisimo! The tuna was coated with a mixture of smoky spices that created an interesting balance of flavors. It was perfectly paired with a bold Merlot that had ripe plum flavors with a warm touch of spice.


Guyana's Curry Goat
I found the Fourth Course very interesting and original. It was Guyana's Curry Goat with Lentil Ice Cake and Sliced Bananas. Can you just imagine it? The sliced bananas showed an affinity with the curry goat, balancing out the spiciness of the dish. The wine pairing was my favorite of the evening: a bold Shiraz with earthy tones and lingering fruit. 


Fig Tart

The Fifth and final Course was dessert. It was a sweet surprise worth waiting for: a Fig Tart drizzled with rosemary, atop a puff pastry, and resting in a shallow pool of dulce de leche. The Yellow Tail wine paired with dessert was a refreshing and sweet Moscato.

I thoroughly enjoyed my wine pairing dinner adventure at De Rodriguez Cuba and I have to say it is evident why Chef Douglas Rodriguez is a pioneer in the Miami culinary scene. I cannot wait to return and try more of the Nuevo Latino cuisine offered in his creative menu. For more information, you can call them at 305 672-6624 or visit their website at

De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean on Urbanspoon


  1. Maria
    Thank you so much for such a nice piece you wrote about our place. We love people like you and most people that really enjoy food the way we do, Thank you , thank you. Awesome !

    1. You are very welcome! It was my pleasure. I totally enjoyed my adventure at De Rodriguez Cuba. What an amazing place! See you again real soon! Maria