Emilio and Gloria Estefan, two international superstars in their time, bring a new concept of Cuban food to the Design District in Miami. Located in the back of Palm Court, Estefan Kitchen is their third restaurant and the first with their name on it. They want to bring their culinary heritage to this world-class shopping, arts and entertainment destination.
The experience has a music focus, with music videos playing on a huge indoor screen, and the very talented waiters and bartenders serenading the guests with a diverse range of music throughout the evening. They spared no expense on the design and decor. The restaurant has lovely white chairs with blue piping, mosaic tiled walls, sparkly black and white floors, stunning light fixtures, and is subtlety lit in blue and purple hues. I especially liked the indoor/outdoor oyster shell-mosaic bar that seats around 30 people.
The food, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. The website claims they are presenting food in a “new, healthy way”, with modern twists. What??!!! The food certainly wasn’t healthy or modern?? If you try Latin food at a place like Cardon y el Tirano, you could call that cooking “new” and “healthy”. The chicken empanadas here were tough and dry. The Cuban chicken soup was too salty to finish. The criollo seafood soup fared better. It is a traditional Cuban recipe with calamari, scallops, mussels, potatoes, avocado and cilantro cream. The Lechon flatbread had a tough, hard crust but the topping wasn’t bad. It was served with roasted pork, and mozzarella cheese piled on too thick, sweet plantains, organic honey and truffle oil. The Lechon Asado was a traditional Cuban style, 24-hour marinated, roasted shredded pork topped with grilled onions, mojo and extremely garlicky yucca. It is described as “award-winning”, so you think it would be unbelievable, but the dish was inedible because all you could taste was salt. The one dish I did enjoy was the guava BBQ pork ribs. They are the fall-off-the-bone type pork baby back ribs with the most delicious bbq sauce. The ribs were served with a side of very salty yucca fries. We ended the meal with a good traditional Cuban flan with caramel sauce.
The mojitos – traditional and mango flavour – were good, but a little on the light side, and that is not something you will often hear me say. Most drinks are too strong for me. The mojitos were weak and very heavily iced.
Our server Tony was excellent. She was concerned when she saw us leaving large portions of our food uneaten … things were so salty that when I got home I had to down four large glasses of water, and I was still thirsty.
It took great pains to write this review because I love Gloria Estefan. Emilio was in the house when we were here, and you can see how nicely he treats his staff. I also love the idea of marrying food and music, as long as both are excellent.
I would recommend going for a drink and listen to some music, but eat elsewhere. Executive Chef Odell Torres needs to get his act together. People travel to eat out and have sophisticated palettes.