The Miami food scene continues to explode with new restaurants opening all over town. I’ve been waiting patiently for Cvltvra (pronounced, “cultura”) to open at 1100 Biscayne Blvd, as they built their beautiful new space. It is a convenient location to the art and sports enthusiast, situated on the ground floor of the ME Hotel and in walking distance to the American Airlines Arena. I saw many people dining here, and walking over to catch the Elton John concert the night I dined there.
The beautiful, modern space is large and inviting, holding about 200 people with an outdoor patio, outfitted with mustard coloured banquettes, high top and bar seating. They incorporated lots of warm woods. The tables are handcrafted in Uruguay with chairs in burnt orange and teal blue. The lighting is soft, but the music is too loud and makes it difficult to talk. There is a lovely painted mural of green palm leaves that give you a rainforest/jungle vibe. There are floor to ceiling windows, that bring in lots of light during the day.
The chef/owner is Sebastian La Rocca who is a Michelin star Argentinian chef and tv celebrity. He worked in London as an executive chef for Jamie Oliver at Barbecoa, as well as an executive chef at the Four Seasons in Costa Rica, where he now resides. He has left the restaurant in the capable hands of Chef Fabian Di Paolo, who came from the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant in Washington D.C.
The restaurant is an infusion of Latin American and Mediterranean cuisine. The chef uses fresh quality artisanal ingredients from local vendors and farmers. They switched using burrata from Italy because they found someone to make it locally and they could receive it fresh daily. Sharing is encouraged, and I found the prices moderately priced.
The menu is divided into Vegetables, Del Mar, Carnitas, Sides, and Dulces. There are many well-executed dishes and a few standouts, such as the avocado hummus, sprinkled with pistachios and chickpeas. They come with a side of warm, fresh mini yucca arepas that are stuffed with cotijia cheese. I am not a huge fan of sea urchin, but I was totally impressed with the half avocado that is torched on the bottom to look like it is in its skin. It is stuffed with a Russian potato salad, and topped with sea urchin. Trust me, you’ll love it. The grilled octopus, one of the most tender I’ve ever had, comes in a rich chorus of flavors, made with braised beans, roasted tomatoes, and a curry and orange sauce. Other dishes of note are the burrata flanked with oranges, mint cream, coriander seeds and toasted almonds. An instagram worthy king crab is served with chilled lettuce soup, and a velvety, creamy roasted butternut squash and coconut soup, with a poached egg, crunchy croutons and a spicy bite of Serrano chili and basil. If you are a fan of conch, you may like the ceviche, but I’ve never been a fan of this local delicacy. My one disappointment was the sticky pork baby ribs. Although the glaze was literally finger licking good, the meat was too scarce, too dry and too tough. Not bad considering the place has only been open 1 1/2 weeks when I visited. Overall the menu was ambitious and creative.
We tried a couple of the Latin-inspired desserts and although they were all good, the chocolate marquise with dulce de leche pears, Greek yoghurt, orange zest and cocoa nibs was the most memorable.
There were minor service issues, but I am sure they will improve with time and I have no complaints about our cheerful server Erica.
There is a selection of South American beers, organic cold-pressed juices, and signature craft cocktails added to the mix by bar manager, Andrew Peñaranda.
I wouldn’t wait for a game or concert to visit.
Open daily from morning till night.